We’re more than a month into the new year, and you may need to revive and refresh that resolution, especially if it has to do with money.
Dealing with money isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to beat down debt. Sometimes military life brings situations that could result in piling on debt — extra expenses from a PCS move, and the hit on the household budget when the spouse can’t find work.
There are many benefits out there that can help service members in the financial arena.
But you don’t know what you don’t know. Defense and service officials have been working to increase the financial education for service members throughout their careers, and the DoD Office of Financial Readiness recently launched a website dedicated to financial literacy, https://finred.usalearning.gov/. It breaks many important military personal finance topics into digestible pieces.
It’s one place you can go when you have questions about personal finance, benefits, and consumer protections that apply to you, even if you don’t think your question could have a military-related solution. For example, where to go when you have a financial emergency, getting help through a military relief society.
The subject areas covered are benefits and entitlements; managing your money; saving and investing; planning for the future; understanding consumer protections; and housing.
Among its features:
*Fact sheets on making the most out of education benefits, and additional leads for financial aid; detailed information on all the elements of the Blended Retirement System.
*Fact sheets, tip sheets and lists delve into numerous topics such as building and improving your credit history, shopping for a credit card or a financial institution, or eating well on a budget. There are explainers on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the Military Lending Act, and dealing with debt collectors.
*Links to 11 calculators to help you figure out how much car you can afford, how long it will take to pay off a credit card and different strategies for eliminating debt. To use these 11 calculators, you must have a common access card, but there are also other loan calculators available.
*Short videos on subjects such as continuation pay under the Blended Retirement System; deciphering the Leave and Earnings Statement; financial prep for the PCS and for life events
Often we don’t seek out a resource until we’re in immediate need, so we may not remember the information given a year ago or three years ago. So remember this website —whether you’re new to the military, or have been around for a while. It’s hard to remember all the benefits, and you don’t want to leave money on the table because you didn’t know about it.
And most importantly, the site constantly points you to the personal financial counselors on military installations who are accredited professionals offering one-on-one assistance on a variety of topics, as well as group briefings — at no charge.
There are also trained, accredited personal financial counselors available for one-on-one assistance and advice at Military OneSource, as well as a wealth of information on a variety of topics.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.