Switching from military to civilian life is a big change for you and your family, and planning ahead can make things go more smoothly. Often the transition involves a move, a complete career change, and an overall change of lifestyle.

How many years has it been since you first joined the military? For a long time, you’ve put aside your personal life. You’ve been there when your team and your country needed you.

Now it’s time to transition back from military service to civilian life. As you get ready for this change, you may be overwhelmed by the choices you have to make, asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

You and your family should start the planning process long before you retire or separate from service. Planning ahead lets you figure out the areas that need the most work, identify possible challenges, and give you and your family a road map to a successful transition to civilian life.

Before you separate from military service, you must complete several parts of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which offers information, tools, and training to make sure that service members and their families are ready for their next steps in civilian life, whether that is getting more education, finding a job, or starting a business. Learn more about TAP.

If you are retiring, you and your spouse or partner should attend a pre-retirement orientation. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service lists the types of retirement.

This article can help you with your planning process. It starts with a simple checklist of things to do, and then gives more details about a few important items