Change is an inevitable part of life for military families. Frequent moves and spousal unemployment are just a few challenges military families face while serving our country. But these circumstances don't have to keep you from working toward a solid financial future and getting help when you need it.
If you're a military spouse, consider these tips to ensure your financial well-being today — and for years to come.
Create a realistic budget. Paying household bills and saving for the future can be stressful without an up-to-date budget. Subtract your expenses from your household's take-home pay to determine how much money you have available for other financial goals. Take a hard look at your monthly subscriptions, utility expenses or cell phone service. Any amount you can cut back on now can go toward building an emergency fund.
Learn about military tax credits. There are multiple money-saving tax benefits available to military families. One of them, the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, limits your state income tax payments to the active-duty spouse's state of legal residence.
If your family moves to a new state with income tax, you might not need to pay it. Servicemembers and spouses must meet other conditions to qualify so speak with an on-base IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program representative to learn more.
Always ask for a military discount. Retailers, restaurants, and other businesses will give military servicemembers and their families a discount, but only if they ask. Not all military discounts are advertised, but a quick online search brings up links to more than 50 businesses offering discounts ranging from 10% to 50% off select purchases. If your favorite local store isn't on the list, ask the manager before heading to the checkout register. Always be prepared to show proof of military service.
Explore military financial resources. The U.S. military offers servicemembers and their families a variety of free resources where they can learn about valuable benefits. Some include:
Spousal employment assistance
Financial education and counseling
Low-cost life insurance and survivor benefits
College education tuition assistance
Note: Some resources may require servicemembers to initiate contact before they will speak with spouses or other family members.
Enroll in free credit monitoring. Protect your credit by staying alert to unauthorized activity or unexpected changes to your credit history reports. U.S. active-duty military and National Guard members can receive free credit monitoring from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Credit monitoring details vary for each credit reporting bureau.
Create an emergency fund. If your family relocates, this might mean a job loss or a steady source of income. An emergency savings fund could help fill the gap until you can secure work in the new location. Set a savings goal that equals at least two months of your earnings.
Take preventive measures to protect your finances. SchoolsFirst FCU offers resources, like GreenPath Financial Wellness®, where you can find professional financial, credit, and debt counseling services. Professional counselors can help you create a plan to take control of your financial future.