Financial Basics for Service Members
In the military, you can use available resources to help prepare for your future. As far as saving money, you have various tools to help you build and secure your financial future. And, the more you save, the more prepared you will be for unexpected events or opportunities that might come along. You might wish to purchase a new vehicle, help your kids pay for college, or contribute to a retirement fund. You can master these skills with tools and resources for saving and budgeting.
What Are the Basics?
There are some financial basics you need to know about:
- Saving and Budgeting
You might be shocked at how small everyday costs add up. Go over your monthly cash flow to see how much you have coming in and how much goes out. What does the payment look like for your home? How much are you spending on your vehicle loan, entertainment costs, or household bills?
There are various free downloadable apps to help you keep track of your expenses. You will also find software programs that can help, as well.
Being able to manage your debt is a critical part of your financial health. Having too much debt can negatively impact your financial position and credit score. A higher score could make it harder for you to obtain future loans.
There are smart strategies available to help you recognize things like:
- Bad debt vs good debt
- Decreasing your credit card dependency
- Paying down your bills
- Taking control of your personal finances
- Blended Retirement Essentials
Around 85% of all reserve and active-duty service members, under the Blended Retirement System by the military, will receive a retirement benefit, regardless if they are not eligible for full retirement. This is a huge difference from the number of service members who are saving for retirement today. You will be helping your future self out if you start saving today.
- Protecting Your Finances
Many individuals fall victim to financial scams or identity theft every year which costs them time, money and aggravation. You do not want to join them. Learn different ways of protecting your military, personal and financial data and reducing your risk of becoming swindled while you are trying to build your financial security, which can slow you down.
What Options Are Available?
A primary resource for active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members and their families is Military OneSource. It is a U.S. Department of Defense program that provides free support and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Some available options include:
- Installation Financial Readiness Management Program
The U.S. Department of Defense offers a network of support for the military community, including MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, one of many free resources from Military OneSource.
- One-on-one counseling
- Moving assistance
They also provide additional information to educate service members about consumer rights and help them become financially stable.
- Family Life and Military Counseling Program
This program provides counseling to help families manage finances, reach long-term goals like buying a home, get an education, plan for retirement, and resolve financial problems.
- Financial Counseling
The Department of Defense provides numerous financial counseling options you and your family can use to plan and control your financial future.
This resource helps service members learn personal finance basics, such as managing a checking account, paying down debt, creating a family budget, and selecting good investments. You can also read about military pay and compensation benefits, consumer rights, and military savings programs.
Benefits of Financial Counseling for Service Members
As a service member, you can gain access to financial counseling through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS programs for free. Counselors recognize and understand the financial challenges you have to deal with as a service member. The available resources could help you plan and manage your fiscal future. Obtaining financial counseling could help you by:
- Providing you personal finance basics: The counselors will go over your finances with you and recommend ways you can pay your debt down. They may also teach you about managing your checking account, saving money, making a family budget, and investments.
- Educating you on the different military savings programs: The counselors can provide you with information about the different military-specific savings programs like the Thrift Savings Plan and the Savings Deposit Program.
- Assisting you with your credit record: Counselors can provide information on consumer rights and provide referrals to civilian and military resources to help resolve credit reporting issues.
- Assisting you with developing a debt-repayment plan: They can assist you with contacting creditors and coming up with a debt payoff strategy.
- Coordinating with Organizations for emergency financial assistance: They could help you learn more about these types of services and even help you find financial assistance.
Additional Tools That Can Help
Service members have access to several resources for managing expenses and saving money. Learn about ways of saving and protecting your family's financial health through these programs:
Visit Benefits.gov to find information on a large range of benefits you have available to you if you are an active-duty military or veteran. It is a resource available to all service members and their families. It provides information on:
- Interest benefits
- Interest rate reductions
- Medical benefits
- Educational benefits
- And more
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
The SCRA offers service members with a large range of benefits and rights, from eviction protection to interest rate reductions.
- Tax Preparation and Consultations
Speak to a Military OneSource tax consultant by calling 800-342-9647 or visit their website for free tax consultations and tax preparation resources.
Having financial security may be simpler than you might think, particularly with the resources and tools available to you as a service member. Using them can help you create a successful financial plan for each phase of your life.