Veteran Finances: How to Not Get Overwhelmed

As a newly-minted veteran, you may feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of obviously non-trivial financial decisions you have to make now. Which health insurance policy should I choose? How much should I save every month? How much housing can I afford? How do I compare one job’s salaries and bonuses to another?

While there is endless information available on each of these topics, I wanted to give you a new perspective to help you with the emotional overload of these topics. I also wanted give you an overall strategy for dealing with them.

First, it’s important to note that you aren’t the only one dealing with all of this. Every single veteran faces these choices as they separate from the military. It can be helpful to realize that you aren’t the only one.

If you have a group of veteran friends, talk openly about finances. These friends can help you think of things in new ways, offer advice and perspective.

Emotional Overload

Getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices is easy. Salespeople will also try to pressure you into making an immediate decision (usually in favor of their product or service) by appealing to your sense of anxiety or fear. That’s their job.

You don’t have to make an immediate decision, though. If you ever feel pressured, take a deep breath and tell the person you don’t feel comfortable making a choice so soon. If they ever pressure you by saying that the deal expires when you walk away or at the end of the day, then just do it. Walk away. That kind of manipulation simply isn’t present in the best financial decisions, so you can be sure it was not right for you.

Further, try to look at your options both individually and as a whole. Remember that some of these financial decisions can directly affect others, so what may be the best option for you alone may be too expensive or have unnecessary features for the whole family.

The more you talk over your options with someone else and try to separate the emotions from the decisions, the better decisions you’ll make.

An overall strategy

1) Recognize that you need help

The companies that provide financial services make their products and services complicated for a reason: they have a financial incentive to make it hard to understand. They will do their best to get every last dollar they can, whether it’s good for you or not. It’s helpful to find real experts and advocates who can help you to understand better your situation and what you need.

Additionally, consider taking a financial literacy class. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University, but there are plenty of others. These classes can give you a better understanding of the world of finance and can give you confidence to take control of your wallet.

2) Don’t go at it alone

Every time you make a new financial decision, talk to someone you trust. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve avoided an obviously bad (in retrospect) decision just by vocalizing it with my best friends or wife. They can point out obvious things that may not be as apparent to you

3) Automate savings and payments

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is follow through. By automating both savings and payments, you won’t conveniently “forget” to put aside a little cash, and you’ll avoid the emotional turmoil of putting aside for “future me” when “present me” wants the shiny thing. The internet and your smartphone have great finance applications, so use them wisely.

Making all these new financial decisions can be completely overwhelming, but you can handle it. Use these tips to help handle the pressure, and soon you’ll feel confident that you are doing the right thing for yourself and your family.