Think of Your PCS in a New Way

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Each branch of service has unique acronyms. Before I got to USAA and started working with folks who had served on the Navy-Marine Corps team, when I heard "LSD," my first thought was a far cry from Dock Landing Ship. Who would have guessed?

PCS, or permanent change of station, is an acronym that resonates across all services. Whether you've made one move or many, you can attest that it's also a term that connotes headaches and a whole lot of pain in the backside. But if you're willing to take a glass-half-full perspective, your next PCS could also be an opportunity.

I propose we revise how we look at those three letters, doing so through a hopeful and aspirational lens. It would look like this:

From Permanent to Planning

I always found this one a bit curious. There's likely nothing permanent about your next move in the military -- unless you consider a few years permanent. That makes it easy to rebrand the P to "planning." I understand no move goes off without a hitch, but a little preparation can go a long way. Before you get immersed in the move, create a checklist, which can provide an anchor during this turbulent time.

Consider adding tasks such as:

  • Create a property inventory.
  • Secure paperwork that needs to be hand-carried.
  • Update the U.S. Postal Service.

And since you'll probably make another move, your checklist can be a living document. If you miss something this time, add it for the next move. And remember to share the list with your neighbors. After all, sharing is caring.

From Change to Cash

Moving does come with a lot of change; however, that change can be an agent for good or bad.

Cash, on the other hand, is good nearly all the time. Whether you face unexpected or unreimbursed expenses, having cash on hand can make your next PCS a lot more enjoyable. If I'm wrong and you have too much cash for that next PCS, I'm sure you can figure out how to make it work for you.

From Station to Start Over

A PCS can be an exclusive military-only version of the New Year. A new location, a new you. You get a new set of budget decisions to get right. A fresh start with new friends, new activities for the kids, new schools, perhaps even a new job market. A whole lot of new and, ultimately, a chance to reinvent yourself.

From a financial perspective, my hope is that you will spend prudently and save aggressively. A commitment to new savings habits and a determination to make sound decisions on big-ticket items point to a hopeful new beginning.

I understand that "planning," "cash," and "start over" don't roll off the tongue, but keep them all top of mind to elevate your next PCS to a Perfect Chance to Succeed (the title of my next article on the topic!).

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