Help for your PCS Finances!

PCS Post at MilAve_Col_K DrivewayIt is summer PCS season and one third of our military is relocating to a new fun spot in the sun! With a PCS many obligations and military requirements come at a new unit plus a completely new area for some to explore. But first, we have to get there … quite the challenge for many, routine for others, occasionally heart wrenching for military brats, saying good bye to friends, planning to travel, find a new home … screech on chalkboard for our budget sometimes.

Need help to work through the finances of a PCS?

During an interview with a well known and respected leader in the financial world, Ms. Gerri Walsh (President of the FINRA Education Foundation and an attorney) said in January that the military community’s biggest mistake was overspending and “an endless cycle of debt”. I spoke with Gerri again, earlier this week after the FINRA Foundation released their PCS Financial Tips for you!  I asked her if a PCS added a financial strain and while she had no specific data she did say that non-reimbursed costs will add to the financial burden of a military family unless they had a plan. Personal experience says, “expect them”!

The first financial tip from FINRA sounds like marriage counseling 101.  Talk to each other about your finances and have the “same expectations” according to Gerri. Avoid fighting about your finances when the bills arrive or when you need to make a decision on whether to live on base, rent or purchase a home. Do you have all the data you need? While researching for the interview I read the Money and Mobility for Military Personnel and Families and found some great information that I did not know. We moved 18 times in 30 years and if this had been available, a printed copy would have been laid out on our dining room table.

I did ask Gerri about the comment on page 7 of the Money and Mobility about ending a lease and the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Are you aware of the many protections of SCRA for the military community? Active duty, Guard and Reserve provisions make it a must read for all of us! But sometimes when it involves a legal issue like a lease for an apartment or auto you should consider asking an expert. Gerri deferred to the military lawyers (JAGs) on my specific question concerning breaking a lease but remember that you have free and multiple ways to get help. If it is a legal issue, your JAG, can be a great first stop. A lease agreement such as when living in an apartment may be a challenge when you get short notice or out of cycle orders (for example you have orders to move in July and your lease expires in October). You are protected in those circumstances and before experiencing extra costs be sure to ask for help! 

Gerri Walsh, President FINRA
Investor Education FoundationAnother resource that Gerri mentioned during the interview was the American Bar Association. Not near a military installation? Guard or Reserve and more comfortable talking to a civilian attorney in your community? The ABA has a military resource page at ABA Homefront (Legal Resources for Military Families) including pro bono (free) help.  Gerri and I diverted off the financial assistance discussion to legal issues because many times they can become intertwined.

We jumped back into finances with a discussion on banking.  Some of the Financial Tips address banking issues and in more detail the Save and Invest Org website’s Military Center has “a wealth of information” according to Gerri. She also said that members may prefer a local bank versus online banking but that is just a personal choice and how comfortable you are with using online services and mobile apps such as check deposits. Her one word of caution, make sure the bank or credit union is chartered. For example a bank in the Exchange must be chartered in order to be part of the exchange system. If you have investments, it is not necessary to change brokers but make sure they are registered in your new state. Change Change Change during a PCS is kind of like Location Location Location in the real estate world. They can be critical to your financial health!

Changing a job is easier for a military member but how about the spouse? Are you fortunate to have a portable job that you can relocate to your new location? There are many new spouse employment programs and some we have highlighted for you on the MilitaryAvenue Pinterest Board for Military Spouse Employment  but the key issue for your finances is whether the job is permanent (as best military spouse employment can be) or temporary. If the spouse employment is reliable, you should include the income in your budget planning. However, if the spouse employment is not a certainty do not include it in your monthly budget planning. One suggestion would be to build an emergency savings account with the spouse salary which Gerri said was critical for the military community due to many unplanned for events like a short notice PCS!

I closed the interview with a request for an update of the FINRA Education Foundation fellowships for military spouses. In the earlier interview Gerri had mentioned they were offering 50 military spouses scholarships to earn an Accredited Financial Counselor™ certificate.

“FINRA pays for the cost of training and military spouses then use an online program, webinars and two exams at the end of the program to earn this credential while supporting the military community with financial counseling. Great mixture of education, advancing your career and supporting the military at the same time!”
Gerri said to expect the announcement of 2012 winners shortly!  Exciting times and you can follow MilitaryAvenue Facebook to keep up.  Thank you Gerri for the great support from the FINRA Education Foundation and another information filled interview! 

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Photo Credit: MilitaryAvenue

Photo Credit: FINRAbyColonel KonThursday, May 31, 2012Military Life:,,,,

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