1/11/2013 8:00 PM ET|
5 money issues for military families
If you or your spouse is in the armed services, you face some unique financial challenges. Here’s what experts say about how to handle them.
With frequent moves and the potential for overseas deployment, military personnel and their families face unique challenges when it comes to managing their money and saving for the future. U.S. News spoke to four experts to get their advice on how military families and veterans can tackle these five financial challenges:
No. 1: Managing money during an overseas deployment
Online banking has made it easier to monitor money and transfer funds during deployment, but according to Doug Nordman, a retired Navy officer and author of “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement,” logging in to one's investment accounts while stationed in Afghanistan doesn't always work because of anti-fraud security measures used by some financial institutions (after all, the average consumer probably isn't logging into an investment account from Afghanistan).
He suggests using military-friendly investment companies such as USAA because they "understand the challenges of managing money overseas." USAA offers insurance policies and banking products for military members and their families, so its products may be more tailored to service members' needs. For instance, USAA offers a $15 monthly refund allowance on ATM fees, a plus for someone who travels or relocates often.
Jason Hull, a former Army armor officer and the owner of Hull Financial Planning in Crowley, Texas, suggests automating retirement contributions and bill payments, especially during a deployment. "It's less for you and your spouse to have to worry about, and it gives you less opportunity to make financial mistakes," he says. It can be tempting to buy a flat-screen TV, but "if you've automated your finances, you don't have as much wiggle room to make bad decisions like that."
Those deployed to a combat zone can take advantage of the combat-zone tax exclusion. "If you make contributions to your Roth Thrift Savings Plan, they get special treatment and you won't be taxed on your earnings as long as you satisfy the requirements," Hull says. "It's effectively the holy grail of personal finance, because you're taking pretax money, and then you never get taxed on any of that money."
No. 2: Moving every few years
Frequent relocations are part of military life, but they can make it difficult for officers to adjust to higher living expenses, says Larry Rosenthal, the president of Rosenthal Wealth Management Group, a Virginia firm that works with several military clients. "We're right outside of Washington, D.C., so the cost of living is very high. Somebody located in this area after coming from the Midwest may run into a little bit of sticker shock," he says.
Faced with the option of using their housing allowance to rent or buy, some service members opt to buy a house and then sell or rent it out once they're reassigned. Nordman says this can be a costly mistake, though. "The vast majority of service members should rent until they know they're going to be in a place at least five years, and if you think you're gonna be stationed in a place for more than five years, you're wrong," says Nordman, who says that during his relocations, he bought and sold several houses.
He tried to unload one after three years and made a profit on the sale of another. "I've seen the good and the bad, and in retrospect, it's best to minimize your financial risk," he says. "It is no fun being a long-distance landlord."
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Having fought in 2 wars I know first hand as an enlisted member of the Corps. Your housing, food, hazardous duty pay, seperation pay, and any other incidentals are tax free to begin with. If you deploy your base pay is not only tax free up to around $80,000, but the memeber is not spending money they normally would back home.
Stop buying $30,000 cars, booze, iPhones, porn, and big screen TVs and you will do just fine.
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