Memorial Day is a perfect time for reflecting on the unique financial circumstances service members and veterans face. Whether you’re a new recruit or a long-retired veteran, there are many uncommon personal finance considerations that many who’ve served in the military encounter. Below you’ll find six general money tips for service members and veterans to help with stretching your dollar during your time in the military and beyond.
- Plan for deployment
Deployments usually aren’t surprise events, which means you can prepare yourself for some of its necessary expenses. As much as possible, build into your budget savings for deployment-related costs like pet boarding, international phone plans, or storing your vehicle for an extended period of time. Another financial habit that shouldn’t be overlooked is setting up autopay before being deployed – that way you don’t have to worry about bills being paid on time while you’re away from home.
- Budget for service-specific costs
When budgeting for military service, there are some job-specific items you should get in the habit of integrating into your spending plan. One common expense Erik Goodge, a US Marine Corps veteran, recommends budgeting for is uniform costs. He suggests intentionally setting aside your clothing allowance to pay for anticipated expenses like backup uniforms or medals and ribbons.
- Take advantage of military and veteran discounts
From clothing to car insurance, it seems like almost every company offers some type of military/veteran discount. A tried and true way to find out about these deals is to simply ask (it never hurts!). Another way to find lesser-known deals is to search “military discount” plus whatever product, service, or company peaks your interest. No matter which route you take, make sure you’re prepared to provide documentation by always keeping some form of military identification with you. Finally, don’t assume that a military discount will automatically be the best bargain. Build a habit of comparing military discounts with other deals like loyalty programs and coupons.
- Check your state residency status and tax rules
With the frequent moves that often accompany military life, it can be hard to know where you technically “live.” Being diligent about keeping track of your state residency status is important, however, because it determines which state’s tax laws apply to your income. Pay close attention to your Leaves and Earnings Statement (LES) to verify that it lists the correct state, and make sure you stay on top of your current state’s military-related tax rules. This advice applies equally for active duty members and veterans. Some states offer property tax breaks for disabled veterans, while others don’t tax military retirement pay, so it’s important to be clear about your residency status.
- Know your rights
There are a variety of consumer protection laws that exist to help service members and veterans protect their finances. From student loans to medical debt reporting, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has great resources for staying on top of your rights as a consumer. Being knowledgeable about your rights – especially as a service member or veteran, is key to keeping your financial life in order before, during, and after service.
One final piece of advice to remember is that you’re not alone. From government support to the broader community of service members and veterans, there are plenty of people who’ve been through the same situation and are happy to help you navigate your military experience — no matter where you are along the journey.
Nay’Chelle Harris, Financial Education Coach