Like most Americans, members of the military and their spouses need to watch over their finances. When you are in the armed forces, there are many obligations that can make life challenging such as having to move often as well as the unique issues deployment involves. On the flip side, being in the military also offers a number of benefits: housing allowance (BAH), commissary and a moving allowance, to name just a few. In order to help stretch your budget, consider the following financial management tips.
- Take Advantage of all Military Benefits
Smart military spouse finance management means making sure that you know about all the benefits that you are entitled to as a military family. Your basic allowance for housing (BAH) provides a monthly stipend that is designed to help offset your housing costs. You are also entitled to basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) which is designed for your food purchases. Neither BAS or BAH are taxed and there are no stipulations that demand that either benefit be spent solely on food or housing, respectively.
In addition, there are options for military spouse financial assistance such as when a spouse wants to go back to school. Not only do these benefits make attending school a more affordable option, the right type of education prepare you for a career that gives you a valuable edge in the job market, regardless of your next duty station. These portable careers can help a military family gain the financial freedom that they want and need.
- Stay Smart
There are plenty of unscrupulous people who try to prey on the military. One of the best personal financial management tips involves taking the time to research your options before making a decision. For example, many car dealerships inflate their prices and pressure members of the military to purchase a car that they cannot really afford. Before you sign a contract to buy that next car, visit the legal clinic on base and have them look over your paperwork.
Another business that often targets the military is the pay day loan industry. With careful attention to the right financial planning tips, you and your family can avoid the cycle of these high-interest, short-term loans. If you do find yourself caught in this trap, though, seek out the help of your base financial and legal departments before you get in too deep.
- Invest in Your Future
If you are having a difficult time making ends meet now, it can be difficult to think about your future. No military spouse finance guide would be complete without mentioning the programs that are available for military families to help pay for their retirement. Invest in the military-offered TSP and build up that retirement fund slowly. In addition, consider making the commitment to stay in the military for at least 20 years in order to qualify for the military’s pension. Unlike many other types of pensions, payments begin when you retire and includes health insurance. If you have dependents, be sure to take advantage of the life insurance options offered specifically for the military. These will often net you better benefits and rates than other types of plans.
The above tips can provide a solid foundation for smart money management. For more information, check the Family Support Services Center at your local military base.