For many military spouses, that means going into an automatic-checklist mode of things to accomplish and get done before our servicemember boards that plane, ship or sub for some far-away destination.
Besides getting projects done around the house, spending time together and all the other things we try to cram in before they leave, there’s one more important (and not always fun) task to add to the list: Money.
Whether you’re a newbie facing your servicemember’s first deployment or a seasoned spouse with several under your belt, it’s always good to review your finances before a deployment, an unaccompanied tour or any other extended time apart.
Research has shown that financial difficulties, specifically debt, lead to strain on relationships and marriages. Don’t let financial stress add to what can already be a difficult time.
That starts with an honest discussion about where your household stands financially in terms of debt, assets, credit and spending. Take time to align on what’s best for your family.
What are some things to include in that discussion?
Here’s a checklist to prepare your finances for deployment:
- Power of Attorney (POA) and wills. Every military family should have these anyway, but it’s always good to reassess them. Make sure the POA isn’t going to expire while your servicemember is gone, and double check that nothing has changed in terms of wills or other important documents.
- Account access. Ensure both parties have access to all accounts and know the account numbers, passwords and any other pertinent information. We recommend adding or being added to a join account.
- Budget. Let’s face it, if your servicemember will have to set up a separate household on an unaccompanied tour, money is likely going to be a source of conflict. Nip that in the bud by agreeing on expenses for both households ahead of time, and coming to terms with what both the spouse and servicemember can realistically spend each month without straining the family’s finances. One tool that may be very helpful is this budget worksheet. You may even want to consider a separate, free checking account for expenses specifically for the second household.
- Credit and debit cards. Contact your financial institution and let them know the cards will be used in different locations. This will prevent a fraud alert every time the cards are swiped in “weird” places. Also make sure your cards don’t have extra fees for withdrawals or foreign transactions. And finally, ask your financial institution about any special benefits for deploying servicemembers.
- SCRA. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects military families against predatory lenders, high interest rates and other common financial issues. Most importantly, there are some specific provisions for deployment, including the ability to terminate a lease.
- Benefits and Discounts. Make sure to check whether or not you qualify for tax-free pay or deployment-related allowances! Check here for more information on active-duty loan discounts.
- Emergency savings fund. It’s definitely smart to have 3-6 months’ worth of savings set aside for sudden expenses, like vehicle repairs or unexpected travel home. Many times, but not always, the military will pay for a flight, but there are often other expenses incurred such as hotel, a rental car and food.
- Budget for leave. Plan what you’ll do during leave, if any, and budget accordingly.
- Extra money. If the deployment will result in any extra pay or bonuses, use that money wisely. Consider setting up an automatic transfer to put it into a savings account, a certificate, or longer-term investments. Make it work for you by paying off debt, investing for retirement or buying that 80-inch flat screen you’ve been eyeing. The important thing is to decide together what you’ll do with that money.
- Simplify. Setup automatic payments and paperless billing and statements.
- Communicate. Have regular, friendly discussions about money and update or change your budget accordingly.
By having serious discussions about money, you and your family can better navigate deployment and the road ahead.
Navy Federal is federally insured by NCUA.