You're ready to deploy, but are your family's finances ready?
June 19, 2005
Military families know that deployments are a fact of life. But many families aren’t financially prepared to handle the sudden absence of one or even both spouses. Since predicting when or where you’ll be called isn’t possible, consider the following tips to ensure your household is mission-ready when before you receive your orders.
Put it in writingIf your financial accounts are in your name only, then your spouse may have trouble dealing with issues that arise in your absence. Have your spouse, relative or trusted friend listed as a joint account holder, authorized to make changes to the account without your signature. Enacting a durable power of attorney will allow your designee to manage legal matters on your behalf.
Insure peace of mindLife insurance can be difficult to discuss. Giving your loved ones financial security will help put your mind at ease. Recent changes to Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) raised the coverage to $400,000. This is likely adequate for many families, though servicemembers with higher incomes or multiple dependents may want to consider a supplemental policy. To be sure you only purchase coverage you need, consult with a financial planner who does not earn a commission on the products you buy.
Another way to protect your family is to obtain debt protection on outstanding loans. If you were to die prematurely, this type of coverage would prevent your family from having to pay off debts such as a car loan or credit card balance.
Protect your propertyIf your home will be unoccupied, notify your insurance company. Arrange to store your valuable property with a friend, relative or in a commercial storage facility. As an alternative, many servicemembers get a home security system during their absence.
An upcoming deployment also may prompt changes to auto insurance. If someone else will drive your car while you are deployed, you may need to add that person to your auto insurance policy. However, if your vehicle will be properly stored, you may be able to save money by reducing your coverage, depending on your state laws.
Keep an eye on creditBeing far from home and often preoccupied during deployment, military members can often be prime targets for identity theft and credit fraud. That’s why it’s important to review your credit report at least once a year to correct any inaccuracies. Some banks offer services that monitor your credit report and alert you to suspicious activity.
Track down discountsSometimes being deployed can actually save you money. Many financial services companies offer special discounts for deployed military personnel, such as no international fees on ATM cards and reduced credit card interest rates.
Also, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2004 requires lenders to cut interest rates on existing loans to military members to 6 percent during periods of active-duty service. Consult with your JAG for a full explanation of your protections under the act.
While preparing the homefront for deployment can be a challenge, making important financial, legal and insurance arrangements ahead of time will help get you get in shape for your next mission.
Rich Strickler is the deployment assistance program manager at USAA. He also served 30 years in the U.S. Navy.
Survive double duty
Deploying is difficult enough. It’s hard to imagine both spouses being called to serve in different parts of the world at the same time, but it happens. If a double deployment is a possibility in your family, here are some things to consider:
Be open: Discuss the potential situation with children so it won’t be a shock when the time comes. And don’t underestimate how long you may be gone.
Have helpers ready: Make arrangements in advance for family members or close friends to care for the kids, keep pets and look after financial affairs.
Put routine tasks on auto-pilot: Set up direct deposits on your paychecks and have recurring charges auto-drafted from your account.
Go online: Take advantage of technological conveniences to stay in touch with family, make bank transactions, or even pre-order flowers for upcoming birthdays and holidays.
Take time to re-engage: Be realistic about your return home. Take time to reconnect with family and establish normal routines again.
— Rich Strickler