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Deployment can be a great opportunity to invest in your future, or your family’s. You may be getting some extra income from special incentive pays, so this can be a great time to pay off debt or put away some extra money for retirement or other savings goals. But you also want to make sure your spending plan can cover any deployment outlays such as gear and electronics, as well as any unexpected expenses at home while you’re gone, like child care, or emergency repairs.
With the right information and a little extra effort, you can stay financially fit and in command of your household spending during deployment. Use the following tips to help you maintain financial stability while you’re away.
Understand your pay and entitlements
Before you deploy, it’s important to understand your deployment pay and entitlements so you can prepare a realistic deployment spending and saving plan. Check with your unit’s administrative section to confirm what entitlements and compensation you’ll be receiving, such as:
- Family Separation Allowance – A service member with dependents who serves an unaccompanied tour of duty may be entitled to a family separation allowance, or FSA, of $250 per month. FSA accrues from the day of departure from the home station and ends the day prior to arrival at the home station.
- Combat zone tax exclusions — Earnings received while in the combat zone are tax exempt.
- Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay — HFP/IDP is payable at the monthly rate of $225.00. Members cannot receive both IDP and HFP in the same month. The commander determines whether a service member is eligible for HFP.
- Hardship Duty Pay – Hardship Duty Pay, or HDP, is additional compensation paid to service members assigned to locations where living conditions are substantially below those conditions in the continental U.S. Learn more about Hardship Duty Pays Location, Mission and Tempo.
Remember that many of these entitlements are only paid after they have occurred. So be careful not to create a spending plan based on money you haven’t yet received.
In addition to the pay and entitlements listed above, make sure to take advantage of financial and legal protections provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, such as reduced interest rates for credit cards and loans, deferred income tax payments and more.
Monitor your Leave and Earnings Statement
In some units, deployments happen very quickly, which may cause your entitlements to fluctuate. Use these tips to stay on top of your pay.
- Check your Leave and Earnings Statement regularly. Go to the MyPay website to make sure you’re receiving what you should.
- You may be entitled to other special duty pay. Make sure you understand what pay you should be receiving and be sure to check on this each month.
- Be careful if you’re overpaid. Because pay can change quickly, it’s possible to get overpaid. If this happens, be swift in reporting it to your administrative section and don’t spend the extra money until you have confirmed that you are entitled to it.
Take advantage of extra savings and investment opportunities
The Department of Defense offers unique savings plans during deployment. Take advantage of these higher-rate savings to start or add to your retirement nest egg. Here are a few options:
- Savings Deposit Program: This program offers service members serving in designated combat zones the opportunity to build their financial savings. Amounts up to $10,000.00 may be deposited, earning 10% interest annually. Members must be receiving Hostile Fire Pay and be deployed for at least 30 consecutive days, or one day in each of three consecutive months in order to participate in the program.
- Thrift Savings Plan: As part of the military’s new Blended Retirement System, all service members contribute 3% of their basic pay to the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, each pay period. The government also automatically contributes 1% of your base pay to the TSP, and will match your own contribution up to 5%. This makes deployment a great time to increase your contribution to the TSP. Learn more about Thrift Savings Plan Options: Making Retirement Dollars Work for You.While all service members now enjoy access to the Thrift Savings Plan, those who stay with the legacy retirement system do not receive automatic or matching contributions by the Department of Defense.
Learn more about the military’s new blended retirement system, and preparing for deployment by setting savings and investing goals.
Practice financial fitness
The Department of Defense provides a number of options to help you and your family plan for your financial future. Learn more about personal financial management counseling options available from your installation personal financial management services office, Military and Family Support Center, and Military OneSource.
You can also get predeployment financial planning tips from the Office of Financial Readiness PreDeployment Video Discussion Guide and the MilSpouse Money Mission.
These general tips can also help you stay financially fit during deployment:
- Stick to your budget. Deployment can mean extra income, but be smart. Try to live off your predeployment income and use any extra income to pay down debt, save for a goal, or invest for retirement. Avoid purchasing electronics, equipment and other things that you don’t really need. You might want to set up a separate account for deployment spending.
- Set up an automatic payment to your savings. Whether you increase your contribution to your retirement savings, pay off some debt, or set other savings goals, setting up automatic payments is a great way to tuck some money away. Money you don’t see is money you won’t spend.
- Manage bills and payments online. For married service members, if your spouse is going to manage your finances while you are away, make sure they have a list of bills and accounts – complete with account numbers, online login details and due dates. Learn more about how to control your budget when your spouse is deployed.For single service members, if a trusted family member or friend will be managing any of your bills, make sure they understand your spending plan, and give them a checklist of your household bills and accounts – complete with account numbers, online login details and due dates.Contact your financial institutions directly to find out what legal authorization your spouse, friend or family member needs to manage your accounts. Your local legal assistance office or installation legal services/JAG office can help make sure you have the necessary powers of attorney in place should your designated representative need to make financial decisions on your behalf. Learn more about how powers of attorney serve the military.
- Protect yourself from identity theft. Call one of the three national consumer credit reporting agencies to put an Active-Duty Alert in place. This will require additional steps to verify identity if credit is applied for in your name. The alert is only good for one year. You may need to call again depending on the length of the deployment. You can also contact all three consumer credit reporting agencies to request a Security/Credit Freeze. This step will restrict access to your credit report, which will prevent creditors from approving a new account.
Still have questions or need more information about deployment finances? Military OneSource consultants are available 24/7 to connect you with the resources you need to thrive. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options, or start a live chat.