Anyone who knows our family can vouch that my wife is in charge -- both for the planning and execution -- of all our home's mechanical issues. Whether it's putting together toys for the grandkids or replacing the bathroom faucets, I know my role: cheerleader. There was a plumbing incident early on in our marriage that helped cement our roles. I won't get into the details, but professional intervention was required.
Now that we're comfortable in our areas of expertise (or lack thereof), I find it difficult to step outside my comfort zone when mechanical issues arise. I don't think I'm alone in my hesitation to tackle tasks that are "not my thing." Specifically, when one's spouse is thousands of miles away, the thought of broaching areas beyond their expertise feels daunting.
If a deployment forces you into the uncomfortable role of your family's Chief Financial Officer, here are some scary -- it's October, right? -- situations you might encounter, as well as some potential fixes ... Halloween style. Full disclosure: I spoke with a few of the military spouses here at USAA to get their ideas in compiling this list.
1. You need a hand to hold. There was a time for all of us when trick-or-treating was scary and we welcomed a confident hand. These days it can be harder to ask for help, but whether you call on your friends, neighbors or family, don't hesitate to ask for support. And don't overlook more formal resources, like those at the Military & Family Readiness Centers or Legal Assistance. For example, let's say you need help understanding Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections.
2. You forgot your rain gear. No matter where I lived, it always seemed to rain on Halloween. The key: Drag along some rain gear, just in case. During a deployment, protection comes in the form of legal documents and insurance coverage. As part of your pre-deployment checklist, double-check everything from life to property coverage to confirm your plans remain suited to your situation. Don't wait until it rains to remember your gear.
3. You're wandering aimlessly. It may explain why I do what I do, but when I was a bit older and still in the trick-or-treating game, I would map out our exact route to maximize the candy haul and still meet higher headquarters deadlines. Extending that analogy to deployments, increased income and decreased expenses provide an opportunity to pay down debt, save and invest. The clearest path to making that a reality? Map out a plan. Going into a deployment, work together to outline your financial goals.
4. You experience costume failure. Something breaks. It always happens. However, a broken AC in the middle of summer can be a lot more trouble than a popped rubber band on your Batman mask. Take time now to beef up your emergency fund, and if the AC goes out, you'll keep your cool.
4. Your mask is an impediment to communication. Speaking of masks, one challenge they present is that they can make it tough to communicate. Same goes for deployments. Walk through the "what-ifs" and "who musts (be contacted)" prior to the deployment. Put it all in writing to make it easy and stress-proof. Where possible, automate your bill paying and savings. And remember, what-ifs should include a plan for big purchases.
5. A scary version of Uncle Sam is stalking you. Have to admit, I don't remember this from my childhood, but I do want to point out a few important tax ramifications of a deployment: tax-free combat zone pay and allowances, tax-filing deadline breaks, and potential opportunities to convert from traditional to Roth IRAs. Check out all the information at IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide.
Being thrust into a new and/or uncomfortable role is yet another opportunity for military spouses to do what they do -- kick it in the tail! Happy Halloween.