7 Ways to Succeed
By Lanette Lepper
As a military spouse, there will most likely come a time when you are left in charge of the finances. It's not an easy mission. Ask most civilians in the financial field about an LES, the TSP or SGLI and they will probably look at you with a blank stare. Your success starts well before the deployment… waiting until the bags are packed and your husband is walking out the door is a surefire way to fail! Here are seven ways to succeed:
- Well before it is time for him to leave, sit down with your husband and go through his most recent LES together. (For those non-military types, that would be a 'pay-stub'). Chances are there are boxes that even HE won't understand, but ask him to explain what he can. Review all of the information and make sure it is correct, especially any allotment amounts.
- DEERS is a big 'ol data base, and everything depends upon the accuracy of that information. If you are expecting a child while he is away, find out ahead of time how to add the little blessing to the 'Page 2' once s/he arrives… and do it within 90 days to ensure continued TRICARE coverage (health insurance).
- SGLI is life insurance. Know how much coverage your husband has, and make sure it's enough. Spouses are eligible, too. Find out whether you're covered and for how much. If you need to, make adjustments before he leaves. Be aware that dependent children are also eligible for $10,000 policies, but they need to be listed on your 'Page 2.'
- The TSP is the military equivalent of a 401(k) retirement plan. Whatever you contribute is yours to keep, regardless of how long you stay in the military. Your contributions also reduce the amount of your taxable income and may make you eligible for a Retirement Savers Tax Credit. Research more at www.tsp.gov and give serious thought to contributing what you can. Start your automatic allotments before he leaves.
- Know ahead of time what changes to expect in pay once your husband deploys. If you are eligible for Family Separation, Combat and Hazardous Duty pay, make sure that you are receiving them! Work out a budget… together… so that you are spending any increases wisely, and then stick to it. Be aware that this 'raise' will disappear when he returns, so don't be tempted to buy a house or any other large purchase based on this inflated, temporary pay.
- Make sure you have a Power of Attorney. This gives you the power to act and make decisions on your husband's behalf while he is away. Make an appointment at Legal and it's free of charge. While you're there, create or update your will.
- Know where to turn for help. Pay day lenders and pawn shops are not solutions and create more problems than they fix. Local military resources exist for budget counseling, interest-free loans and financial advice. Use them if you need them.
Educating yourself before your husband leaves will save you many headaches and will help you to be successful in handling your family's finances. It's much easier to get things done with a soldier/sailor in uniform at your side than it is alone! It's also much easier for your husband to carry out his mission knowing he doesn't have to worry about the financial situation back home.