If you’ve been in the military for a few years, chances are good you’ve gone through a deployment checklist numerous times. You start at the top and work your way down the list one by one… Uniforms – check. Bug out bag – check. Standard safety gear – check. Power of attorney? Will? Financial checklist? Ummm?
Your unit probably gave you a detailed deployment checklist for required gear, but they may not have stressed the importance of having a financial checklist for your upcoming deployment. As someone who deployed 5 times can attest, your finances are probably not near the top of your list when you are packing for an extended stay in a hot zone. But you need to pay attention to your finances while deployed, even if you are single!
Military Deployment Financial Checklist
The first thing you need to do is sit down with your loved one if you manage your finances with someone else and have a long talk about expectations, how your finances will be managed while you are deployed, and other important financial topics. If you are single, you may wish to have this conversation with a trusted family member or friend, or if your finances are simple enough, just set everything up for automated payments and transfers.
Once you have a clear understanding of how your money management works on a daily basis and who will be responsible for which parts of your daily personal finances, you might want to take a hard look at these items before you ship out.
Money management checklist:
- Power of attorney. A power of attorney gives legal rights for someone else to act in your stead. Be careful though because a power of attorney gives someone the same legal rights as you, so you want to be careful who you give this to, and the type of power of attorney you give them. Stop by your JAG office – they can help you prepare a power of attorney free of charge.
- Set up joint accounts. This only works if you are married, but it makes money management easier and allows your spouse to pay bills, cash checks and otherwise manage many of your financial affairs.
- Automatic bill pay. Use auto bill pay for items like homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, and any other bills that are the same amount each month. This is particularly important if you will not have access to the internet.
- Familiarize yourself with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. You may be able to save money on interest rates on loans, break a lease or rental agreement, or delay civil proceedings while you are deployed.
Life insurance, estate plans, and health care:
- Life insurance is essential. Go for the max through the SGLI, but also consider getting more life insurance through a 3rd party. Be sure the life insurance policy does not include a clause that will not pay out if you are killed during an act of war (this is fairly common in many life insurance plans). Additional resources: How Much Life Insurance Should Military Members Buy?, Life Insurance Quotes.
- You need a will and an estate plan. Even if you elect to have your estate settled by law, a will can make the process smoother and help your survivors avoid probate, which can be a lengthy and expensive process! Stop by your JAG office – they can help you prepare a will free of charge.
- Healthcare power of attorney. You may wish to have a living will or a durable health care power of attorney. These legal documents can give your loved ones the ability to make healthcare decisions if you are unable to do so. Be sure to effectively communicate your wishes to your loved ones.
Deploying is stressful – your finances don’t need to be
Deployments are stressful enough without worrying about your finances. Whether you are married or single, it is a good idea to get a trusted friend or family member to help you manage your finances while you are deployed.
For a more in depth financial checklist for deployments, check out this printable deployment checklist from USAA. You can print a copy and go over each line item with your spouse, friend, or anyone else who ill help you manage your affairs while you are deployed.