I’m going to be honest with you, I am not financially minded. I hate to pay the bills and balance the checkbook. So, I had a conversation with my Army Wife Network team mate, Maggie. Why did I talk with Maggie? I talked with her because Maggie worked in financial military pay from about 2005 until 2008. During that time she was the lead of Reserve and National Guard pay for the Defense Military Pay Office at Fort Lewis. So, she has some experience. I want to share these questions and answers with you.
1. What can a spouse do to prepare to take over as the financial officer of the household when the Soldier deploys?
“This really depends on what is easy for the spouse. I am always super busy when my husband is deployed so I automate as much as possible. I try to get payments either on the 1st of 15th so that everything is paid without me thinking. Some people, however, like to set up reminders on their computers and have the computer ding when a bill is due. Most financial planning companies will give free financial plans to lower income or military through outreach such as booths at fairs. Always start at the financial part of ACS; they can at least direct you. And remember, a finance person cannot give you financial advice they can only fix pay and leave related issues if you have the proper Power of Attorney.”
“Have the finance/budgeting conversation with your spouse before they leave.?Make sure they understand that they will have a budget downrange, too. This may seem like a no brainer, but often the soldier is under a lot of stress downrange and they may not realize that they have already spent their monthly limit.”
“Get a specific Power of Attorney for finances to work with the defense military pay office. This allows you to speak to finance about either complex pay issues or even something minor such as a pay inquiry.”
“It’s also good to get acquainted with the Soldiers and Sailor’s Civil Relief Act (SCCRA). Generally if you send a set of orders and a letter to creditors, they will lower your interest rates during the deployments. I have found that time a good way to pay off credit cards and things like that. Your legal office will have standard letters you can mail to creditors.”
2. What resources are available to a spouse to help manage the finances?
“Army Community Services at most installations have financial people to help with household budgets, etc. Also most major installations have Reserve/guard activated mobilization personnel who have reserve/guard specific financial help available.”
“During the time that you are taking over and learning, however, things Like Google, and AWN are your friends. Almost every military spouse who has come before has done this and they will have a million tricks of the trade.”
3. What do you think makes a strong financial manager?
“Honestly, I think being open and talking about money and a budget without getting angry is important for a family.”
Read the article, The 3 P’s of Finance, on Armywifenetwork.com for more information on budgeting and planning.
4. Any final words of advice?
“Really, the biggest thing is get used to reading the LES. There are cheats you can read about on the DFAS website. Remember when talking to finance people, there is this little thing about regulations. They are often written vaguely and the interpretation you have may be different than a finance person has.”
ArmyWifeNetwork.com has other articles about money that might interest you. You can find them at http://www.armywifenetwork.com/?cat=13.