Friday, November 8, 2013

5 Ways to Manage Your Finances During Deployment


An impending deployment can lead to tremendous stress and anxiety, and financial hardship is one of the biggest obstacles facing deployed service members and their families. Many active-duty members have spouses and children to support. Others fear losing sight of their educational and career goals while serving a lengthy tour overseas. Although deployment can be fiscally challenging, it does not have to mean a financially unstable future. Mange your finances and use the resources available while on deployment by following these five tips. 

Continue Your Education Online


A major factor in achieving a financially stable future is getting a degree that will land you a high-paying job after military service. Continuing your education online is a great way to pursue your educational goals while you are deployed. Plan carefully when selecting your school and look for institutions that offer military scholarships and grant military credit through the American Counsel of Education (ACE) program. Every college performs ACE reviews to determine how much credit will be granted for the military experience you’ve already gained. Shop around to find the school that offers the most.

The military also offers active-duty soldiers tuition assistance for their online courses. This covers all tuition costs that do not exceed $250 per semester hour or $4,500 per fiscal year. You can apply for this benefit online through GoArmyEd.com and will receive notification when your request has been approved. Each academic year, you and your commander must sign a Tuition Assistance Statement of Understanding to continue receiving this benefit. 


Take Advantage of Deployment Entitlements


Knowing which deployment entitlements you are eligible for is helpful in the financial-planning process. All soldiers who are deployed for more than 30 days are eligible for per diem in the amount of $105 per month, which is provided in addition to your base salary. Family Separation Allowance is also available to soldiers with authorized dependents, which provides an additional $250 per month. Those serving in a hostile fire or imminent danger area receive an additional $7.50 per day, and soldiers who are deployed to areas with extremely low quality of life conditions may be eligible for hardship duty pay. Depending on the specific qualifying location, hardship duty pay offers payments ranging from $50 to $150 per month. Contact your unit’s administrative section to find out the additional pay you will be receiving, and calculate your entitlements ahead of time to assist you with your budgeting goals. 


Use Opportunities to Save Overseas


There are many ways you can save while you are serving on a deployment, and the process of using these opportunities begins before you leave. Simple steps such as cancelling your Netflix account, gym membership and cellphone service can save you a lot of money while you are away. Be sure to unplug appliances, such as your refrigerator, to dramatically reduce your electric bill — or consider renting out your home to earn extra money.

Once you deploy, it is also a great idea to invest in the Savings Deposit Program (SDP), which allows you to deposit up to $10,000 once you have been deployed for 30 days. This program, sponsored by the Department of Defense, offers a 10-percent return and continues to collect interest for up to 120 days after your deployment ends. Additionally, you can keep your SDP going for as long as 36 months, provided you are deployed for at least a day per month. 


Know Your Legal Deployment Rights


Before you deploy, familiarize yourself with your rights under the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law protects service members called to active duty from adverse civil action in areas regarding financial management. Under this law, you are protected from eviction if your rent is under $1,200 per month. You can also suspend auto leases as well as car and health-insurance payments. Additionally, you may receive reduced rates on credit card and mortgage payments, and are protected from foreclosure. Even if your debt was accrued prior to your active duty, the SCRA places a six-percent per year interest rate cap on any of your existing debt during your active duty service. To invoke your rights under this law, you may obtain proof of your Title 10 active-duty status through the SCRA website. 


Maintain Open Communication With Family Members


Discussing your bills and creating a sensible budget with your spouse before leaving will give you a better understanding of your family’s financial situation. Before you deploy, it is also a good idea to obtain military legal assistance in the event your spouse will need to make purchases on your behalf while you are away. Keeping an honest and open line of communication about your spending with your spouse will give you both a realistic idea of where you are financially and allow you to plan accordingly.

Deploying overseas can be a stressful time; however, by following these tips, you can eliminate financial hardship from your list of concerns. Those who face an upcoming deployment can have financial peace of mind as they bravely serve their country.

About the Author: Dawn Johnson is a contributing writer and has served two deployments in Afghanistan. 


Image by DVIDSHUB from Flickr’s Creative Commons


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