JULY 7, 2016, by Anum Yoon – Military families often face challenges that civilian families don’t. To name a few: Reassignments, deployments, solo assignments and, at times, the struggle to find their way around foreign countries when they don’t know the language or customs. While starting over in a new city, state or country, regardless of whether you’re military, a dependent spouse or a civilian, one thing you can do in advance to ease some of the stress of a move is to prepare your finances to make sure everything is in order. Here’s how.
The Devil’s in the Details
Paperwork can feel overwhelming when you look at a stack of it that needs to be filled out or filed. By making small goals and lists of what needs to be done, you can easily create a binder of important papers and documents that will keep you from pulling your hair out later when you need to find something.
There are many online organization sites that offer free downloads of their forms, as well as several sites that can aid you with getting and staying organized. One example is GetButtonedUp.com, which offers a binder system called Life.doc that will keep everything in one place. Whether you chose to build your own binder or buy a pre-made system, you’ll find that, by having everything in one place, you’ll be more less frantic if you ever need to find something on short notice.
Preparing Your Financial Documents
Confused about what documents you might need? If you haven’t already written a will or medical directives, those should be first on your list. If you have, make sure they’re up-to-date. End-of-life plans are never what you want to think about before a deployment, but by doing so, you can ensure that your wishes will not be misinterpreted and your family will be taken care of.
You should also have Powers of Attorney documents prepared to take effect in the event of a deployment, and make sure that any named family members (spouse, parents, children) have access to bank accounts and documents.
You will also want to maintain a list of all your income, assets, liabilities and expenses (including account numbers). If you are a single parent who will be leaving your children with another family member while deployed, be sure to specify guardians for your children for the time you’ll be away, and in the event that something unfortunate happens.
Open in Case of Emergency
Your personnel file at work should be up-to-date with names, phone numbers and addresses, and a second copy should be kept at home in your binder. Additionally, military service members should keep a copy of all their military records at home.
In addition, have a family emergency plan that includes meeting places, names and numbers for points of contact in case you get separated. Not only is an emergency meeting place a good idea when traveling, both stateside and overseas, but by having one in place before any weather-related disasters, you’ll also be ready for anything Mother Nature throws at you.
Deployment can cause a shift in your finances for the better during deployment, but don’t rush out and buy that big screen TV just yet. While you’re deployed or on a solo assignment, the bills still need to get paid back home — especially if you will have a family relying on your income in full or in part.
Most banks now offer online bill pay, including the option for automatic payments. Upon your return from deployment, you may have a period of unemployment, and planning for it before you leave will make things easier when you return. Building up a savings account with any increase in your pay due to deployment is one way to create that cushion to land on when you return.
Know Your Rights Before You Leave
If you are a reservist, there are several laws that protect your rights, both while you’re gone and when you return. One of them is the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which can help with your creditors by limiting the amount of interest charged while you’re on active duty. Your job is also protected for you while deployed under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
Whether you’re active-duty military, a reservist due to deploy, a civilian government employee or someone whose job keeps you on-the-go, having your legal and financial documents in order is a wise move for anyone.