The knowledge a military spouse gains in preparation of their loved one’s deployment with respect to finances ultimately enhances their ability to keep the family budget in tact on a day-to-day basis. In fact, deployment can actually result in better financial management overall.
Like many couples, Ann and her husband David had always shared the chore if paying the bills until he was deployed overseas and she had to assume all responsibility. Fortunately they had prepared ahead of time, making the transition much easier for Ann. Whatever she didn’t know, he left notes she could refer to in his absence.
On the other hand, some couples don’t make necessary preparations beforehand which puts added stress on the one who is at home. Perhaps the deployed spouse forgets to pay a credit card bill and the amount due is not clear on the statement. Unless a joint-account was created, the financial institution may refuse to divulge the information. Needless to say, this could hurt the service member’s credit rating.
The time to prepare is before your spouse receives deployment orders. Use this checklist to find out if you have a solid financial plan in place:
Build an emergency savings fund. Experts generally recommend having three to six months of living expenses in the fund. When facing deployment, try to set aside at least $2000 for car repairs, plumbing leaks, and unexpected bills.
Get help from a trusted friend or family member. If necessary, find someone to handle the bill paying and financial transactions. You will need to sign a power of attorney to give this person the authority to act on your behalf.
Create a record of accounts. If you are married, make certain that both your names are on all of the accounts. And be sure to take a copy along with you when deployed.
Set up automatic deposit and bill payment. For bills that can’t be paid using the auto-pay system, find a service that will enable you to pay your bills online from anyplace you can get internet access.
Prearrange loans your family might need. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2004 may qualify you for a lower interest rate on mortgages and credit cards, as well as protect you from eviction for late rent payments. You may also to able to delay any civil legal actions should they occur.
Save receipts. Create a folder for keeping all receipts as well as financial papers and legal documents.
Update life insurance policies, beneficiaries, and wills. This may include investigating special dismemberment benefits available on your life insurance policy. Also, you may want to reduce or eliminate coverage on vehicles that won’t be driven while the deployed spouse is away.
Remember traumatic injury protection. Now included in Servicemembers Group Insurance, this coverage can help you and your family in the event of traumatic injury.
Make creditors and other financial institutions aware of the deployment. Let them know how to contact you if needed. By taking these steps of preparedness, you can rest assured that you’ve gotten your financial house in good order!
As the spouse of a deployed member of the armed forces, it’s likely you are playing a major role in the economic stability of your family. The following tips will assist you in the task of getting and keeping your financial house in order:
1) Set goals. Think about what you want out of life and then set short-term, immediate and long-term objectives. Once you have your goals, you can plan your financing accordingly.
2) Live by a budget. Keep tabs on the money that comes in and what goes out.
3) Pay yourself first. When you receive a paycheck, put a portion of what you earn into savings. And when you receive a bonus check or tax-free pay, put away more than you spend.
Members of the military who serve in a combat zone can exclude certain pay from their earnings for the purpose of paying income taxes. This includes imminent danger/hostile fire pay, re-enlistment bonuses, pay received for military duties in clubs, messes and other non-appropriated fund activities, and awards for suggestions, inventions, or scientific achievements.
4) Set up an emergency fund. The suggested amount to have in an emergency fund, according to most financial planners, is roughly three to six month of estimated living expenses. While this may seem like a lot, it will help ensure your financial security if you should experience a sudden or dramatic change in income.
5) Keep your debt low. However tempting, resist the urge to comfort yourself with unnecessary expenditures, such as a new wardrobe, while your spouse is away. This could cause you to go into debt. Try and keep your use of credit cards to a minimum.
6) Take advantage of deadline extensions like federal income taxes. These extensions, which provide extra time for filing and payment, are offered to members of the military serving in a combat zone or supporting a combat operation. The IRS also grants more flexible deductions for expenses associated with military moves.
7) Retirement. In addition to military pensions and veteran’s benefits, financial planners encourage clients to start saving for retirement from an early age. Bonuses and other tax-free income can help to ensure a comfortable and well-deserved retirement.
8) Insurance, insurance, insurance. After finding the insurance plan that matches your needs, take advantage of military discounts.
9) Get organized. Keep important papers in a safe place. Also, update your will and consider pre-planned funeral arrangements, as there are extra benefits for families of service members killed in active duty. Also, there is no charge to be buried in a national cemetery. On a lighter note, make arrangements for quarterly or semi-annual premiums or bills to be paid to prevent policies from lapsing while the deployed spouse is away.
Just as in any combat mission, advanced planning and sticking to the plan of action are prerequisites to success. By having financial stability, especially inn times of uncertainty, you will have one less worry and one more thing to look forward to when everyone returns home safely.