Magazine article USA TODAY

Financial Rights for Active Personnel

Magazine article USA TODAY

Financial Rights for Active Personnel

Article excerpt

Reservists and National Guard families whose loved ones have been activated for duty in Iraq or other distant lands not only face separation but often financial hardship as well. A survey by the Department of Defense for Reserve Affairs found that 31% saw a decrease in income when a husband or wife was called up.

However, families can prevent or minimize difficulties through careful money management and by learning the special financial rights available to them when their child or spouse is summoned for duty, advises the Financial Planning Association, Denver, Colo.

First, if activation has not yet occurred, there are several steps that can be taken to minimize the financial impact of a future call-up.

* Save enough in an emergency fund to cover essential costs such as housing and food for at least six months. Other sources for emergency money include a home equity line of credit or a loan from life insurance cash values.

* Prepare a realistic postactivation budget. It will allow you to better prepare for cuts and motivate you more to build up savings.

* Families of activated personnel are allowed to shop at any nearby military base stores, where goods and services usually are less expensive.

* Determine eligibility for the military health program, TRICARE.

* Move to on-base housing if it is available.

* Reduce debt. Credit-card and other consumer debt can be financially devastating if the family faces a serious decline in income.

* Avoid off-base payday lenders, which can increase family debt.

* Designate someone in advance to manage the household finances and be sure they are up to speed with the figures before leaving. Single-parent families, or those where both spouses are called up, will need to rely on a relative, friend, or outside professional help (such as a bill-paying service or financial planner). …

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