You’ve received your deployment orders, you’re getting your uniforms and gear organized, and then your unit hands you a small forest of paperwork about preparing for deployment, and you’re confused. Don’t worry; you’re not an idiot, military paperwork was never designed to be user-friendly, and with just a little bit of organization you can get through this.
The first and most important thing is to set up your power of attorney. If you are married this will often be your spouse, but it can also be a trusted family member or friend, but remember, whoever you choose, you will be putting your entire financial well-being into this person’s hands, so choose wisely. With the power of attorney, this person will be able to access your banking accounts, loans, credit cards and even file and sign your taxes at the end of the year, take out loans and start new credit cards in your name; they will be signing and acting as if they were you.
Secondly, now that you have your deployment papers you can go to each of your lending institutes and credit card companies, and take advantage of programs that will lower your interest rates while you are deployed. There will more paperwork to fill out for each place, but in the long run well worth your time and effort. If there is not enough time to do this before you are deployed, your POA (power of attorney) will have the ability to do this for you. This will apply only to loans and credit cards you had prior to deployment, they must be bills with your name on them, and it will not apply to bills solely in a spouse’s name. You can also use your deployment papers to either cancel or suspend cell phone contracts without penalties, as well as other contracted monthly use services. You should contact each of these places, explain the situation and they will be able to walk you through the process without much difficulty. Again, there will be more paperwork to fill out, but much better than paying for services you cannot access or use.
Third, gather all your bills, accounts and banking information. With your chosen POA you will need to go over everything you have, what you will be paying out and money being brought in. Setting up a budget covering the entire length of your deployment can be helpful for both of you, I realize that this can sound intimidating but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. If you have Excel or another similar accounting program your budget can be easily set up, and by using the cut & paste feature quickly done as well. Begin with making a list of everything you have to pay out each month, and then divide them into those bills that must be paid by the first of the month and those that must be paid by the 15th of the month, if you are paid bi-monthly. If you are paid monthly, then set up your bills to all be paid on your chosen pay date.
Once you have set up your pay dates and divided your bills, then go to your accounting program and input all your bills, dividing those to be paid on the first and those to be paid by the 15th, once this is done, tally up each of the sections, and you will now know what you must pay out each payday. You can also set up on the side of this how much you are bringing in each pay date, and then format the cells to subtract the amount outgoing from the amount incoming to see how much you will have left at the end of each pay period, this can help you keep track of your total income. With this setup you will also be able to oversee your accounts from wherever you are stationed through email with your POA and on-line banking if it is an available service of your bank or credit union. If on-line banking is not available, you can either have your POA email you a copy of your monthly bank statements or have your bank mail you a duplicate copy each month.
I would like to strongly recommend at this point, any money left over after the bills are paid each month be put into your savings account. The easiest way I have found to do this is by not banking out of your checking, but out of your savings account. Have your total paycheck deposited into your savings account, and then only take out what you need to pay each pay periods bills. By the end of your deployment, it is possible you could come home to a tidy amount in your savings which you could use to extend your leave time. Remember each soldier returning from duty is allotted 90 days before they are required to return to work, and any money saved could be then used to live off of until you wish to return to work. Also, many employers will continue to accrue your vacation, sick, holiday and personal time while you are gone, check with your employer before you leave and find out what the company policies are. This time, combined with your savings could give you a comfortable leave when you return to civilian life.
This last section is for those who have family obligations. If your current employer has been your primary insurance carrier you are entitled to keep that insurance, but you may have to pay out of pocket instead of it coming directly from your employer. Again, contact your employer and find out what the company policy on this is, but I would strongly recommend you keeping your insurance, but switch it to your secondary, and have Tri-Care (or DEERS) as your primary. By doing this you this will also save yourself from any problems you may have when you return to set up your insurance coverage with your company again and if there are any medical bills while you are away they can be covered 100%. When you have a family, a lapse in coverage should be avoided if at all possible, by maintaining your company insurance you can be assured of continuous and unbroken coverage throughout this entire deployment and upon your return to work. If you are paying child support, be sure to contact your local child support agency and let them know of the change of employer, and fill out any paperwork needed to switch it over from civilian to DFAS. DFAS will also need copies of the support order and they will probably have paperwork for you as well. Please be aware, if you have been paying bi-monthly or weekly, DFAS will pay this once a month, not per pay period. Also, take advantage of any life insurance offered by the military, if something were to happen to you, you can be assured of your family’s wellbeing. Talk to your POA and write out what to do in the event something happens to you, how to distribute the money and the way best to take care of your family’s financial needs. I realize this can be a difficult topic to discuss with your family, but it is probably the most important thing you can do for your family before you deploy.
We have now covered all of the basics to setting up your finical well-being before you deploy. There is always the possibility of other things coming up not covered in this article, but with good solid groundwork in place most situations can be easily handed by your POA and your family. Your unit should also have personnel in place to help you handle any difficult situation, so don’t be shy about utilizing any services available to you, that’s what they are there for, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or request more information if something isn’t clear to you, this is your money, your credit score and your family you are trying to protect.