5 Financial Tactics for Military Families
From frequent moves to potential deployment, military families face unique challenges that can make saving and financial planning difficult.
A recent survey found that military families tend to have higher debt and fewer assets than their civilian counterparts. In the National Foundation for Credit Counseling/Ohio State University study, military participants averaged 7.1 percent more in unsecured debt and 16.2 percent less in tangible assets, compared to the combined average. Fortunately, military life fosters discipline, organization and mental agility — all strengths necessary to secure a sound financial future. Additionally, service members and their families have access to an arsenal of financial tools and resources, from specialized banking services to federal benefits and protections. In honor of Military Family Month, following are strategies to help military families tackle financial obstacles:
Teamwork. Cooperation is crucial to any military operation, and teaming up with strong financial experts is mission critical to your financial success. A financial adviser or banker can offer valuable tactical advice and alert you to military-specific financial considerations. Zions Bank’s SCRA Servicing Unit advises military personnel on benefits offered through the Servicemember Civil Relief Act, including interest rate reductions and limits on debt accrual. Meet with your banker before active duty to learn about the key provisions of this law and how they can help you. Don’t forget to ask about special offerings for military members. For example, Zions Bank’s military checking account include free and discounted services as well as waived ATM fees during deployment. Visit a Personal Financial Management Program office, located in your military and family support centers, for free one-on-one counseling and other financial education resources.
Flexibility and adaptability. Service members learn to adapt quickly to the evolving needs of a given mission as well as to the numerous relocations that often accompany military service. Financial decisions too should be approached with a flexibility to meet changing circumstances. For instance, despite the lure of low mortgage rates, home ownership may not always be the best decision for military families on the move. Make financial decisions based on your family’s unique needs and particular situation.
Semper Paratus (“Always Ready”). The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto is “Semper Paratus,” Latin for “Always Ready.” Prepare for deployment by mapping out a financial plan for your family while you’re away. Who will take care of paying bills and following through on other financial obligations? Whether you’re stationed stateside or overseas, enroll in automatic bill pay to save both time and hassle. Bill pay, which is included free with all Zions Bank personal accounts, may be especially helpful for those deployed in areas without reliable internet access and mobile banking options. Also consider granting power of attorney to your spouse so they can make urgent financial decisions such as banking transactions and selling or buying property in your absence.
Systematic planning and organization. It’s necessary to plan for suboptimal scenarios in military operations as well as in the household budget. Because the relocation cycle for military families can make it nearly impossible for non-military spouses to establish stable careers, plan to operate on a single-income household budget. This will help your family weather employment status changes. A variety of personal finance software exists to help you create and update a personalized budget. You can also find a variety of free online calculators and budgeting tools.
Long-term vision. The US Navy SEALs motto reminds us that “The only easy day was yesterday.” As service members work tirelessly to secure our nation’s future, remember to protect your family’s financial future with adequate savings. Military members have access to the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a low-cost retirement savings and investment plan that is similar to a 401(k) plan. You can opt to have automatic contributions withdrawn from your paycheck.
Zions Bank is proud of its track record of supporting the military community through banking services, employment and veteran-owned business partnerships. Visit a local branch to learn more about these services and opportunities.