There’s one absolute truth about military life: eventually, it will end. For some, it ends with a military discharge, others retire, and still others may transition out of their own accord. For many military families, the end of the military lifestyle also means the end of the stability of a steady paycheck and a variety of benefits. Regardless of the reason for leaving the military, you can do many things now to save more money to grow your nest egg and set your family up for financial success later.
Don’t neglect your retirement.
Retirement will be here before you know it. (Even though it doesn’t seem like that now.) Protect your future by setting aside money now. There’s always the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) that is provided by the government; however, if you’re worried that you haven’t been saving adequately for your retirement, you’ll want to have a diversity of options available to you including owning property, stock investments, mutual plans, or CDs and bonds.
Use your 9/11 GI Bill wisely.
With a few restrictions, you can transfer your Post 9-11 GI Bill to a dependent which can help your family immensely—especially if you weren’t considering using your benefits at all. Transferring to a dependent can help your child begin adult life with more freedom and much less debt or keep your family out of debt, if you’re transferring to your spouse.
Pay down debt.
Like many other American families, military families are not immune to debt. Over time, being saddled with debt can make you poorer and hurt your credit score—so you want to be proactive instead of ignoring bills. If you have substantial debt, take action quickly. If you can’t get your finances in order, your career in the military could be impacted.
Live within your means.
Know what your total budget is—both what you take in and what you use. Create a realistic budget that you and your family are on board with and can stick to. Pay attention to pain points. Make sure that your BAH can cover all of your housing expenses—electricity, water, sewage, insurance, garbage. Do you need cable? Should you pay for parking or is the free on-street parking okay?
Know your way around taxes.
Tax laws are different from state to state, so you may inadvertently be paying more. In some states, like Virginia, property taxes are assessed on cars, while other states, like Pennsylvania, do not. Likewise, some states may tax necessities like clothing and food while others do not. Some states also offer duty-free holidays where certain items (like back-to-school clothing and school supplies) aren’t taxed during a particular window of time. Knowing this information and keeping it in mind when you choose orders, file for taxes, and shop can help you put a few more coins back in your piggy bank.
Use military services and discounts.
Finally, a bonus tip! During patriotic holidays like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, there are many advertised specials for military families; however, there are tons of discounts available year-round—you just need to ask. Also make sure that you’re educated about what services and discounts are offered on base—from tickets to theme parks to camping equipment rentals—so you’re able to make the best choices for your family’s budget.
Of course, this isn’t a definitive list of all of the choices you can make to ensure that your family’s finances are solid. How do you save and invest as you prepare for the future?
Jo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and say hi!