The differences when times get tough!

So my first full year out of the Army started terribly…

 My relationship of 5 years broke down when my Fiancé decided to leave me. I was devastated. If this wasn’t heartbreaking enough that I had lost my partner in life there was now the added pressure that I had also lost my financial partner too and I was one person on a mediocre wage with a lot of financial commitments. Life was suddenly very uncertain…

 There was no option of moving back into the block to cut my outgoings, I had a mortgage which I had to pay or I was going to lose my home. I had a large car that I couldn’t afford to run on my own and had various other outgoings that had to be paid. After the initial shock had passed and I simply had to get a grip of myself and my life! So I sat down and went over my finances with a fine tooth comb – something I thought I had done already to the n’th degree when I had left the Army. However, it’s amazing what you can cut down on when there is no alternative. I found a new mortgage deal, sold my big car and downsized to something more affordable, I changed my energy supplier, cancelled some non-essentials like my gym membership & changed where I shopped. In the space of a few weeks I had gone from not being able to afford my home and everything that came with it to my finances being fully in order with a little to spare for me. Easily the scariest and most sobering few weeks of my life…

 Another thing that I noticed about the breakdown of my relationship was that there was also no endless amount of people around me that were willing to support me and help me drowned my sorrows. Every break up I’ve had in the Military, the people who you live with rally round you for a bit and drag you out partying for a few weeks until you’re back on your feet or deeply immersed in some ridiculous rebound relationship!! I was on my own. Another thing was, with previous break ups whilst in the Army you kind of get a bit of leeway with stuff – people know you inside out, they know you intimately so they know you’re not at your best so cut you a bit of slack if you’re a hungover or a bit grumpy or not at the top of your game professionally. I didn’t want to run this gauntlet on Civvy St though as losing my job would only make things worse so stayed well off the booze and stayed relatively focused and was as professional as I could be given the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, the people who I work with were fantastically supportive and my boss was amazing but when you leave your place of work to go home on a night, you are on your own – left with only your thoughts and as I stated in another post for someone who has suffered with mental health issues in the past or for anyone who is hurting that is not a good thing.

 So, in lieu of my Military colleagues around me on a night I decided I needed to do something to get me out of the house…something to keep me occupied on an evening. I chose to rejoin my old ladies football team and went training at the local 3G all weather pitch. The first training session was going so well. I was happy, laughing and joking with friends and then I fell over and heard the mother of all cracks from my shoulder. A first responder, an ambulance ride, a long wait in A&E, copious amounts of morphine later I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 fully separated acromioclavicular joint – In short I had smashed my shoulder to smithereens! I was told to expect to be off work for approx 6 weeks and then to possibly expect surgery after that! Another set of worries…Was I entitled to Company sick pay? If so how long was my sick pay entitlement? How do I apply for SSP if it my company sick pay runs out before I can get back to work? In the Forces you are so used to being paid unconditionally for however long you are off that but again this is very different on Civvy Street. I had never felt so much pressure to heal, there was no way I could live on the SSP! In the end it turned out I had a good period of company sick pay so when I returned to work after 5 weeks I hadn’t lost out financially, it was such a relief to get back to work, a real weight lifted from my mind.

 Now you may think that I am complaining about the last 4 months of my life – I’m not. In fact, it’s probably exactly the opposite…The last 4 months have shown me that being as heavily reliant on the Military machine as I was, wasnt a good thing. It has shown me that I am more than capable of sorting out my life even when going through the worst possible time and that with a bit of grit and determination and with the RIGHT support from family and friends you can literally get through anything. It has shown me that I have an inner strength that I never knew I had. It has also taught me that being fit and healthy is paramount and that I need to look after myself a little bit better…so unfortunately for Middleton Park Ladies FC, Im hanging up my boots in search of a less physical non-contact sport!

 So on reflection I initially thought that 2014 wasnt going to be the year for me but now I’m back on my feet financially, officially loved up with an amazing man, almost healed after my accident and now job searching for my perfect role as a stronger, happier & more accomplished person I think its the exact opposite – watch out world cos Lucy is coming to get you!!

Housing Brief & Finance Brief

I recently attended the Financial Brief and Housing Brief that are provided by the MOD specifically aimed at Service leavers.  Both are full days, they do not come out of your resettlement days and travel warrants can be used to get there and back.  I already own my own house with my Fiancé but I thought I would attend the Housing Brief anyway…My motivation for this was not a day out of the office (honest!) but more for the fact that if I ever did fall on hard times after the Army I would know where to turn.  Here a representative from the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) goes through in quite a lot of detail the housing options for Service leavers from sneaky ways to stay in your Married Quarter for longer to buying, part-buying, social housing, renting or informing you about facilities such as The Beacon in Catterick which is short term housing for single ex-Servicemen and women until they get on their feet.  Whilst people may not think that this day is worthwhile I would recommend that you book on it, at least listen to the opening presentation and get the JSHAO book before leaving. That way you have a source of reference for the future.

 The Financial brief however, is an altogether difference cattle of fish! This is another all day affair but not only do I recommend that you stay….all day, more importantly you need to listen.  The bulk of the morning is spent going through all the different Pension schemes. This is presented by a representative from the Forces Pension Society.  This organisation is COMPLETELY INDEPENDANT from the Military and the MOD and what these people don’t know about Pensions isn’t worth knowing. For the remainder of the day an Independent Financial Advisor chats to you about everything from mortgages, savings, private pensions, life insurance, wills, estate management right down to lasting powers of attorney and care plans!!  It all seemed a bit morbid to be honest but then it hits home that this is necessary.  If something goes wrong on Civvy Street there is no big green machine behind us to sort it all out…No instant £10k pay out from the Army Dependants Trust and no Unit Welfare Officer to provide support and advice.  In all honesty it was a very, very long day sitting down being talked at but I am glad I went because even though I like to think I’m quite a switched on cookie when it comes to my personal admin I still left with a list of ‘things to do’ as long as my arm.

A big plus point of both Briefings is that you can take your Spouse/significant other along and you can be confident that the information you are receiving is impartial, professional and up to date.