Tips & advice on getting your finances back on track.
Military personnel face being away from their families for extended periods of time and the upheaval that comes along with deployment. Active deployment can also come with financial uncertainty. Here’s a pre-deployment financial checklist to minimize the disruption, and help safeguard your financial life.
Consult your budget, or create one if you don’t have one already. (Learn more about budgeting here).
Have all bank account numbers and information gathered together. Go through each bill. How will they change once you are deployed? Make all continuing payments automatic and ensure that there is enough money in the bank account they will be drawn from. Have your bank account replenished by direct deposit from your deployment income. Don’t leave home without establishing online access to your bills and bank account, so that you can keep up to date with all your accounts during your deployment.
Make sure your house insurance is maintained during your deployment.
Talk about how you’ll handle household finances during the deployment. Ensure your spouse is comfortable assuming these responsibilities and that you agree on a plan for accessing and using all checking, savings, or investment accounts. Set up direct deposit and autopay of your monthly bills, so you never miss a bill.
Take stock of your debts. How much do you owe on your credit cards? If the amount seems insurmountable or you just want to get a better handle on your finances, consider a credit counseling or budgeting session with a certified credit counselor.
You may receive extra income while deployed. This can include family separation allowance, hazardous duty pay, or imminent danger pay. If you can, put this extra income towards your debts or in a separate savings account to grow an emergency fund.
SERVICE MEMBERS GROUP LIFE INSURANCE:
Sign up for, or review your SGLI settings. SGLI is available to all service members and can be purchased in increments of $10,000, up to a total of $400,000. Speak with your spouse, lawyer or family members to make sure you have the right amount of insurance for your situation.
The United States Department of Defense offers a traumatic injury protection plan as a part of the SGLI program. Military personnel who are eligible can elect for traumatic injury insurance. The insurance costs a monthly premium of just $1 and can provide payouts between $25,000 and $100,000. This insurance is similar to death and dismemberment insurance and isn’t to compensate for lost compensation. Traumatic injury protection terminates when the service member ends all SGLI coverage or leaves military service.
If your car is financed, have the name and address of the loan company and when the payments are due? Once again, make the payments automatic so they aren’t missed while you’re away.
Call your insurance company, some companies will allow you to remove a deployed spouse and reduce your insurance premium. You may also get a discount if your car is put in storage for the duration of your deployment. Make a duplicate of the keys and give them to a trusted family member for safe keeping. Before your departure, check the inspection sticker and date. Have someone get the car inspected while you’re away, so the sticker stays valid.
POWER OF ATTORNEY:
It is important to have someone trustworthy who can act on your behalf in your absence. A spouse, parent, sibling, or even a trusted friend is a good choice. Power of attorney can be set up by a lawyer and can be revoked at any time. There are different types of Power of Attorney
GENERAL WILL AND TESTAMENT:
Make sure your family is protected with a will should the worst happen. Have a lawyer draw up a document expressing your wishes. Wills can distribute your property, name an executor, name guardians for children, and more. Having a will also means that you, rather than your state’s laws, decide who gets your property when you die. You are strongly encouraged to prepare a will before deployment.
Read more: Should I Take A Military Pension Advance?
A living will is also called an advance directive. This document details what medical treatments you do or do not want if you are unable to make decisions because of a serious injury or illness.
Tip: Your living will also allows you to name a decision maker for your medical treatment, so make sure you take the time to discuss your wishes with whomever you choose.
Tip: Even if you already have a will, you should consider meeting with an attorney prior to your deployment to make sure you don’t need to make any changes.
Update your record of emergency data or DD93 form. This information is used by the military to pay death benefits and unpaid allowances.
SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides extensive financial protection to people deployed in the United States military. Deployed service members and their families receive eviction protection and in addition, service members deployed for 90 days or longer can terminate a housing lease without penalty. The SCRA limits all interest on credit issued before the service member was deployed to 6 percent. Any interest above 6 percent that the service member would normally accrue is forgiven.
There are other laws and protections in place to help military personnel protect their finances. Soldiers deployed to designated combat zones are eligible for the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. All earnings for that month are exempt from taxation. It doesn’t matter how much time the soldier spent in the combat zone — as long as their official duties brought them into the designated areas, all earnings for that month are exempt.
THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN
The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for service members. Set up a plan to pay yourself first and establish your financial future.
The TSP offers the same types of savings and tax benefits that many private companies offer under 401(k) plans. It is a defined contribution plan, meaning that the retirement income you receive from your TSP account will depend on how much you put into your account during your working years and the earnings accumulated over that time.
Establishing and updating your accounts and taking the time to set yourself up for financial success while you’re way will be well worth the peace of mind during your deployment. Good luck and thank you for your service!
Lori Stratford is the Digital Media Manager at Navicore Solutions. She promotes the reach of Navicore’s financial education to the public through social media and blog content.