Among the many unique challenges that military families face, managing household finances can be especially demanding, particularly for military spouses who must handle the majority of those responsibilities when military duty takes their husband or wife elsewhere for extended periods of time.
Recognizing just how vital financial readiness is for military families, the U.S. government and each of the armed forces requires their personnel to take financial training courses. In addition, they offer a wealth of financial counseling and educational resources to their spouses.
"It pays to take advantage of those resources," said Sylvia Kidd, director of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) family programs. “When both spouses prepare and are proactive about their finances, they stand a great chance of developing a very nice nest egg.”
First, some tips to help military spouses fulfill their financial duties at home:
- Start immediately by developing a spending or financial plan detailing your current situation, goals and how you plan to attain your financial goals. Rely on the resources listed in the next section for planning help.
- Make money management and financial planning a joint effort, so you are both fully aware of debt obligations, creditors and when bills are due.
- Establish a joint checking or savings account with direct deposit that you both maintain.
- Create a joint account specific to deployment so when your spouse is away, they do not interrupt the home account and leave your family in a crisis if your account becomes overdrawn.
- Plan for deployment well in advance with a deployment spending plan.
- Stash the extra cash. Deployment often results in a pay increase; however you should save it, since it will go away when your spouse returns. Save or invest that money instead of spending it, advises Kidd.
- When you are apart, use technology including phone, email, Skype, etc. to stay connected and talk through financial issues when they arise.
Discuss how your deployed spouse wants to hear about financial issues to alleviate extra stress after a long day on patrol.
The U.S. government offers several military-wide programs worth investigating, among them Military OneSource, which provides free one-on-one financial counseling sessions with a financial planner. To make an appointment or a phone consultation, call 800-342-9647. Additionally, spouses can access MHN Government Services’ Personal Financial Counselor Program for individual and group counseling.
Also check out:
- Military.com’s Spouse and Family Benefits page
- The Defense Department’s Military HomeFront program
- The Defense Finance and Accounting Service
- Military Saves, a program sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America to help military families build their savings.
Each military service provides its own financial readiness resources while participating in the Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP), which provides classes, one-on-one counseling sessions and information. For details on services specific to each arm of the military, check out:
- The Army’s AUSA Family programs
- The Navy’s Fleet and Family Support program (click on “Personal Finance”)
- The Marine Corps Personal Finance Management Program page
- The Air Force’s Personal Financial Readiness program
- The National Guard's Financial Management Awareness Program