6 Ways Military Families Can Reduce Financial Stress
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With Forbes naming “Enlisted Military Personnel” as the No. 1 Most Stressful Job of 2016, there is no better time for military families to build up a defense around their finances so they can do their job to the best of their ability without adding any additional stress.
Would it surprise you to know that financial issues/stress is one of the top five stressors that American service members face while in the military? That’s exactly what The Fiscal Times found. The median job salary for a serviceman/woman is $27,936, which makes this career path more challenging for our servicemen and women as well as their families. Our military personnel have so much stress in their everyday lives, that feeling any kind of financial stress can only burden them more.
Nearly one half (49.6%) of military personnel are between the ages of 18-25 years old. These young Millennials, like their civilian counterparts, do not have much life experience and many times this can lead them to make poor financial decisions. On top of that many are newly married with young families that can cause additional financial strain.
Here are some things our service members and their families can do to reduce financial stress.
Start an Emergency Fund
The first and most important step military families must take to reduce added stress is to build up an emergency fund. Families should save at least $1,000 for anything unexpected that may happen like a vehicle repair or a medical emergency. USAA is a great resource for military families wanting to start savings accounts.
They exist to serve the military with financial services and their customer service is second to none. Reach out to them for help starting an emergency fund and any other money management or banking needs. Once you’ve reached the $1,000 goal, you may consider setting additional funds for specific circumstances like a fund for future moving expenses as well an emergency fund for job loss.
Developing A Plan for Deployment
Once a service member is deployed there can be a disconnect between them and their spouse. It’s imperative that both have a written plan in place that they are in agreement with before the deployment date arrives. Consult with an attorney to see if adding your spouse, as a Power of Attorney (POA), might be a good option if any pressing financial issues need to be handled while you are away.
Military families move an average of every 2-3 years. Because of their frequent relocations, this may make it tough owning a home and one may even end up losing money when it’s time to sell. According to Dave Ramsey, military personnel should consider if one will “be able to sell the home for enough when you move to offset the costs. Most areas don’t appreciate enough in three years for you to justify owning.” Nevertheless, it’s important that you research the area to see if buying or renting is the best option for your family.
Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey revealed that 40 percent of active military identified “Spouse Employment” as a top obstacle to financial stability. Because of many factors like frequent relocation and child care expenses, many spouses find it difficult to find a job. If one is having difficulty, you can find free job recourses at your local military branch. Many spouses work from home to bring in additional income or go back to school.
Building Your Nest Egg
According to the Military Times, the Pentagon supports fundamental retirement changes that will shrink military pensions for future troops by 20 percent. With uncertainty surrounding military pensions, it might be a great time to diversify your savings portfolio. Again, USAA’s investment services department can help you set up your nest egg in the most efficient way possible.
Depending on your specific needs and age, you may be able to contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), ROTH, or Traditional IRA. Any of these options can be great ways to put away additional funds for retirement.
Take Advantage of Military Resources
We’ve all heard that the military takes care of their own. Experience that statement for yourself by taking advantage of free resources offered in your military branch like the Personal Financial Management (PFM) Program. Here you can set an appointment to speak with a financial advisor and get additional educational resources.
While our military neighbors face a wide variety of obstacles, it’s so important that they learn smart ways to help reduce their financial stress. Having to make daily sacrifices while facing more danger than any of us can imagine makes it essential to feel secure financially in not only day-to-day life but for the future as well.
Have you faced any financial stress due to being in a military family? What are you doing to save for retirement? What free resources have you taken advantage of at your local military branch? How many times have you moved in the past five years?