How to Ease Military Family Financial Burdens
Frequent moves and deployment costs are just some of the financial burdens military families experience. However, with the national support military members receive from both the government and their communities, there are fortunately many financial relief opportunities that exist. Below are a few tips military families can use to help them reach financial stability.
Reduce your debt as soon as possible. Military families may often have more credit card debt than civilian families because of frequent moves. Also, when a military member is serving in another country, spouses often have to rely on credit or savings to manage the household and to take care of young children. Speak with a financial adviser to figure out how you can begin paying off your debt, whether it is due to credit cards or student loans. Paying more than the minimum each month will help you reduce interest owed in the long run.
Contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP is similar to a civilian 401(k) account, except the costs to administer the plan are much lower, which means greater savings are returned to you when you decide to cash out for retirement. All armed forces members can contribute, so consider doing so if you haven’t yet. The earlier you start contributing, the better off you will be in the long run; a large amount of compound interest over time could mean a significant nest egg in the future.
Use military benefits with every purchase. Being a military member or spouse has its perks. Military members often receive a range of benefits, including everything from free health care to restaurant discounts. Discounts vary by the sector in which a military member is enlisted (Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Marines, etc). Sometimes a store may not have a posted discount for a military member but will apply one on your purchases out of respect if asked. Utilize your military benefits to increase your financial savings.
Find help and support when you need it. There are a lot of organizations that work hard to support military families. For example, Operation Homefront hosts a Back to School Brigade each year to provide free school supplies to K-12 military children. Also, Troopons collects coupons for military families so they can buy their groceries at a reduced price. Tap into your resource offices and research organizations online to help find other methods of support.
Use credit-by-exam to finish your education. With recent changes to the GI Bill, it can often be difficult to figure out how much the government will support you or your spouse when it comes to completing your education. In addition, frequent moves can make it hard to stay enrolled at an institution in any given academic year. Consider credit-by-exam programs such as DSST as a way to cut costs and advance your learning. With a DSST exam, you can complete a course and earn college credit for as little as $80. To learn more about the benefits of DSST exams for military members, click here.