Preparing Soldiers' Finances for Deployment

Posted on Monday, May 13, 2024 in Financial Education

As a servicemember, you must diligently prepare your mind and body for your deployments, but finances are also an important part of the preparation process. This Military Appreciation Month, take time to sit down and review what programs and benefits are available to you to avoid as much financial stress as possible while deployed.

1. Create or update your will.

While you hope for the best on your deployment, it’s important to plan for the worst-case scenarios. Create or update your will in accordance with your current wishes. If your family has changed since you last adjusted your will, be sure to update it by replacing family members who have passed away and adding new family members.

2. Designate a financial power of attorney.

Power of attorney documents give another individual the authority to handle economic and legal issues for you while you’re away. Set up a limited power of attorney to specify the period in which your power of attorney will have control and determine which decisions they can have control over.

Designating a power of attorney can allow a loved one to have access to your family’s finances, to pay taxes and receive tax refunds, to receive emergency financial assistance, to receive government housing, and to enroll newborn children in DEERS.

The military provides free legal service resources for servicemembers and may even bring legal services to units prior to deployments. To find the office nearest you, use the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance Services Locator.

3. Store all your important documents in one place.

Once you’ve created a will and power of attorney, be sure to store them, along with your other important documents, together in one place. Notify a trusted individual about this place and give them access to it. If your documents are stored in a safety deposit box at a bank, be sure to update your box’s lease to include a trusted individual.

4. Review the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Preparing Soldiers' Finances for Deployment

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides many protections to full-time, active-duty service members in all branches of the military. The SCRA’s benefits include interest rate limits, foreclosure protection, eviction protection, delayed judicial proceedings, lease and contract termination, repossession protection, and tax relief. Visit the SCRA website to learn how to enact these protections.

5. Place an active-duty alert on your credit.

Before deploying, alert one of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax – about your absence. They will place an active-duty alert on your credit, which helps reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft while you’re away.

An active-duty alert is free and lasts for one year. The alert makes it harder for scammers to open unauthorized accounts in your name and encourages creditors and lenders to thoroughly verify you before opening new accounts or changing existing ones. Additionally, your name is removed from pre-screened credit card and insurance offers for two years.

6. Notify your bank and credit card companies about your deployment.

Alert your bank and credit card companies about your deployment to ensure any transactions you initiate abroad won’t be marked as fraudulent. To notify United Bank & Trust about your travel plans, log in to Online Banking and complete the Travel Notification form or call us at (641) 753-5900.

7. Update your insurance policies.

Communicate with your insurance agent that you are leaving on a deployment. If you’re leaving your vehicle in storage, be sure to mention this to the insurance agent. Some companies will adjust your various policies and premiums while you’re deployed.

8. Budget your new income.

While you’re away, it’s likely that your budget will change. Before you leave, calculate your estimated income, including additional allowances such as Special and Incentive Pay or Family Separation Allowance.

It’s likely that your income will increase during your deployment, and while it can be tempting to spend the extra cash, remember that your income will likely return to normal when you return from your deployment, making your new lifestyle unsustainable. Rather than spend all your extra cash, consider putting it into a savings or retirement account or paying it towards your debts.

9. Increase your savings.

Rather than spend your extra cash, put it away in a savings account in preparation for when you return stateside. Military members serving in a combat zone can access the Savings Deposit Program, which allows soldiers to save up to $10,000 and is guaranteed 10% annual interest compounded quarterly.

10. Save for retirement.

If you prefer to save for long-term goals, like retirement, consider increasing your contributions to your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). An IRA may also be a good option if you’ve maxed out your contributions to your TSP account. Visit a personal banker at United Bank & Trust to learn more about opening an IRA today.

11. Plan for filing your taxes.

Tax filing extensions may be available for soldiers serving in combat zones. Use the IRS’s military resource page to learn more about options that may be available for you.

If you need to file your taxes while abroad, consider using MilTax, a program backed by the Department of Defense that provides free tax filing software for all military members and some veterans.

12. Automate bill payments.

Prior to your deployment, automate as many bill payments as possible to avoid the stress of meeting due dates. This is especially important if you will have limited internet access while you’re away. Merging finances with a spouse or family member can make it easier for them to manage your finances in instances where you have limited internet access. Granting the individual power of attorney can also give them access to your bank accounts.

13. Set up mobile banking.

It’s a good idea to download and register for your bank’s mobile banking services before leaving, especially if you’ll have internet access while you’re away. This allows you to monitor your account balances, transfer money between accounts, and send money to family members.

To access your United Bank & Trust accounts, sign up for Online Banking, or download the United Bank & Trust mobile app.

More Information

Preparing for all aspects of deployment can be overwhelming for both servicemembers and loved ones, but taking these necessary steps before shipping out can make the transition a bit easier.

Before your next deployment, visit United Bank & Trust to update your accounts and learn more about the resources available to you. For more information, stop in or call us at (641) 753-5900.

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