Active duty military personnel make permanent change of station (PCS) moves about every two to four years. To prepare for a life of moves, you need to know what to expect both before and after a move. That means asking a lot of questions, doing some research and planning, and setting aside funds for making a move.
First, decide if you are going to live in on-base housing, rent or buy a home. Before buying, ask yourself:
- Can I afford to buy a home?
- How easily could I sell a house in this area?
- What tax issues would I face if I sold my home?
- How easily could I rent my home?
Make sure you review what items the military will move, school transfers, car insurance, and the implications of moving with pets.
When your move is imminent, gather the paperwork and records you will need to take with you.
After you settle in, organize your receipts and submit all qualified expenses for reimbursement. Make copies of receipts, and note which moving expenses do not qualify for reimbursement but may qualify as deductions on your income taxes. When the reimbursement checks arrive, pay off any debts incurred in the course of your move and put any extra money away for your next move.
Determine how much the move cost you. Did you have enough in savings to cover expenses that were not reimbursed—or did you have to rely on credit cards or other loans? Establish a "Moving" file and include dated notes about what worked for you and what did not work for you during the latest move. As you come up with ideas about how to make future moves easier, file them as well.
If your spouse is not in the military and wants to work, find out what employment assistance programs the new base or post offers. Many installations have partnerships with employers in the local community and try to help place spouses. Some organizations even offer training programs, such as the FINRA Investor Education Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program, to help spouses update their work skills.
The last step is to create a moving fund and a long-term plan for your family's financial future.
More information about financially preparing for PCS moves is available at www.SaveAndInvest.org.