For any new military family, watching your spouse or child go off to OCS can be a scary and daunting task. Although there may be a lot on your mind, one thing that is often failed to be considered early on is the financial struggles. Many military families are struggling financially, with some studies even showing that more than a third struggle to pay their monthly bills. This is why it’s so important early on to get your finances in order. Here are some of our best tips for new military families to organize and improve their financial situation.
1. Set Up Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you’re set up with financial goals to keep you focused and allow you to properly strategize. Short-term goals, like setting up a budget and creating an account to be used as an emergency fund can get you on track right away and give you motivation for long-term goals. These can include buying a home, getting a new car, or even retirement. Writing down your goals will help you visualize the steps needed to achieve them and give you the right motivation to get started.
2. Monitor Your Credit Score
Next, be sure to annually check up on your credit score. Monitoring your credit is something often overlooked, but it can be the difference between being accepted for an important loan or credit card. For example, if you’re looking to buy a house, each loan requires a different credit score. This means you should know what your credit score is before you even apply for the loan to set the right expectations and make sure you don’t receive a negative mark. Although some loans, like VA loans, have a lower credit threshold, it’s still important to make sure you regularly monitor and learn how to improve your credit.
3. Expect Financial Adjustments
Financial adjustments are a necessary part of anyone’s journey, and for military families especially, changes are to be expected. From sending care packages to OCS or overseas to the eventual transition out of the military, change is inevitable and will require different budgets and financial considerations. Reviewing your budget every few months and checking up on your progress toward financial goals can help you stay ahead of the game and prepare for these adjustments.
4. Plan For Retirement
One of the most important financial goals you should have in mind is retirement. Although there are unique options in the military such as the Blended Retirement System, which, if you qualify for, will allow you to receive matching contributions toward retirement, as a military family member, you will also want to consider your own individual options. Whether it’s through an IRA or investing in stocks, ensuring you grow your money will ensure you’ve set yourself up for a successful retirement.
5. Build Your Savings
Building up your savings is no easy task, but it can save you a lot of stress in the long haul. Even if you’re only able to save a hundred dollars a month, that will be sure to lift a weight off your shoulders and allow you extra cash in case of emergencies, such as a hospital visit or car accident. Although these instances are never something we can account for, having a separate savings account will give you the peace of mind of being ready for whatever life throws your way.
6. Learn How to Manage Money Stress
Lastly, knowing how to handle stress over money will be a huge advantage to your overall wellness. It’s no surprise that financial worries tend to be a main factor for stress in most Americans. Make sure you learn how to step away from your budget and not obsess over every cent to an unhealthy level. Although budgeting is important, a few financial slip-ups here and there are inevitable and are a part of the learning process. Give yourself (and your family) time to relax and focus on their transition as a new military family.
Financial wellness is an often overlooked, but crucial step for new military families. Making sure you’re set up for financial success in the long term will give you one less item on your plate and allow you to focus on what’s most important—family.