There are many new and exciting adventures ahead as you start the next phase of life with your new spouse and service member. Let's begin!
Welcome to the Military Spouse Club!
Money management is critically important for newly married couples. It is important to remember that communication is key. Here are some things to consider.
Financial Planning Considerations
Learn about the resources available within the military community. There are sources of support and information available online and at each installation.
Know What's Available
Marriage to a member of the military brings challenges and new experiences that couples may not face in the civilian sector.
Communication is a key ingredient in every relationship. We know financial matters can be uncomfortable and challenging to discuss, so having the right tools and resources to help can go a long way.
Check out this video featuring Jason who offers ways you can save money as a new military spouse.
Here’s a checklist of some of the tasks you need to complete as a new military spouse and some financial aspects to consider as you begin your new life together:
Enroll in DEERS
One of the very first things you will do is enroll in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). This needs to be done together and in person. Here is what you need to do:
Obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate. To be clear, this is NOT the same as your wedding license or the certificate you may have signed on the day of your wedding. In most places, an official marriage certificate is issued by the clerk’s office in the city, town, or county where the wedding took place.
Gather birth certificates and Social Security cards for yourself and new dependent children if applicable.
Take this paperwork to the nearest DEERS office with two forms of identification.
If you are a foreign-born spouse who will be applying for U.S. citizenship, you should know that some of the expenses associated with this might be reimbursable. Have your service member check with his/her leadership. The installation Military Personnel Section Office can provide more information if you need it.
New MilSpouse Checklist
✓ Obtain your military identification card at the installation ID facility.
✓ Memorize your spouse’s Social Security number.
✓ Update your driver’s license and Social Security card if you changed your name.
✓ Understand your service member’s pay and benefits.
Ensure your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) is updated with the new DEERS information. Military OneSource has a great resource for understanding how to read your LES. Click here for more information. Click here for links on your specific branch’s LES.
Pay particular attention to the following boxes and make sure the LES reflects your service member’s updated marital status and number of dependents:
- Entitlements —10
- Deductions — 11
- Dependents — 51 & 57
Be careful about any overpayments as they will have to be paid back!
Photo: Sample Army LES
✓ Know which retirement system your service member falls under.
- Legacy Retirement System (Legacy)
- Blended Retirement System (BRS)
- One benefit offered under both the Legacy and the BRS systems is the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. This is similar to a 401K plan. Review this handout for more information.
✓ Get familiar with Tricare.
Tricare is the military's health insurance program. There are different options for coverage for family members depending on location and preferences. Click here for more information. See below for more information on health insurance.
✓ Update your estate planning documents, including your will and power of attorney.
Your installation’s legal office can assist you with creating these documents for free! Guard and Reserve spouses will need to use civilian legal services. For more information, check out Plan Your Estate in Money Ready 401.
✓ Know what education benefits are available to service members and families.
Check out Funding College whether you’re paying off student loans or trying to figure out how to pay for college. There you will learn about student loans, savings options, service member education benefits and more. As a spouse, you should check My Career Advancement Account to explore grants, scholarships and other benefits.
Financial Planning Considerations
Money management is critically important for newly married couples. As mentioned above, communication is key. You also need to understand your service member’s pay and benefits, so be sure to do your homework to be informed.
Broad areas of money management (financial planning) include budgeting, banking, savings, understanding credit, taxes, insurance, and estate planning.
Listen to a few tips Jeremy has learned along the way to help manage money while building a life around the military.
Since communication is key, download these handouts and use them as a discussion tool with your spouse. This will help you as you navigate some of the financial planning considerations that come with marriage.
Your New Household Budget
We have great resources on building your budget here and sample budgets here to help you get started. Visit our blog on Budgeting Basics: Where’s My Money Going? to learn more. When creating your budget be sure to:
- Know your current situation;
- Know where your money should go;
- Build a plan; and
- Make adjustments as needed.
Chose one of these worksheets to get started on YOUR budget. First download the PDF (using Chrome for best results), then fill in your information and the automatic calculations will help you analyze your plan.
Good financial habits do not just happen. Have a discussion with your spouse and consider the following questions:
- Who will pay the bills? Will this mainly be one spouse’s job? What happens if there is a deployment?
- How will you track expenses and stay on budget?
- Will you keep accounts separate, open joint accounts, or some combination of both?
Since cash management is something you practice almost every day, it's important to review the fees and services your financial institution charges, and be sure you find the right one to fit your needs.
Start a Savings Plan
Once you establish banking, it is critical to set aside cash in a separate savings account for emergencies. Even if you can only add a little each month — $10, $20, or more — every little bit helps! It’s a best practice to start setting aside this money as soon as possible, as it will come in handy when you need it. Flat tires, broken appliances and all other unexpected expenses are just a way of life. Having this money will help you avoid using credit and the added interest expense.
Learn more about how to create an Emergency Fund by watching the video below.
Your credit report and credit score have a big impact on your financial life. Your credit report is a record of your past credit behavior and your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that lenders consider when offering terms on a loan. A higher number is better. For more information and videos on these important topics, visit our Money Ready 101 section, Understand Credit.
Your income taxes change once you are married. Each situation is different so consider speaking with a tax professional for help. For additional help, visit Military OneSource MilTax Tax Services at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/financial-legal/tax-resource-center/tax-services-benefits.
We use insurance to protect our family and assets, and there are several different types of insurance to have in place. Click here for a broad overview explaining how insurance works, and also visit each topic for more in-depth information.
The military provides healthcare coverage through Tricare. Your coverage options depend on your current status and location, visit this resource for more information.
- Active Duty and certain Guard and Reserve spouses and family members are covered under Tricare Prime or Select.
- Other Guard and Reserve spouses and family members are covered under Tricare Reserve Select. Tricare Reserve Select requires continuous regular payments to stay enrolled. Irregular drill pay can cause your family to be dropped until the next open enrollment period. Make sure you understand your coverage.
- If you have civilian coverage, review your policy deductibles, co-pays, prescription coverage, and in-network and out-of-network care.
- Finally, for both active duty and reserve, do not forget to include dental coverage.
Property insurance includes auto, home and renters coverage. Make sure that you have adequate auto insurance and revisit your coverage with every permanent change of station (PCS) move. Homeowners insurance provides coverage to help offset financial burdens if your home or possessions are stolen or destroyed. Don't overlook renters insurance, which covers you if your possessions are damaged or stolen while renting a property. Each family has unique circumstances and needs, so carefully review your coverage in each of these areas and ensure that your level of protection is appropriate.
Life insurance is not an easy topic to discuss but understanding what coverage you have and if more is needed can provide peace of mind. Every family has unique needs. Please visit our section on life insurance for more information. We also have educational videos available here. Know your life insurance benefits: SGLI and FSGLI.
- SGLI stands for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, and service members are automatically enrolled upon joining the military. This is term life insurance, meaning the coverage is good for a specific period. Coverage applies as long as the service member is on active duty, and for 120 days after separation from service. The premium is automatically deducted monthly, and the default level of protection is $400,000. Additional coverage is available.
- FSGLI stands for Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance and is offered through the military to cover family members. Spouses receive a maximum of $100,000 of coverage for a premium that varies by age but is less than $10 per month for most people. Dependent children under 18 receive $10,000 of coverage at no cost.
Watch this video from Tessa who encourages military spouses to know their own value as they plan for the future.
Accredited and trusted by the military community, here are some excellent resources to get you started:
✓Military and Family Support Centers
These are on each installation and provide local guidance and support for many challenges facing military families. Additionally, many installations offer new milspouse orientation. We strongly encourage you to attend these orientations. What you learn and who you meet may change your life!
✓Department of Defense (DoD)
Find Your Tribe
Always remember, you’re not alone! There are many military spouses (new and veteran) to learn from. Get out there and meet the spouses who know the ropes! These seasoned spouses can help you get to know your new community and will help introduce you to others looking for employment assistance, family support, friendship and community. Your tribe, or network of friends, may be the BEST resource you have while on your military journey.
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