Military deployment checklist: 7 ways to prepare your finances
Before being deployed, here’s how to get your financial house in order
Read, 3 minutes
As any active-duty service member will tell you, the reality of the job is that it’s unpredictable—particularly when it comes to deployment. When you get your orders to deploy, you may not have much time to get your finances in order, so it’s important to plan ahead. Here are seven smart money moves you can take today to ease the transition and ensure that your finances remain stable during deployment.
Review your monthly budget
It’s crucial that you have a sense of exactly what your household income is and where it’s going. The best way to accomplish this is to create a budget that lists your monthly income and expenses. Even if you already have a budget, keep in mind that your income may change—some service members will earn more during deployment, while others earn less. It depends on your rank, time in service and where you’ll be stationed. (Most military branches offer a pay calculator to help you estimate monthly income both before and after deployment.) You can use a simple, shareable spreadsheet or an app to keep track.
Apply for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act benefits
As you work on your budget, you may be able to lower your monthly expenses by applying for benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a federal law that offers active-duty members some legal and financial protections. You’ll want to provide written notice and a copy of your deployment orders to your landlord and other creditors like your financial institutions to have the interest rate capped at 6 percent on eligible debts you incurred before active duty. Know that you’re protected against foreclosure, repossession and lease termination fees. Under SCRA, state income tax is also waived.
Boost your emergency fund
While it’s always a good idea to have emergency savings on hand, it’s even more important for service members who may need to weather dips in income or cover unexpected expenses like moving costs or medical bills. To figure out how much to save, add up your total necessary expenses each month, and then multiply that by the number of months you’d like to have on hand.
Enroll in online banking
Online and mobile banking give you the flexibility to view your accounts from anywhere. It also offers the ease of being able to pay bills, transfer money between accounts and set up alerts to let you know if your balance falls below a certain amount. Before you deploy, make sure to sign up for online banking and download your bank’s mobile app. Whether you bank online or in person, be sure to check that your direct deposit information is correct, so your payments arrive without any hiccups.
Set up a plan to pay bills
While you’re deployed, consider paying your bills automatically. That safeguards not only your good standing, but your credit health, too. Also look for any bills or subscription services you can pause or cancel, such as gym memberships. If your spouse is going to manage expenses during your deployment, make sure they’re listed as a joint account holder or that you've provided them with appropriate account access information. Keep in mind that if your account isn’t a joint account, you may want to grant your spouse, or another adult, power of attorney, which gives them the legal right to act on your behalf in certain situations.
Protect your credit score
If possible, try to let your creditors and other financial institutions know that you’ll be deployed 60 days before you leave. Doing so ensures that you’ll avoid card shutoffs, and lets you designate a point of contact in your absence. In addition, you can set up active-duty alerts with your bank to reduce the risk of identity theft and freeze your credit to limit anyone attempting to fraudulently apply for credit in your name.
Make sure your legal documents are current
Before you deploy, check that all your premiums are paid and forms are up to date for important legal documents like your will, life insurance and investment accounts. Also be sure you have a beneficiary named on each account. You might also want to choose a power of attorney who can sign documents on your behalf or handle your finances.
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