Staying financially fit is important for all of us, but some of the daily conveniences and in-person or drive-thru access options we take for granted can become challenging for military families as they navigate deployments and other periods of transition.
As we prepare to honor the brave men and women who have served this Veterans Day, we want to take a few moments to share some of the resources available to help ease financial stress for military families. Whether you are newly retired and starting your next chapter or just beginning your service, there are tools and resources to help you manage your money more effectively.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Technology has made it easier than ever to learn about how to build credit, buy a home and save for retirement. Find out if your local credit union or bank offers online financial education modules. Many of these can be completed in just minutes and help ensure you stay on the right financial path to achieve your long-term goals.
You also may benefit from other online or in-person events designed specifically for veterans such as the annual Veterans 2 Entrepreneurs workshop, which provides mission critical information for veterans interested in starting their own small businesses.
EVALUATE YOUR OPTIONS. Some local financial institutions offer worldwide ATM networks or even ATM fee rebates to help military members avoid fees for accessing their cash while overseas. Take a close look at your next monthly statement to make sure you are avoiding fees whenever possible, including monthly maintenance fees.
Free checking still is an option at some institutions, especially if you set-up direct deposit. Early pay days may even be available to help you access your paycheck up to two days early. This can be a big help, especially if money gets tight toward the end of the month. Check with your bank or credit union to see if they offer immediate credit to your account as soon as your payroll file is received from the Federal Reserve.
START SAVING. Prepare for the unexpected by building an emergency savings account. Many financial institutions offer automatic deposits, which let you choose a dollar amount from each check to go directly into your savings account. Paying yourself first in this manner makes saving a habit and could pay big dividends down the road when you find yourself in need of extra money to pay for a car repair or other necessity.
BORROW RESPONSIBLY. Avoid predatory lenders or “too good to be true” deals. If anyone is willing to lend you money just based on your active duty status, you may want to think twice and look closely at the terms and conditions being offered.
You also may want to cultivate multiple financing options or, at a minimum, get a second opinion before moving forward. It is easy to find yourself paying very high-interest rates on very easy to get credit. Instead, look to your local bank or credit union and apply for pre-approved financing there. You may even be able to rebuild or establish credit with a share-secured loan, which is tied to your savings.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS. According to va.gov, VA-direct and VA-backed veteran home loans may offer better terms than traditional loans. For example, nearly 90 percent of VA-backed loans are made with no down payment. If you are planning to buy a home, start by checking your eligibility with the VA and learning which programs may be available to you.
A mortgage officer at your local financial institution may also be able to help answer your questions about the most affordable home loan options for your family.
At Abound, we want to take a moment to thank each one of our veterans and active duty military members who help protect this great nation. We remain committed to serving our military community and hope these money management tips will help you and your families stay financially fit.
Chuck Eads is vice president of lending at Abound Credit Union.