Part of military preparation is financial preparationBy STEVE ROSEN
The Kansas City Star
For military families, it’s a way of life: constant moves, deployment and dealing with the stress and uncertainty of being in harm’s way thousands of miles from home.
Money matters are the last thing anyone in a combat zone needs to worry about.
Yet financial missteps occur, and especially prone are the younger ranks who not all that long ago were walking the halls of high school.
Think about it for a second. What if your 18-year-old in college or starting a full-time job was suddenly responsible for making car payments, cracking complicated savings plan options and budgeting to make ends meet? Would he or she be savvy enough to handle these matters of money?
That’s one reason why the “Financial Field Manual” was created for military personnel and their families. It’s a valuable tool that addresses financial readiness — special mortgage programs, tax breaks, GI Bill benefits, savings programs and more.
As part of Military Saves Week, which runs from Sunday through Feb. 26, more than 800,000 copies of the guide have been distributed on military bases around the world.
The publication, now in its second edition, packs an incredible amount of information and other helpful resources into 20 pages. It was produced by a partnership that includes the Investor Protection Trust, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. The material is also at www.investorprotection.org.
Some strategies that make sense for younger servicemen and servicewomen:
• Make paying bills easy by using online banking or by signing up to have them paid automatically from your checking account.
• Fill out the financial worksheet provided in the field manual so bank accounts, credit cards, insurance and other key information are recorded in one place.
• Evaluate the low-cost life insurance options tailored to the military.
Not only is the content geared to all levels of the armed forces — from active duty to the reserves — the information speaks to military spouses who often assume the role of making sure the bills get paid.
Financial preparedness also extends to high school Junior ROTC programs around the country. Along with standard military curriculum, many students enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps receive personal finance training to learn how to calculate interest rates, develop a household budget and manage savings plans. Heavily stressed is the notion of discipline — in military and money matters.
“Preparation is so important” in all aspects of military life, said Mike English, president and chief executive of the Missouri Council on Economic Education.
So if you’re worried whether your son or daughter will be ready for the financial challenges of the military, take heed. Plenty of experienced hands are ready to help lift them up by the bootstraps.