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Money Management/Financial Literacy

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6 Financial Tips for Military Transition

This USAA-sponsored article explores the life event of "swapping military boots for civilian shoes."   It's a big change no matter when it happens but one that's manageable and full of exciting prospects.  Both the general tips and the "Military Transition Financial Checklist" offer next steps to helping you maintain or achieve better financial stability.

External Website: Military.com

Budgeting and Basic Money Management

This comprehensive site is applicable to all military servicemembers, veterans and their families.  Toolkits, references and articles cover the spectrum of money management topics:  earning, saving, spending, managing debt and preparing to leave the military.

External Website: Military One Source

Credit Report: One Free Annually/"Active Duty Alert"

Once every 12 months, each of the nationwide credit reporting companies--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion-- must provide you with a free copy of your credit report at your request and in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Credit reports include information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. The nationwide credit reporting companies can sell your credit report information to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

"Active Duty Alert":  Did you know you can place an "Active Duty Alert" on your credit report?  Businesses must take extra steps before granting credit in your name when you place this alert in your file.  And active duty alert lasts one (1) year, and can be renewed to match period(s) of deployment.  Guidelines on who to contact and what information is needed is available on this site.

External Website: Federal Trade Commission

Economic Survival Guide for Servicemembers and Veterans (2014)

This Consumer Action publication created for the Veterans Financial Coalition offers guidance on how military servicemembers, veterans and their families can make financial goals and meet their responsibilities even while frequently moving or deploying.  It will help you recognize scams and abusive credit terms, identify better borrowing and banking options, understand any special protections you have under the law, and find help or file a complaint, if necessary.

The companion "Questions and Answers About Protecting Your Finances" guide reinforces the information shared in the 2014 "Economic Survival Guide for Servicemembers and Veterans."

External Website: Veterans Financial Coalition

Guides: Learning How to Manage Your Money & Finances

The Veterans Financial Coalition offers a comprehensive library on practical budgeting and saving tips--save money, reduce debt and build wealth--tax break information, credit score improvement, avoiding fraud and scams including identity theft, military spouse scholarships, childcare resources, military benefits.  The National Military Association also posted the MyMilitaryLife smartphone app, a trusted one-stop-shop providing families with credible information tailored to the different phases of military life.

External Website: Veterans Financial Coalition


InCharge's MilitaryMoney.com initiative helps servicemembers and their families achieve and maintain a better financial future through high quality, responsive counseling and personalized education.  It is a "soup-to-nuts" site, covering financial topics like credit and debt management, bankruptcy and housing.  There are links to other resources including 1-minute audio podcasts addressing a wide range of topics and articles.

External Website: In Charge

Money & Credit: Tips for Military Families

As a member of the Armed Forces or part of a military family, you might face unique challenges managing your finances and personal information.  You also have special rights.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers information about credit and loans, buying a car, dealing with debt, shopping and saving, charitable donations and resolving consumer disputes.  The FTC notes:  'Money matters. And using tried and true strategies for dealing with money--or the lack of it--can make a big difference to your present and your future. Whether you are saving, spending, or borrowing money, this is information you can't afford to overlook.'

External Website: Federal Trade Commission

My Money Five: Managing and Growing Your Money

To make the most of your money, start by understanding five (5) basic building block principles:  Earn, Save & Invest, Protect, Spend and Borrow.  Each principle is reviewed to include action steps, hints and tips, spotlight resources and links to other related articles.

External Website: MyMoney.gov

Personal Finance for Military Families Guide (2009)

This guide, a collaboration between the Better Business Bureau and Kiplinger's Personal Finance, provides practical, easy-to-understand information about being financially prepared for deployment, buying a home, minimizing taxes, holding down insurance costs and avoiding financial schemes that too often target military families.

This guide includes tips and tools about:

  • Saving Strategies
  • Investing for Yourself and Your Future
  • Financial Fraud
  • Avoiding Scams That Target the Military
  • Be Prepared Strategies Before and After Deployment
  • Smart Home Buying Tactics
  • Time to Become a Civilian Again
  • Financial Resources for Military Families
  • Personal Finance Worksheet

External Website: Better Business Bureau

Personal Financial Workbook

American Consumer Credit Counseling offers the Personal Financial Workbook so that you can  organize your finances and better understand how you spend your money. Completed worksheets can paint a clear picture of your current financial situation and guide you to make better decisions in the future. You can photocopy worksheets.

ACCC Personal Financial Workbook--Feb 2013

External Website: American Consumer Credit Counseling

PowerPay: Helping Debtors Become Savers

PowerPay is a free debt management tool designed by the utah State University Extension to help others personalize a self-directed debt elimination plan.   Some of its features include:

PowerPay: How soon can I be out of debt?
Eliminate debt faster by making power payments.

Spending Plan: How much am I spending?
Compare what you spend to that recommended by financial experts.

PowerSave: How much am I saving?
Project savings using the different PowerSave options.

Calculators: How can I look at my finances quickly?
Calculate house and transportation costs, emergency savings and more.

Education Center: How can I learn more?
View PowerPoint presentations, articles and fact sheets about various financial topics.

External Website: PowerPay

Property Tax 101

"Property Tax 101" may help you better understand state median, county, and national comparison property taxes. Some tax map, records, and assessor information is also posted. It's important to factor in all your tax liabilities when considering property purchases and working within a household budget. When considering property purchases, it's always best to contact the city/town, county, and or state tax assessor offices to secure the most current information to make sound financial decisions.

This site is a free public service not affiliated with any governmental organization. According to their site their information is derived from the U.S. Census Bureau, The Tax Foundation, and Maine Revenue Services. Be sure to note the dates of their information.

External Website: Property Tax 101

Social Security Benefits and Military Earnings

Servicemembers, including Reserves and National Guard, on active duty including active duty for training, paid social security taxes on their military service earnings, some as early as 1957.  Armed Forces Reservists also paid social security taxes since 1988 to include for weekend drills. 

Beneficiaries must check with Social Security for details as each beneficiary's circumstances vary and public law changes social security benefits.

Special Extra Earnings Credits Earned 1957-2001

Between 1957 and 2001, public law allowed special extra earnings credits for active military service (not inactive duty training) under certain circumstances.  These credits can help someone qualify for or increase their Social Security benefits.

From 1957 to 1967:  The Social Security Administration (SSA) add the extra earnings credits to the beneficiary's record when they apply for Social Security benefits.

From 1968 through 2001:  The SSA automatically added the extra earnings credits to the beneficiary's record over time.   While the SSA site clearly states it is the beneficiary's responsibility to ensure their record is accurate, should you request printed records (which you may be charged for), the SSA's records do not necessarily explicitly reflect the addition of these credits.  The SSA may likely respond that the extra earnings credits were automatically included and "are already on your record."

After 2001:  There are no special extra earnings credits for military service.  In January 2002, Public Law 107-117, the Defense Appropriations Act, stopped the special extra earnings that have been credited to military service personnel.

Value of Active Duty Special Extra Earnings Credits

From 1957 Through 1977:  Beneficiaries are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter they received active duty basic pay.

From 1978 through 2001:  For every $300 in active duty basic pay, beneficiaries are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. If enlistment was after September 7, 1980, and at least 24 months of active duty was not completed or a full tour, the beneficiary may not receive the additional earnings.

When to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits

It depends.  There's no one "best age," but beneficiary's should make an informed decision about when to apply for benefits based on individual and family circumstances.  Reference the SSA flyer "When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits" linked under "Other Resources" in this section.

How to Set Up an Online "MySocialSecurity" Account

If a beneficiary sets up an online account, all information will be forwarded online.  No hard copy information will be sent by mail.

With an online account, beneficiaries can:

  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
  • Manage your benefits: Change your address; start or change your direct deposit; get a replacement Medicare card; and get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

How to Receive Social Security Information by Mail

Beneficiaries need to complete a "Request For Social Security Statement," using Form SSA-7004 and mail it to the address provided on the form.

Other Resources

Military Service and Social Security, Social Security Administration
SSA Publication No. 05-10017, January 2015

How Do Military Special Credits Work?, Stan Hinden, AARP Work & Jobs, accessed November 25, 2015

When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, Social Security Administration, SSA Publication No. 05-10147, August 2015

External Website: Social Security Administration

Student Loan Debt Repayment

Optimizing Student Loan Pay Off

The Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) provides an informational tool and advice for student loan pay off optimization based on some basic information about your particular situation. While the CFPB may not be able to provide advice for you exact situation, the CFPB can point you in the right direction and help you learn about some of your options.  

Need a list of all of your federal loans?

You can also get a list of all federal loans made to you by visiting the National Student Loan Data System.

Social Security Retirement & Disability: Garnishment for Federal Government Agency Debt Collection

The Department of Education may be able garnish a part of social security retirement or disability to pay on these old loans.  Income-based repayment programs or disability waivers are available to consumers.  Visit this site for more information:

National Consumer Law Center

External Website: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Repayment of Student Debt

VeteransPlus: Helping Heroes Afford Life

VeteransPlus aims to provide financial literacy training to those who are serving or served in military understanding many have experienced multiple combat tours and suffer from a variety of medical problems including: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).  They believe that: 'These injuries, combined with a weak economy and record unemployment can make a secure adjustment to civilian life unattainable without assistance.'

VeteransPlus offers education, coaching and financial literacy programs--presentations at outreach events and in-depth personalized financial coaching by phone.  They partner with many other veteran-focused organizations to offer a wide variety of "get-back-on-your-feet" supportive services.

External Website: VeteransPlus