Spouses are often called the backbone of the military family, and while our specific job descriptions may vary, we are always busy. We painstakingly handle the details of Permanent Change of Station moves, balance caring for our kids and spouses with trying to have a career, volunteer at our children’s schools and bake cookies for the Family Readiness Group’s fundraiser. But we don’t always pay attention to our family’s finances.
Here are four financial tips every military spouse should know:
1. Be familiar with your family’s finances
No one person should oversee every aspect of the family’s finances. It should be a joint effort, and at the very least, if one spouse is dealing with the day to day bill paying and budgeting, the other spouse should be kept in the loop. There’s nothing worse than having the service member deploy, or the spouse go on a business trip, and have a payment fall through the cracks. Not only is it no fun to come home to a house without power because the electricity bill didn’t get paid, but your credit score could also take a major hit.
2. Talk to your spouse about money
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. While you and your spouse don’t have to agree on every little detail, you at least ought to talk to one another frankly and have some short- and long-term goals that you are trying to achieve together. Not only is this type of conversation good for your finances, it’s good for your relationship, too, since disagreement over money is one of the main sources of tension for couples.
3. You can have retirement savings, too
While it’s awesome that the active duty military member may be working toward a pension or socking away money in the Thrift Savings Plan, spouses can, and should have, their own retirement funds. Even non-working spouses can have a Spousal IRA. If you can’t afford to fund it fully each year, you can still set aside a small amount each month and watch it grow over time.
4. Take advantage of the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act
The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act along with the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 allow spouses to choose the same state of residence as their service member even when they have never lived in the state. Why should you care? If your spouse is a resident of a state with no income tax, such as Texas or Florida, and you are stationed in a state that does have income tax, such as Virginia, you will not have to pay state taxes on any earnings. Since this is a fairly new law, and individual states have not worked out all the kinks, you may want to consult with your installation’s tax center or a tax professional.