Protecting yourself at home: Personal finances for military families
Being a military family presents a unique set of challenges—family separations, deployments, and additional moving costs. The duties of a service member create many extra burdens that civilian families don’t have to deal with, which makes it even more important for them to have a handle on their budget.
Military families are more likely than civilians to be in debt, and to have more of it. The ones serving our country already have so much to worry about, they shouldn’t have to stress about their finances. That’s why we’ve created a list of our best tips for families in this situation.
Set up an emergency fund
While this is important for any family, it’s especially important for military families. Any additional expenses can cause extra pain when you’re also dealing with relocation costs or an unemployed spouse.
Don’t make savings the last priority; pay yourself first! Take out a percentage of your paycheck and put it right into your savings account. You can even set up automatic transfers with online banking if you don’t remember to do this yourself. It doesn’t matter how you do it—just make sure you’re consistent. After a while, the money will accumulate, and you’ll have created a nice safety net.
A money market account is a great way to save for an emergency, while at the same time earning a return on your funds. Check out our money market accounts.
Establish a budget—and stick with it!
There’s already enough unpredictability in your life, don’t add to it by having inconsistent spending habits. Knowing where your money is going will make it easier to save for the unexpected. It also makes it easier to stay out of debt, or if you’re already in debt, to create a plan to get out of it.
Take the time to sit down and hash out a plan with your spouse. Your finances won’t improve until you understand what you’re spending money on and why.
Make your secondary income flexible
Military spouses often have a hard time finding and keeping work due to frequent relocations. Whenever possible, it may benefit them to work remotely, such as in a tech job or for an online business. Starting a business is also a possibility and may be better suited for the lifestyle since you can have more control over your work.
Use it or lose it
While the lifestyle of a service member can be difficult, the government offers a variety of financial benefits to those in the line of duty. Too many service members don’t take full advantage of these opportunities and lose out on savings that could have significantly reduced their financial burdens.
- Education benefits – The Post-9/11 GI Bill ensures service members the full cost of in-state tuition covered for up to four years, or up to $22,000 for out-of-state, international, and private colleges. These benefits are transferable to children and spouses, and last up to 15 years after you’ve served.
- Savings deposit program – As a member of the military, you’re eligible for one of the best savings plans around. The DoD sponsors this program, which gives deployed members a guaranteed 10% return on their investment. This is a great investment opportunity; even if you only have a small amount to put in, the returns will be high.
- Tax deductions – There’s a variety of deductions you may be eligible for. From free tax help to moving expense deductions and combat pay exclusions, the breaks are beneficial to members who might have had to spend extra throughout the year.
You’re better together
Maintaining constant communication is crucial to financial success — practice working with your spouse to manage your money.
If one spouse is deployed, and the other has no idea how to handle the monthly bills, things can quickly spiral out of control. One missed bill could mean a world of trouble—and more debt—once it accumulates. Even if one of you is the primary manager of the finances, you should still both have a solid understanding of the household spending.