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Managing money can be challenging to anyone, but it can be especially hard for those new to the military. Many people choose to join the military right out of high school, before they have any experience with receiving a steady income. How you manage your money directly impacts how successful you are, so follow these four tips to avoid failure.

Avoid debt
Try to live within your means and avoid putting yourself into debt, credit card or otherwise. Having a certain amount of debt can even ruin your career. The military does forgive some student loans, but a great way to avoid even taking on student loans is to join the ROTC while still in college. While having a little bit of debt right now may not seem like a big deal, interest adds up quickly if you are unable to pay it off in a short amount of time. When you have other bills you’re responsible, paying back debt feels like throwing away money.

Save for retirement and your transition out of service
While both of these things seem like forever away, it’s never too early to start saving money. The military has a great retirement plan. If you serve for 20 years, you can earn about 50 percent of your base pay after retirement. While this is a good plan, it might not be enough for you to survive on, which means you should be saving in addition to that.

Also, only 15 percent of people remain in the military for that long, meaning you’ll likely transition back to civilian life at some point. Doing so is costly, as you may need to relocate and take some time off of work to do so. Having money stocked up for when it’s time for you to make this move will make it much easier on you.

Look for personal and professional advancement
Through the military, you have the opportunity to take some training and leadership courses. Put yourself out there and take as many as can. These types of training will give you a new set of skills which may open you up for promotions and pay raises. No matter how long you serve, these types of opportunities will make your career richer and may also benefit you in civilian life, as these types of skills often transfer in some way.

Use your benefits
Being a part of the military provides you with a lot of benefits. Two of the biggest ones are the GI Bill and the VA Loan. The VA Loan lets you purchase a home with a guaranteed loan, no money down and a low interest rate. The GI Bill will help you to pay for a college education. If you already have a college education, you can use the GI Bill to get an advanced degree. If you stay in the military for long enough, you might be able to transfer these benefits to your dependents.