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9 Money Tips for Military Newbies

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Entering the military is a huge decision that comes with a whole slew of life changes—including how you handle your money.

 

Mountain America Credit Union recognizes this challenge and has come up with a few tips to help you manage your finances, especially as you’re away from home for extended periods of time.

 

Track your expenses
It’s difficult to make a plan if you’re uncertain of your baseline. To make a budget, start by tracking your expenses for at least two months. This will give you a clear idea of where your money is going, where you can scale back and which expenses can be eliminated altogether.

 

Start saving from the start
Your military career may be just beginning, but it’s never too soon to think about retirement. The more money you put away now, the longer it has to earn interest—that means more free money! Check into the Thrift Savings Plan—a retirement savings and investment program sponsored by the federal government. Remember to keep an eye out for ways to boost your savings, like cost of living raises, promotions and tax-free combat pay.

 

Manage your credit
A steady paycheck and a barrage of credit offers seem to go hand in hand. Many of these credit card companies rely on people with bad credit or no credit to apply for their high-interest credit cards. But just because they are offering, it doesn’t mean you have to accept. Determine if the offer is actually worth it by reading the terms and conditions and knowing exactly how much your purchases will cost. It’s also a good idea to be aware of your credit score. View your credit report for free each year on annualcreditreport.com.

 

Don’t rush into homeownership
It’s not uncommon for members of the military to move every two or three years. When you own a home, that means you have to deal with selling the property—often before you can commit to something else in your new city. As a result, many are forced to sell for less than anticipated or to rent the property out instead. It may be a better option to rent early on in your military career and then take on homeownership down the road.

 

Weigh any large purchases
Whether it’s a need (new car, home repairs) or a want (new boat, engagement ring), take the time to consider when and how these items fit into your budget. Avoid making big-ticket purchases on a whim. If it’s something you know is coming, like purchasing a new home or proposing to your girlfriend, make a plan and start saving for it.

 

Protect your assets
When it comes to insurance, many people opt for the least expensive policy. The truth is, getting a policy with better or more thorough coverage often increases your monthly premium by only a few dollars. Since being in the military means being away from home for long periods of time, get the peace of mind that all those things you’ve worked so hard for—your home, car, furnishings, computer, jewelry, etc.—are protected.

 

Get an education
Financial literacy is the best defense against money troubles, especially while on active duty. Take advantage of military education classes as well as other blogs and tutorials. The military has a very complex system for pay and benefits. Make sure you understand it fully and are taking the steps necessary to reach your financial goals.

 

Reduce unnecessary expenses
Many companies will suspend subscriptions for the active military without canceling your account. Check with your cable or streaming services as well as magazine, newspaper, grocery, clothing, beauty supply and other subscription providers to see if they will temporarily suspend your account while deployed. No one wants to pay for something they’re not using. Also, remember to ask for military discounts when you shop.

 

Seek the help of experts
The best news? You don’t have to do it alone. You can find financial counselors on every military installation to help you. And, don’t forget about your own financial institution. Financial advisors, like the ones at every branch of Mountain America, can help plan for your present and your future.

 

Your decision to choose a career in the military is a noble one. Everyone at Mountain America salutes you and thanks you for your commitment, service and sacrifice. We hope we can return the favor in some small way by guiding you forward on your financial path. Become a member today!

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