Deployment changes many family operations, including the financial ones. Pay and taxable income are different. Expenses may be higher some areas, yet lower in others. Perhaps the spouse who usually handles the finances is the one deployed. Adjustments are necessary, as are new considerations about savings and discounts. Knowing the financial terrain will smooth the way, both during and after deployment. These four points on your financial compass will guide you:
Papers in order: Both spouses’ names should be on all your banking and financial paperwork, so that the spouse at home can take care of any issues that arise during deployment. Contact your local JAG office to update your wills and get a durable power of attorney.
Partners in everything: Even if one spouse handles paying bills and managing investments, both spouses should have a thorough understanding of family finances, including monthly budget, timing of regular payments, like mortgages or rent, utilities, credit card and other debts. When deployment rolls around, the spouse at home will be equipped to deal with finances, even if it is not his or her regular duty.
Regs in your favor: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act caps interest rates for active duty military members for credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans, as well as providing release from lease agreements in some cases, but you will probably have to request those benefits to receive them. Also, ask your insurance company about reducing your interest rate for a vehicle you are not using. Additionally, the tax exclusion for pay received while in a combat zone means that you will not pay taxes on military income earned while deployed to a combat location.
Money in the bank: Pay is increased during deployment, but what goes up must come down. Take this opportunity to pay off debts or build up savings, or both, rather than spending the surplus. Financial experts suggest having three month of living expenses in savings. Socking your earnings away in an IRA or other savings plan will pay dividends—literally—in the future.
Money may seem like the least of your worries as you prepare for a deployment, but a few simple steps will make the experience smoother and the rewards greater.
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Terri Barnes collected her best Stars and Stripes columns in her award-winning book Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life. Deployment, reunion, moving, motherhood, friendship, and more.
Military Life: Stories and Poems for Children is a collection of original stories and poems that touch on many aspects of military life from a child’s point of view. From moving to making new friends, deployment, homecoming, patriotism, and tender family moments.
Deployment Journal for Spouses: Memories and milestones while my loved one is deployed by Rachel Robertson is a personal journal for anyone who has a loved one deployed with the military. Gentle journal writing prompts and inspirational sayings guide you through deployment and homecoming.