Deployment looks different for everyone. You could be gone for six months or more than a year, on a submarine or in a faraway desert. But in most cases, day-to-day life will look starkly different than it looks at home — including trips to the bank, post office and other mundane things you do to keep your financial world ship-shape.
“For deployments, you’ll be receiving additional income for things like hostile fire, hazardous duty and separation pay in most cases. Having a plan in place before you leave will make money management easier,” said Lacey Langford, a military wife, mom and veteran who’s known online as The Military Money Expert.
Last updated: May 17, 2021
Set Goals for Your Money
Like Langford said, you’ll want to have a plan in place before you deploy — and that includes a your financial goals.
“The biggest financial move a member should make prior to a deployment is to have a plan for the additional income. Many members, especially those about to go on their first deployment, don’t realize the new and potentially tax-free income they are about to earn. For those with a plan, the money can be accrued and put to good use (both short and long term),” said Chris Mancik, founder and chief strategist of Mil-Speak Marketing.
Your plan may include paying down debt or setting up a family vacation fund. Whatever it is, get clear with it — even better if you put it on paper.
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Set Up Automatic Saving
Odds are, if you have a bank account, you have access to an online space that allows you to transfer funds automatically to a savings account when they’re received. This money is set aside for you to use (or keep adding to) when you get back, and can also function as a security blanket for your family, should they need it while you’re gone.
Try to remember, though, that savings are savings for a reason.
“The biggest mistake many members make on deployment is to re-enforce the, “spend like a drunken sailor” when they get home (or go on liberty),” Mancik said.
Set Up Automatic Bill Pay
Like automatic savings, automatic bill pay should also be an option through your bank. This is vital if you have any recurring expenses while you’re gone, such as a car payment.
Have Someone Trustworthy Managing Things From Home
If you have expenses you don’t want to put on autopay — or infrequent expenses that are harder to automate — then it can’t be left up to your bank.
“If you need someone to help pay bills or help manage your money while you’re deployed, make sure it’s someone you trust. And when you do get access, be sure to check your bills are being paid and get a copy of your credit report,” Langford said.
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Review Your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
Aside from allocating funds to your savings account, you should be thinking about longer-term investments such as your retirement account, which earns higher interest.
“While my husband was deployed in the Middle East, he took advantage of (his) extra income by contributing more to his TSP (Thrift Savings Plan),” said Suzanne Howell, military spouse and founder of The Remote Mom. “He didn’t have to pay taxes on those contributions.”
Reach Out to Your Bank
It’s a good idea to let your bank know when you’re deploying and how long you’ll be gone. This way, they can make a note in your accounts and prevent any fraud that may occur while you’re away.
Contact Your Credit Card Companies
In the same vein, you should contact your credit card companies if you have any outstanding debt. They will often lower your interest rates while you’re away, giving you a chance to knock out your debt faster — which should be a priority if you haven’t already made it one.
Reach Out to Your Car Insurance Company
“If your vehicle will be in storage during your deployment, reach out to your insurance company. They can lower your premiums while you’re away,” Langford said.
Service members have certain rights on deployment or before a permanent change of station (PCS), per the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This includes the right to terminate an apartment lease, car lease or cellphone contract without penalty.
If you have a contract you know you won’t be using while you’re away, consider canceling it and pocketing the cash.
Prepare Financial Records
Put together a binder or folder with information about your bank accounts and any other assets your loved ones should be aware of. You should include your will, power of attorney, medical directive and letter of instruction should anything happen to you. This way, you can be sure that everything’s squared away and in safe hands before you leave.
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