CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – Cost of Living Allowance rates for Marines and sailors stationed on Marine Corps installations in Japan will change in 2018.
Service members will see the change starting in the first pay period in January. The decrease is the result of a host of factors, to include: Retail Price Schedule data; exchange rate fluctuations; and the prices of goods and services in the continental United States compared to the prices of similar good and services in Japan.
The COLA adjustment is tailored for each installation. At installations on Okinawa, decreases in the costs of furniture, household goods, alcohol and tobacco account for this year’s COLA decrease. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s COLA reduction is due to decreases in recreation, groceries, tobacco, and alcohol costs while Camp Fuji will not see a change in COLA in 2018.
To find out how your COLA will be affected, visit: Defense Travel.
Although a decrease will be seen in monthly paychecks starting January 2018, the change is not permanent; the rate fluctuates annually. Service members will have the opportunity to directly influence 2019 COLA rates by participating in the Living Pattern Survey this summer. The web-based Living Pattern Survey asks service members which local stores they shop in and what percentage of their shopping they do at the commissary and exchange versus off-base. The data is then combined with demographic factors such as rank, time in service, number of dependents, and housing status to calculate COLA rates.
“The Living Pattern Survey is our primary opportunity that comes along once every three years to provide direct input into the COLA formulation process,” said U.S. Army Maj. Tiffany Harris, U.S. Forces Japan Financial Manager. “It’s critical that we have maximum participation and that service members take the survey seriously in order to provide an accurate picture of spending habits on and off base to reflect a more accurate view of living costs in Japan.”
For those service members concerned about the financial impacts of the 2018 COLA decrease, there are resources available to help. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Marine Corps Community Services offer financial planning and counseling services and can assist military families with creating a budget that reflects the reduction in take-home pay.
“We are here to help if you find yourself financially burdened,” said Elizabeth Moore, director of NMCRS on Okinawa. “We can help service members with financial counseling, developing a budget, and we even offer a Quick Assist Loan with very few questions asked to help them through financial hard times.”
To schedule a meeting with NMCRS, call DSN 645-7808. Additional personal financial workshops are available through MCCS. To register, visit: https://www.mccsokinawa.com/personal_finance_management/#tab0.
Story by Matthew Manning