Managing Finances during Deployment

“You can’t balance a check book from the middle of the ocean or from a fox hole in a combat zone!”  Every service member who is preparing for deployment should hear those words and make a plan on how to pay their bills and keep the money flowing where it needs to go.   Anything less than that is an act of irresponsibility and the military frowns on irresponsibility!

For many young single service members this isn’t really that hard because most of them have very few bills with the most common one being a car and insurance.  At the same time the bill paying still needs to get done in order to avoid a lot of grief, financial expense and unneeded face time with seniors in the chain of command.  A single service member can set the bills up on an “auto-pay” with their bank or credit union as they can always rely on Uncle Sam depositing money into their account on the 1st and 15th of every month.   The service member could also set up an allotment directly from their military pay account to make the required monthly payments for car loans, mortgages and life insurance.

For the military couple it is a little more difficult but not all that much.  First, set up two accounts with the deploying service member listed on the account that is going on deployment.  Second, set up and agree on an amount to deposit every payday on the 1st and 15th of every month.  Why do this? Because you can’t balance a check book from the middle of the ocean or from a foxhole in a combat zone!  Dodging bullets, RPGs and IEDs are a lot more important!  The deployed service member might not know what is going on back home as far as cash flow and it won’t do the family any good to have the service member overdraw the account and cause the spouse to deal with a lot of bounced checks and associated fees.

In case emergency leave is needed, the service member should have an activated credit card with them for use ONLY if they get called back on emergency leave due to some unforeseen family event.  While the military will pay for the service member to get back home, it is a good idea to have this back up in place in the event things don’t go according to plan.   Every good military member always has a backup plan! 

When it comes time to set an amount that the service member will get every payday it is important to remember that income and expenses will change when the deploying spouse goes “over there.”  First, the service member will start to draw Family Separation Allowance (FSA) in the amount of $250 per month.  Second, if they go into a combat zone they will draw combat pay (officially called “imminent danger pay”) at the rate of $225.00 per month.  Lastly, if the service member is in a combat zone their pay will also be exempt from federal withholding and taxation.  This means is that while the service member is deployed, income will go up!     

This means that the service member can get a reasonable amount of money every payday and the spouse back home can have enough extra also so the family can send “care packages” to the deployed service member and pay down a debt or two.  If the debts are already paid, save for a vacation or a special weekend away once the service member returns home.

 Deployments are tough enough on families and not getting the finances right can make it even tougher.  Avoid unnecessary stress and strain on a marriage by planning ahead, setting things up together and look forward to the homecoming!  It will be like another honeymoon all over again and it doesn’t need to be ruined by messed up finances that were easily avoidable prior to deployment.

Good Luck!  Keep you head on a swivel and watch your six!