Here at Team Clark, we very much appreciate the sacrifices made by our all-volunteer military. In fact, I’m in a branch of the military myself on the state level.
To the brave men and women who put on the uniform of our country to protect us, thank you.
We want you to know we’re here to help protect your finances!
To that end, we’ve compiled this handy guide to help you heroes wade through some of the bureaucracy in order to aid you in getting your financial life in order.
Military & veterans guide: Table of contents
If you’re serving our country or have previously, here are some free resources for veterans and military to make the most of their financial freedom and save.
Get your finances & affairs in order with this checklist:
Banking & debt
- Lower the interest rates on your debt. The law requires lenders to cap interest rates on your outstanding loans at 6%, among other things. But you must notify your lenders of your military status.
- Consider setting up automatic bill pay at your bank or credit union so you can pay your bills and manage accounts remotely. And consider setting up overdraft protection if you and your spouse will be writing checks from different locations.
- When it comes to home buying, there are special considerations that go along with wearing the uniform of our nation. One of the biggest questions is does it even make sense buy a home when you might have to move post in a few years? Checking a “Rent vs. Buy calculator” at sites like BankRate.com, Trulia.com or any other popular home pricing website can help. The answer can vary widely by region around the country!
- If you decide you do want to buy, consider the VA loan program. You don’t need to be a veteran; you can be active duty military and still qualify. VA loans have several features designed with military in mind. They require zero down payment, no mortgage insurance and there’s no minimum credit score requirement — unfortunately, the bad news is that you’ll likely pay a higher interest if you have a credit score that’s lower than 620.
- T-Mobile offers military families savings of several hundred dollars a month of their wireless bill. The T-Mobile ONE Military pricing plans reward the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform and their families with unlimited text and data roaming, a free basic Netflix subscription, offers of free stuff every week during T-Mobile Tuesdays and more.
- Use free tax services such as the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, which offers free tax help at military bases. Also the IRS offers help preparing returns.
- Find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which allows you to exclude non-taxable income such as combat pay when filing.
- Review your life insurance policy. Make sure it doesn’t contain a “war clause,” which means your company won’t cover deaths from war or combat. Most active duty members receive $400,000 of coverage from the Service Members’ Group Life Insurance Program. If you don’t already know about it, find out more at Insurance.VA.gov.
- You may want to put your vehicle in storage while you’re gone. If you do, call your auto insurer and ask about becoming a “non-operator,” which could lower your payments.
Wills & estate planning
- Assign a power of attorney in your absence, and make sure you have a valid and updated will. You can revoke the power of attorney when you return, but it allows a relative or friend to handle financial decisions while you’re gone. Meanwhile, you can get a perfectly legal will done for free online in about five minutes. Here’s how. Finally, you can find free information on estate planning and money management at USAAEDFoundation.org.
WHILE YOU’RE GONE…You are protected in ways you may not know about:
- The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act protects all active military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The act also covers lapses in health and other insurance, default judgments in court cases and limits on the amount of interest service men and women must pay.
- Military personnel can put a “military fraud alert” on their credit reports. Service people must request them, and the alerts ensure that credit reporting companies are taking additional steps to verify a person’s identity when applying for credit. The idea is to protect deployed persons from becoming victims of identity theft. The FTC has compiled a helpful guide that details the process of putting an active duty alert on your credit records.
- Active duty personnel can see their real FICO score for free online by visiting SaveandInvest.org/Military.
- MilitaryOneSource.mil – DOD online and phone help 24 hours a day, seven days a week — stateside and overseas. Call 1-800-342-9647 in the States or 1-800-3429-6477 overseas.
- Military.com – Comprehensive site offering information on benefits for military as well as news and information.
WHEN YOU COME BACK…Help is available to you:
Start a small business
- Small business help is available for you. The Veterans Pledge Initiative can help with obtaining loans to start or expand small business. Free veteran entrepreneurship training is also available.
Enjoy a discounted vacation
- Military members have special ways to save on Disney vacations. ShadesofGreen.org is a special program offered for military personnel and families in partnership with Disney. Discounted lodging at parks starts at $95 a night. Armed Forces Vacation Club is a similar service.
- With the Waves of Honor program, military veterans, retirees and up to three dependents can get free or discounted admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg and SeaWorld Orlando/San Antonio/San Diego during the summer through July 4.
Get free financial advice
- The certified military counselors at Clearpoint ReConnect can help you create a family budget, start a debt management plan, become a homeowner, avoid foreclosure or just get your finances in order. This service is free and confidential.
IF YOU ARE FRIEND OR FAMILY…Let them know they are remembered and missed:
Donations & gifts
If you want the best deals on products, services and places to eat, check out our list of nearly 40 restaurants that offer military discounts.
More articles from Clark.com you may enjoy:
- How military spouses can get free financial education and credentials
- Buying a home through the VA loan program: What you need to know
- Buying a car: A lesson in auto finance for the troops