Money may still be one of the topics avoided in polite conversation, but that needs to change. It’s time for healthy discussions about saving, investing and financial goals. Particularly in the military community, it is helpful to talk about lessons learned so that others can skip some of those mistakes. Saving for the future is important, and it’s not too late to start.
Things to Save and Plan For
The same Murphy’s Law that makes your dishwasher break the second your spouse leaves for a deployment is in play with finances. If you have a savings plan, you may not need it. But if you don’t, you’ll wish you had. Saving for expected -- and unexpected -- future expenses is worth the time and effort now.
While you can’t plan for emergencies, you can save for them. When your car needs new tires suddenly or you need to purchase a last-minute plane ticket, the last thing you want to be thinking about is, how am I going to pay for this?
Building an emergency fund means you might need to trim spending elsewhere, such as cutting the cord on cable, or thinking bigger -- refinancing your car or mortgage loan.
You’ll want to choose an account that’s easily accessible, so you can transfer money within a day if necessary, like a savings or money market savings account. Unexpected expenses don’t have to become emergencies if you can use some of your savings to pay for them.
Eventually, you’ll leave the military and need to cover your own housing expenses. Some service members are doing that now, by paying a mortgage in one state and rent in another, or because their basic allowance for housing (BAH) doesn’t cover the cost of housing in their area. If you’re lucky enough to pocket some of your BAH, consider designating that for future housing costs.
Another cost that frequently takes service members and their families by surprise is life insurance. Costs are low for this when in the military, but that inexpensive coverage ends 120 after leaving the military. Saving for some of those costs or even starting a new policy before you leave the military may be a good financial move.
Saving for college is an investment in the future. Whether you or your spouse pursue a degree or save it for your children’s educational plans, it is money well-saved. Even if you aren’t sure they will attend college or need the money after they use your GI Bill, it’s worth having money set aside. There are many options for saving for college, such as an education savings account or an education standard certificate.
How to Create or Maintain Strong Savings Habits
If saving is something you’d like to start doing, you’ll want to create a habit. First start by setting some goals. Do you have an amount you’d like to save by the end of the year? Would you like to put money aside weekly or monthly? When you’ve decided, put some things in place to make it easier for you.
Here are some ways to create or maintain those savings habits.
Save Multiple Ways.
You will want immediate access to some money you save, such as your emergency fund. Others can be for the long term, like an IRA or 401(k). By diversifying where you are putting money, you’ll get the benefits of long-term savings while keeping some of your money easily available.
For example, consider opening a certificate to save for a new car or to help fund a dream vacation. Certificates generally earn higher dividends than regular savings accounts, so you may reach your goal sooner than you expect. Certificates also offer a fixed term in which funds must remain in the account for the full earning potential and are accessible, but subject to early withdrawal penalties. Regular savings accounts have no fixed term and no early withdrawal penalties.
Contribute Regularly to Emergency Savings.
If you have a set amount you can budget for savings each month, make the transaction automatic.
If you have direct deposit set up with your primary financial institution, consider allocating a certain amount to go directly into your savings account each pay cycle. However you contribute to savings, make it as easy as possible so it gets done.
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