How to Overcome Military Family Financial Challenges

By Leslie Tayne, Attorney

With unexpected moves and the possibility of overseas deployment, military families are faced with some interesting obstacles when trying to save money and plan for future expenses. Thankfully, there are some simple strategies both service members and their families can employ to help overcome their financial challenges.

Below I’ve provided some simple tips to help military families boost their cash flow, improve their financial well-being, and keep their financial future looking bright!

For Families

  1. Minimize Your Debt

A Marine may be able to keep his or her calm in a combat zone but on the home front there are still many looming threats, including financial security that can bring even the most iron willed warriors into a stressed environment. Photo by Cpl. Thomas Bricker. CC BY 2.0
Photo by Cpl. Thomas Bricker. CC BY 2.0

Making a strong effort to get out of debt can really help your family. Start out by tracking your spending (for some tips to help you track your spending, visit here). Once you know your spending habits, use that information to create a budget that fits your needs. Once you have a working budget you should be able to free up cash flow and start paying down debt. If you have multiple debts and aren’t quite sure where to start, a good rule of thumb is to focus on the debt with the highest interest rate first; this will save you the most in the long run!

  1. Utilize Discounts and Hunt Down Freebies

Companies offer deals for military families in a variety of categories, such as school supplies, clothing, cars, electronics, and professional services. There are also programs that offer free services to military families. For example, the annual America is Beautiful national parks pass gives military members free access to 2,000 different federal recreation sites. Here are some more freebies and discounts for military families. Don’t forget to also call your utility companies and insurance companies to see if they have any military discounts they can apply to your bill.

  1. Look for Everyday Savings

We’ve all seen those crazy couponers and, while it might be unrealistic for most people to reach that level of dedication, it is very easy to save with coupons and everyday savings. Social media and email are both great ways to find deals on the things you want from the shops you most frequently visit. Subscribe to email newsletters from your favorite stores , so you can be notified of sales and receive exclusive coupons and discounts.

Newspapers and magazines also offer great coupons, as well as sites like coupons.com and afullcup.com. You can also look into Commissionaryshopper.com, which is a coupon site designed specifically for military families!

  1. Consider a Side Hustle

Side hustles are great for spouses of those who serve because they’re fun, can easily be done from home or close to home, and can really help boost your cash flow. From selling photos to tutoring to blogging, there’s bound to be an side hustle out there that’s perfect for you. If you’re not sure where to start though, check out my blog entry on finding the perfect side hustle!

For Veterans

  1. Find A Job That’s Right for You

One of the biggest challenges for veterans is the transition from military service to a civilian job. The lapse of employment that may follow military service can put an additional burden on the families finances, so it’s important to know what options are available to you upon leaving the military. There are numerous organizations and programs, like Hire Heroes USA and the VA’s Make the Connection, that can help vets not only find jobs but network with others who, like them, had to overcome the struggle of reentering civilian life.

  1. Take Advantage of Benefits

There are a variety of organizations out that there dedicated to helping veterans get their post-service lives off to a running start. Volunteers for America helps veterans find affordable housing and offers other helpful services. Your local Housing and Urban Development Plan (HUD) can also provide aid in finding homes. Other opportunities available for veterans and their families include the American Legion (which provides emergency cash grants for children of service members), USA Cares (which helps veterans pay for housing), and Disabled American Veterans (which provides services for disabled veterans). Make sure to inquire with local stores as well as your insurance and utility companies to see if you can qualify for veteran discounts.

While the financial difficulties that military families face are by no means easy to overcome, possessing the right knowledge and adopting good financial habits can help ease the burden significantly. What financial struggles have you faced as a military family? What solutions did you discover? Feel free to share your story in our comments section!

 Leslie H. Tayne has more than a decade of experience in the practice area of consumer and business financial debt-related services. Speaker, Author, Attorney and Founder of the Tayne Law Group, P.C., Leslie is working towards reshaping the debt industry by offering real, proven solutions to help her clients get back on the road to financial freedom. Ms. Tayne will be presenting our September 20 webinar, Credit & Debt Issues for Military Families. Join us at 11 a.m. ET for this great learning opportunity.

Beware of Predatory Lending Practice

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

July 15 is Military Consumer Protection Day so July is a good time to explore frauds that affect service members and their families. The Personal Finance team will present a webinar on Predatory Lending Practices & How to Avoid Them on Tuesday, July 28 at 11 a.m. ET.

Most lenders are reputable and community-minded and charge a fair price for the use of borrowed money. Unfortunately, there is also a relatively small subset of lenders, called predatory lenders, who take advantage of others. Predatory lenders do just what the name implies. They market to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, minorities, and people with poor credit histories, and charge excessively high interest and up-front fees.

Photo by Jason Comely (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.)
Photo by Jason Comely (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.)

There is no precise definition of predatory lending. Rather, it consists of a number of practices that exploit consumers and can result in the loss of homes and life savings. A common element of all predatory loans is exploiting a consumer’s ability to repay. Borrowers are often lent amounts far in excess of what their incomes can support. In the case of mortgages, lenders are assured of a profit- either through loan payments or foreclosure (seizing a borrower’s home). Interest rates and fees are also well above average market costs.

How can military families avoid predatory loans? By being cautious and skeptical. Consider the following tips:

  • Always check out a lender before signing any loan documents, particularly if they contacted you first and they are not located in the city or county where you live. Start with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). To get the name of the BBB closest to you, visit bbb.org. Local or state consumer protection (consumer affairs) agencies can also provide information about whether a lender has had complaints from consumers.
  • Be especially wary of calls and visits about “bargain” loans that are “available only for a very short time.” Read loan documents carefully before signing and always get a copy for your records.
  • Walk away from any lender that encourages you to borrow more than you need (and can afford), requires credit life insurance, provides a blank contract with spaces “to be filled in later,” charges excessively high costs (e.g., closing costs as much as $5,000 on a $25,000 loan) and doesn’t answer all your questions.
  • Never sign a loan contract you don’t understand and always check that terms that were told to you orally (e.g., interest rate and fees) are the same in the loan contract. Also be wary of lenders who swamp borrowers with a lot of papers to discourage reading everything closely.
  • Never sign loan documents because you feel pressured to do so. Also, be very suspicious of lenders that you did not contact first. Most reputable mortgage or credit lenders do not solicit business over the phone, via e-mail, or door-to-door.

Visit military.ncpw.gov for free resources, tip sheets, and blog posts from national consumer protection experts. Below is a 5-minute video that demonstrates a predatory loan application in progress with a slick lender.

To join the July 28 webinar, Predatory Lending Practices & How to Avoid Them visit: https://learn.extension.org/events/2113

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on July 7, 2015.