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Your move, your money: 7 tips for financial PCS success

March 5, 2017 (Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The mobile military lifestyle provides opportunities as well as challenges. But if service members and families think about financial issues before they move, the financial aspects will be easier. 

Some things to consider before you start packing:

1. Day care recon. Check into child care costs at the new location, especially if child care is not available on the installation. Check with www.militarychildcare.com to get on waiting lists at installations in your area. Costs vary from area to area in the civilian community; service members using civilian child care may qualify for a subsidy from your service branch. Learn more here.  

2. Address updates: staying secure. Make sure to notify your banks and credit unions, credit card companies, and any other companies to whom you owe money – and financial institutions where your money is stowed -- of your change in address. If you’re concerned about the possibility of identity theft after you move, as your mail catches up to you and for various other reasons, consider a security freeze.

By requesting the freeze with each of the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – you can block the release of your credit file to new lenders and prevent anyone from getting credit in your name. This procedure varies from state to state, and may require a small fee. Each spouse would need to take action regarding his or her own information. But bear in mind you may need to have access to credit during the move – for example, if you’re renting a place to live, they’ll need to check your credit.

Find out how long it takes to unlock the credit once there’s a freeze on it, recommended Gerri Walsh, president of FINRA Investor Education Foundation. It’s a good idea to print out a copy of your credit report before you set up a credit freeze, she said, so you’ll have it for your records. 

3. Rate request. Local utility companies can provide details about rates in their area. Jessica Perdew, program manager for personal financial readiness, Marine and Family Programs Division, at Marine Corps headquarters, suggested looking into a “budget” plan offered by some utilities that allows residents to average the historic monthly costs over a 12-month period, avoiding seasonal spikes.

“Don’t assume rates are consistent from location to location,” Perdew said. “For example, moving from a cooler climate like Virginia to a warmer climate like California may mean lower heating costs, but those reductions may be offset by higher costs for cooling or water.”

Military members should also ask if the utility company allows waivers of utility deposits for service members.

4. Restart your benefits. Check with your new state how to apply for benefits under the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, previously known as food stamps). The Defense Department operates a WIC Overseas program. 

5. Cleanup, pet costs. Budget for move-out expenses such as cleaning services, if needed. At the other end of your move, you’ll have the expense of replacing cleaning products that couldn’t be transported from the previous location. Also budget for extra expenses involving pets, such as required time in a kennel.

6. Spend smart. Be careful in engaging in “retail therapy” during and after a move – buying new things for the home that may exceed the budget, Walsh said.

7. Save ahead. Consider building a “moving fund” for expenses related to moving that are not reimbursed, in addition to your emergency fund. Some guidelines for that are available here
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