5 Money Questions to Ask Before Marriage

If you’re tying the knot you may think engagement, wedding and honeymoon. Here’s why a financial discussion should also be part of your plans.

Money may not be the most romantic topic of conversation for couples sampling wedding cake and planning honeymoon adventures, but the way a couple approaches it can be a strong predictor of a marriage’s long-term success. Several studies have actually found that money is a top cause of stress in relationships.

But finances don’t have to cause friction for you and your soon-to-be spouse. A survey conducted by MONEY Magazine found that individuals who trust their partner with finances reported feeling more secure and having fewer arguments. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can be key to developing that financial confidence in your own relationship.

Open and honest ways to talk about money before marriage can help strengthen your relationship.

How do I talk about money before getting married, you ask? As you prepare to tie the knot, consider these five money questions to ask before marriage:

1. Do we understand our debt, assets and expenses?

One helpful way to talk about money before marriage is to sit down as a couple and take inventory of all the debt and assets you’re each bringing into your long-term commitment. This includes everything from student loans and mortgages to savings and retirement accounts. You may also want to get into the nitty gritty of your salaries and monthly expenses. Putting all of the details into a spreadsheet or an app that helps you manage your money can allow you to see your full financial picture.

While using this exercise as a way to talk about money before marriage may feel like a lot of work, it will come in handy when it’s time to make financial decisions, such as deciding what percentage of your joint income should go toward building an emergency fund, saving for retirement and paying down debt, explains financial expert Ginita Wall, co-founder of the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education.

If you're wondering how to talk about money before you get married, be sure you discuss your debts and assets as a couple.

“If one person in the relationship is maxing out her 401(k) contributions but eventually learns her husband is putting nothing toward retirement, it could become an issue,” she says. “An open dialogue that ensures that there will be no surprises about money, or any other topics for that matter, is important for a great relationship.”

2. Will we have joint or separate bank accounts?

Another way to talk about money before marriage is to consider whether you want to combine bank accounts, keep them separate or do a combination of both. The decision depends on each person’s preferences and the needs of the couple.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, a relationship therapist based in New York City, believes that having one joint account, but also guilt-free separate accounts for spending, can be helpful for many couples.

Keeping a joint account, she says, can provide a clear window into a family’s complete financial situation so the couple can make financial decisions accordingly. “This demonstrates that the couple is working together toward long-term financial goals,” she says.

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The guilt-free separate accounts, on the other hand, give both individuals “freedom to make small purchases as needed,” Weil adds.

As you’re addressing this money question to ask before marriage, know that in some cases, couples could benefit from keeping their investments separate.

“If two people have wildly different investment styles,” Wall says, “they just might decide to invest their money in their own ways.”

3. How has money impacted our upbringing?

When deciding how to talk about money before you get married, consider having an open discussion about how your parents handled money—including what you think they did well and what they could have done better—and how this has influenced your financial expectations and goals, Weil says. This is a valuable, but often overlooked, component of how to talk about money before you get married.

In many cases, an adult’s upbringing shapes his or her financial goals.

“If you grew up vacationing at the shore, chances are you might aspire to own a shore house as an adult,” Weil says. “This can become problematic if your spouse would much rather have a mountain house. Talk about where your goals originate from and then work toward making compromises.”

4. How could our financial dynamic shift over time?

Your financial situation today may be significantly different from your financial situation tomorrow. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for your finances and lifestyle, there are ways to talk about money before marriage to lay the groundwork for decisions you may ultimately face. If you plan to have children, for example, you may want to discuss how career and financial priorities may shift. Will both spouses maintain their working arrangements? Will someone pick up more work or scale back?

Weil says other money questions to ask before marriage that could impact your long-term financial plans include:

  • Will you save for your children’s college education?
  • Do you plan to take care of aging parents?
  • How will you respond to family members who ask for financial support?
  • What measures do you want to put in place for disability and life insurance?
  • If there are children from a previous relationship, who will be responsible for their college or wedding expenses?

While the answers to these types of questions are personal and will vary from couple to couple, Weil says the most important rule is ensuring couples address them early on so there’s a clear understanding of how to handle each situation when it arises.

Couples need to find ways to talk about money before marriage—and plan to discuss finances regularly throughout married life.

5. When will we sit down to regularly talk finances?

While determining how to talk about money before you get married is an important milestone, ongoing communication is necessary. Weil believes it’s constructive to have a weekly money dialogue, while other experts, like Wall, say sitting down for a casual money meeting once a month is a good rule of thumb.

Choose a meeting frequency that works for you and stay committed to your schedule. This signals to your partner that your finances are important and that you’re willing to set aside the time to talk about joint objectives, Wall says.

When it’s time to meet, run through any financial concerns that may have popped up since your last conversation, as well as any financial goals or factors that could have an impact on financial planning for young families.

When differences arise during these talks, Weil suggests trying to walk in the other person’s shoes to understand his or her perspective. Being mindful and polite, as well as listening, are among the best ways to talk about money before marriage and beyond.

Why talk money before saying ‘I do’

Money can carry a lot of emotions, and Wall says that a lot of financial arguments aren’t actually about money.

“It’s often about equality, being respected, being listened to or being loved,” she says.

If the same types of arguments seem to resurface, it could indicate underlying issues about power and cooperation that couples should handle together, Wall explains.

While every marriage is bound to have some financial conflict now and then, starting a partnership off with these money questions to ask before marriage could help you get off on the right foot. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can also help align your financial hopes and dreams for your happily ever after.

Source: discover.com

Banking for Busy Parents: 4 Essential Checking Account Features

As a busy parent, your life is moving in all directions. Your checking account needs to keep pace.

It’s a nonstop day. The usual. You’re at the grocery store, grabbing a few things for dinner (note to self: hit the ATM on the way out!), then a much-needed coffee at the drive-through (swipe that debit card), before you drop your tween at her first day of basketball practice (remember to bring your checkbook). Phew. And you’re only halfway done.

In the middle of it all, you certainly don’t want the nagging feeling that you can’t access your money at a moment’s notice, that you’re missing spending perks or that you’ll be hit with unnecessary fees. So a good question for you might be, “What’s the best checking account for busy families?”

How about a checking account that matches your lifestyle? Robert Farrington, founder of millennial personal finance site The College Investor and father of two, suggests that banking for busy parents should include an account that is “conducive to an on-the-move life.”

With everything on your plate, you may not realize that as your family’s needs change, the way you manage your money will likely need to change too. The good news is that many financial institutions offer bank accounts for busy families like yours, designed with features aimed at supporting your active lifestyle.

The best checking account for busy families like yours should offer features that support your busy lifestyle.

To select the checking account that best serves your needs, Farrington recommends first examining your current patterns. “Notice how you deposit money and how you spend it,” Farrington says. “Look at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”

Next, identify the unique features offered by each new checking account you are considering. To help you do that, here are four key things to look for as you narrow down your search:

1. Cash back rewards: More bang for your buck

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $12,980 a year to raise a child. Even if your kids get their share of hand-me-downs and you don’t buy them everything they want, you’re still spending a lot. The biggest costs—after housing (29 percent of child-rearing costs)—are food (18 percent) and child care/education (16 percent). None of that even includes birthdays, holidays and so on…

If you’re trying to find the best checking account for busy families, consider that all those purchases could be a little less painful with a checking account that rewards spending, typically in the form of cash back or rewards points.

Ashley Patrick, founder of the blog Budgets Made Easy, loves the idea of a checking account that offers rewards. Patrick, whose blog tells the story of how she paid off $45,000 of debt in 17 months, recommends that budget-conscious families use debit cards for purchases. “If those purchases were rewarded,” Patrick says, “that money would multiply.”

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If you’re using a checking account that rewards you for debit card purchases, some of those seemingly endless expenses can actually help you save a bit of extra cash. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cash back earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year. This feature of a bank account for busy families could pay for one night at your favorite family resort!

2. Easy account access: At home or on the run

You’re dropping off one kid, picking up the other, then have to get ready for a fundraiser. You are always on the go, so it’s time to find the best checking account for busy families that’s always right there with you. Patrick suggests opening a checking account with a bank that has a vast network of no-fee ATM locations. For example, Discover offers more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs around the U.S.

Look for easy access to your funds when searching for the right bank account for busy families.

“I live out in the country, about 12 to 13 miles from town, so I need an ATM nearby,” Patrick says. “I usually go to town on Fridays or Mondays, get lunch for the kids, go to the store for groceries and get cash. Everything needs to be in one location.”

Besides getting money for day-to-day purchases, a conveniently located ATM is a must for depositing cash. Why make a special trip to visit your local branch when you can make deposits at an ATM that’s at or near a place you already frequent? Banking for busy parents is hard to imagine without this benefit.

3. Online and mobile features: Save time in spades

In fact, you may not need a brick-and-mortar bank branch at all. Another option to consider is opening a checking account with an online bank.

The best bank account for busy families is one that offers maximum convenience. With an online checking account, all you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone to deposit a check (most online banks have a mobile app that allows you to take a photo of your check to deposit the funds). An online checking account also makes banking for busy parents effortless by allowing them to manage bills and bank statements from a device—either while at home or out and about. Save the paper for your kids’ cute drawings that you tack up on the fridge.

Mobile and online features are important when looking for the right banking for busy parents.

Nermeen Ghneim, blogger at Savvy Dollar and mom of two, says the best checking account for busy families would offer a mobile app.

“I want to be able to access everything a bank can offer through my mobile device,” Ghneim says. “It saves time, and it’s huge for a parent with a full-time job.”

Here are some of the other online and mobile features that are key if you’re looking for the best checking account for busy families:

  • Online transfers. Farrington says the ability to transfer money between accounts is especially important. Things come up unexpectedly and you may need to quickly transfer from savings to checking, or move those cash back rewards into a college fund for the kids. If you’re moving your cash back rewards into savings, you may even be able to make that happen automatically. For example, when you enroll in Discover’s Auto Redemption to Savings, we’ll automatically deposit your cash back into a Discover Online Savings Account every month.
  • Online bill payments. With everything else on your mind, you shouldn’t have to go through a stack of bills every month. The best checking account for busy families would allow you to set up automatic bill payments, so each month’s charges are automatically debited from your checking account.
  • Balance notifications. You should never be in the middle of a transaction and see those dreaded words: Insufficient Funds. Instead, you want to get a heads-up when your balance is close to zero, so there aren’t any surprises.
  • Debit card protection. While it’s important to be able to quickly and easily use your debit card, Ghneim says it’s just as important to be able to freeze it. Some banks offer a digital feature that enables you to switch your debit card on and off, so you can instantly freeze your debit card if it’s been misplaced or you want to curb spending.
  • Connecting to other digital applications. Nowadays, busy families rely on budgeting and spending apps to help manage their finances. A good bank account for busy families would be able to easily sync with those other tools online or via your mobile device so that you can efficiently manage your money and take advantage of the features of each app.

4. No-fee checking: A money-saving must-have

Farrington says that when selecting the best bank account for busy families, a no-fee checking account is a must-have, so it’s worth shopping around until you find one. For example, Discover Cashback Debit has no account-related fees.2 “You shouldn’t have to pay a fee if you don’t keep a minimum balance,” Farrington says. “Parents often don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of whether they’ve made a certain number of transactions.”

If you are getting hit with a checking account fee for any of the items below, you may want to consider a new checking account to make banking for busy parents easier:

  • Monthly maintenance
  • In-network ATM withdrawals
  • Replacement debit card
  • Standard checks
  • Online bill pay
  • Insufficient funds
  • Stop payment order
  • Official bank check

If you’re exploring a new bank account for busy families, Ghneim advises to watch out for hidden costs. Even no-fee checking accounts will sometimes hit you with unexpected charges. “There should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees,” Ghneim says. Farrington agrees: “There are some things that might cost you money, like wire transfers, but you shouldn’t have to pay for most features these days.”

Banking for busy parents just got easier

Above all, Farrington says you want to prioritize the features that are most relevant to your family’s needs and lifestyle. If you’re always on the go, you may care most about convenient, no-fee ATMs and mobile check deposits. If your schedule necessitates a lot of out-of-pocket spending, you may want to prioritize debit card cash back rewards.

Keep in mind that when it comes to establishing the best banking for busy parents, you have options. “There are so many checking accounts being offered now,” Farrington says. As long as you’re aware of the features that are available, you can make an informed decision and choose the account that’s best for you and your family.

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.

Source: discover.com

Affording a Second Child: How to Make Your Budget Work

If you’re welcoming a second child, your spending and savings habits may need a tune-up.

Having kids is anything but cheap. According to the USDA, families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college. The cost of raising a child has also increased since your parents were budgeting for kids. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the cost of having children increased by 40 percent.

If you’ve had your first child, you understand—from diapers to day care to future extracurricular activities, you know how it all adds up. You’ve already learned how to adjust your budget for baby number one. How hard can it be repeating the process a second time?

While you may feel like a parenting pro, overlooking tips to prepare financially for a second child could be bad news for your bank account. Fortunately, affording a second child is more than doable with the right planning.

If your family is about to expand, consider these budgeting tips for a second child:

1. Think twice about upsizing

When asking yourself, “Can I afford to have a second child?”, consider whether your current home and car can accommodate your growing family.

Think twice about upsizing your car or house if you're concerned about affording a second child.

Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, says sharing bedrooms can be a major money-saver if you’re considering tips to prepare financially for a second child. Sharing might not be an option, however, if a second child would make an already small space feel even more cramped. Running the numbers through a mortgage affordability calculator can give you an idea of how much a bigger home might cost.

Swapping your current car out for something larger may also be on your mind if traveling with kids means doubling up on car seats and stowing a stroller and diaper bag onboard. But upgrading could mean adding an expensive car payment into your budget.

“Parents should first decide how much they can afford to spend on a car,” Palmer says.

Buying used can help stretch your budget when you’re trying to afford a second child—but don’t cut corners on cost if it means sacrificing the safety features you want.

Families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college.

– USDA

2. Be frugal about baby gear

It’s tempting to go out and buy all-new items for a second baby, but you may want to resist the urge. Palmer’s tips to prepare financially for a second child include reusing as much as you can from your first child. That might include clothes, furniture, blankets and toys.

Being frugal with family expenses can even extend past your own closet.

“If you live in a neighborhood with many children, you’ll often find other families giving away gently used items for free,” Palmer says. You may also want to scope out consignment shops and thrift stores for baby items, as well as online marketplaces and community forums. But similar to buying a used car, keep safety first when you’re using this budgeting tip for a second child.

“It’s important to check for recalls on items like strollers and cribs,” Palmer says. “You also want to make sure you have an up-to-date car seat that hasn’t been in any vehicle crashes.”

3. Weigh your childcare options

You may already realize how expensive day care can be for just one child, but that doesn’t mean affording a second child will be impossible.

A tip to prepare financially for a second child is to weigh your childcare options.

Michael Gerstman, chartered financial consultant and CEO of Gerstman Financial Group, LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says parents should think about the trade-off between both parents working if it means paying more for daycare. If one parent’s income is going solely toward childcare, for example, it could make more sense for that parent to stay at home.

Even if this budgeting tip for a second child is appealing, you’ll also want to think about whether taking time away from work to care for kids could make it difficult to get ahead later in your career, Palmer adds.

“If you stay home with your child, then you’re also potentially sacrificing future earnings,” she says.

4. Watch out for sneaky expenses

There are two major budgeting tips for a second child that can sometimes be overlooked: review grocery and utility costs.

If you’re buying formula or other grocery items for a newborn, that can quickly add to your grocery budget. That grocery budget may continue to grow as your second child does and transitions to solid food. Having a new baby could also mean bigger utility bills if you’re doing laundry more often or running more air conditioning or heat to accommodate your family spending more time indoors with the little one.

Gerstman recommends using a budgeting app as a tip to prepare financially for a second child because it can help you plan and track your spending. If possible, start tracking expenses before the baby arrives. You can anticipate how these may change once you welcome home baby number two, especially since you’ve already seen how your expenses increased with your first child. Then, compare that estimate to what you’re actually spending after the baby is born to see what may be costing you more (or less) than you thought each month. You can then start reworking your budget to reflect your new reality and help you afford a second child.

5. Prioritize financial goals in your new budget

Most tips to prepare financially for a second child focus on spending, but don’t neglect creating line items for saving in your budget.

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“An emergency fund is essential for a family,” Palmer says. “You want to make sure you can cover your bills even in the event of a job loss or unexpected expense.”

Paying off debt and saving for retirement should also be on your radar. You might even be thinking about starting to save for your children’s college.

Try your best to keep your own future in mind alongside your children’s. While it feels natural to put your children’s needs first, remember that your needs are also your family’s—and taking care of your future means taking care of theirs, too.

“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family.”

– Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet

The key to affording a second child

Remember, the earlier you begin planning, the easier affording a second child can be.

“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family,” Palmer says. Plus, the more you plan ahead, the more time you’ll have to create priceless memories with your growing family.

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Source: discover.com

4 Smart Things to Do When You Get an Inheritance

Coming into a windfall? Here’s how to make the most of it.

You just learned of the passing of a loved one. During this stressful and emotionally taxing time, you also find out that you’re receiving an inheritance. While you’re grateful for the unexpected windfall, knowing what to do with an inheritance can bring its own share of stress.

While the amounts vary greatly, the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances reports that an average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year. First words of wisdom—resist the urge to spend it all at once. According to a study funded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of people who receive an inheritance spend all of it—and even dip into other savings—in the first two years.

Not me, you say? Still, you might be asking, “What should I do with my inheritance money?” Follow these four steps to help you make smart decisions with your newfound wealth:

Take time to grieve and process your emotions before diving into the things to do when you get an inheritance.

1. Take time to grieve your loss

Deciding what to do with an inheritance can bring with it mixed emotions: a sense of reprieve for this unexpected financial gain and sadness for the loss of a loved one, says Robert Pagliarini, certified financial planner and president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors.

During this time, you might feel confused, upset and overwhelmed. “A large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money,” Pagliarini says. As an inheritor, Pagliarini adds that you may feel the need to be extra careful with the funds; even though you know it is your money, it could feel borrowed.

The last thing you want to do when deciding what to do with an inheritance is make financial decisions under an emotional haze. Avoid making any drastic moves right away, such as quitting your job or selling your home. Some experts suggest giving yourself a six-month buffer before using any of your inheritance, using the time instead to develop a financial plan. While you are thinking about things to do with an inheritance, you can park any funds in a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit.

“A large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money.”

– Robert Pagliarini, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors

2. Know what you’re inheriting

Before you determine the things to do with an inheritance, you need to know what you’re getting. Certified financial planner and wealth manager Alex Caswell says how you use your inheritance will largely depend on its source. Typically, Caswell says an inheritance will come in the form of assets from one of three places:

  • Real estate, such as a house or property. As Caswell explains, if you receive assets from real estate, you will transfer them into your name. As the inheritor, you can choose what to do with the assets—typically sell, rent or live in them.
  • A trust account, a legal arrangement through which funds are held by a third party (the trustee) for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary), which may be an individual or a group. The creator of the trust is known as a grantor. “If someone inherits assets through a trust, the trust documents will stipulate how these assets will be distributed and who ultimately decides how they are to be invested,” Caswell says. In some cases, the assets get distributed outright to you; in other instances, the trust stays intact and you get paid in installments.
  • A retirement account, such as an IRA, Roth IRA or 401(k). These accounts can be distributed in one lump sum, however, there may be requirements related to the amount of a distribution and the cadence of distributions.

One of the first things to do with an inheritance is be sure you understand what you've inherited.

When considering things to do with an inheritance, know that inherited assets can be designated as Transfer on Death (TOD) or beneficiary deeds (in the case of real estate), which means the assets can be transferred to beneficiaries without the often lengthy probate process. An individual may also bequeath cash or valuables, like jewelry or family heirlooms, as well as life insurance or stock certificates.

Caswell says if your inheritance comes in the form of investment assets, such as stocks or mutual funds, you’ll want to think of them as part of your own financial picture. “All too often, we see individuals end up treating inherited assets as a living extension of their passed relative,” Caswell says. Consider how the investments can be used to support your financial goals when thinking about things to do when you get an inheritance.

An average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year.

– Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances

3. Plan what to do with your financial gain

Just like doing your household budgeting, it’s important to “assign” your inheritance to specific purposes or goals, says Pacifica Wealth Advisors’ Pagliarini. Depending on your financial situation, the simple concepts of save, spend and give may be a good place to start when deciding on things to do when you get an inheritance:

SAVE:

  • Bolster your emergency fund: You should have at least three to six months of living expenses saved up to avoid unexpected financial shocks, such as job loss, car repairs or medical expenses. If you don’t and you’re deciding what things to do with an inheritance, consider parking some cash in this bucket.
  • Save for big goals: Now could be a good time to boost your long-term savings goals and pay it forward. Things to do when you get an inheritance could include putting money toward a child’s college fund or getting your retirement savings on track.

SPEND:

  • Tackle debt: If you’re evaluating what to do with an inheritance, high-interest debt is something you could consider paying off. Spending on debt repayment can help you save on hefty interest charges.
  • Reduce or pay off your mortgage: Getting closer to paying off your home—or paying it off entirely—can also save you in interest and significantly lower your monthly expenses. Allocating cash here is a win-win.
  • Enjoy a little bit of it: It’s okay to use a portion of your inheritance on something you enjoy or find rewarding. Planning a vacation, investing in more education or paying for a big purchase could be good moves.

GIVE:

  • Donate funds to charity: Thinking about your loved one’s causes or your own can continue legacy goals and provide tax benefits.

4. Don’t get tripped up on taxes

When deciding what to do with an inheritance, taxes will need to be considered. “It is extremely important to be aware of all tax ramifications of any decision around inherited assets,” Caswell says. You could be required to pay a capital gains tax if you sell the gift (like property) that was passed down to you, for example. Also, depending on where you live, your inherited money could be taxed. In addition to federal estate taxes, several U.S. states impose an inheritance tax and/or an estate tax.

Since every situation is unique and tax laws can change, when considering things to do with an inheritance, consult a financial advisor or tax professional for guidance.

Make your windfall count

Receiving an inheritance has the potential to change your financial picture for good. When thinking about the things to do when you get an inheritance, be sure to give yourself ample time to grieve and to understand all of your options. Don’t be afraid to lean on the experts to get up to speed on any tax and legal implications you need to consider.

Planning can go a long way toward making the right decisions concerning your newfound wealth. Being responsible with your inheritance not only helps ensure your financial future, but will also honor your loved one’s legacy.

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Source: discover.com

How to Work from Home While Schooling Your Kids

Parents all over the United States have had to make lofty and quick adjustments due to the pandemic erupting the daily routines many of us havent had to change in quite a while. Feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and sheer confusion have consumed many; leaving the evergreen thoughts about how to best accommodate our children while simultaneously completing remote work effectively. If you have been struggling with finding a balance or could use some extra pointers to smooth out this process; see the tips below and breathe a little easier knowing theres additional help available. 

Wake up at least an hour earlier 

I know, this is probably the last thing you wanted to hear fresh out of the gate. However, take this into consideration you can use this uninterrupted time to knock out some tasks, enjoy your cup of coffee or breakfast before the day truly begins. Rushing (especially in the mornings) tends to set a precedence for the day, causing your mind and body to believe that a pace of hurriedness is expected; generating feelings of burnout very easily. Crankiness, low engagement, and minimal productivity doesnt serve you, your work, or your children well. Use this solo time to still your thoughts so you are able to be fully present for all things the day holds. While this may take some time to get used to initially, youll thank yourself when you have the energy to handle any and everything! 

Set and abide by a clear routine 

Comparing your childs school schedule in conjunction with your personal work obligations very clearly can showcase what needs to get done and when. Reviewing this every evening beforehand or once a week with your children creates new, positive habits that become easier to follow over time. Not only does this mimic physical in-school setting, but it also generates responsibility and a sense of accomplishment for your little ones. If necessary, communicate with your manager if there are time periods you need to be more present to assist your children with any assignments. 

Designate do not disturbtime periods 

Depending on your work demands, there are conference calls and online meetings that may have to happen while the kids are completing their individual assignments or classroom time. To make sure everyone fulfills their tasks with minimal interruptions, create time periods that are dedicated to completing the more complex tasks that require a more intense level of focus. To avoid any hiccups, give some leeway before the blocked time to address any questions or concerns. While this doesnt guarantee that nothing else arises, it establishes peace of mind so that your thoughts can be directed to the tasks that lie ahead.    

Plan out all meals for the week

If meal prepping wasnt your thing before, it definitely should be now. Having lunch and/or dinner already prepared not only saves you time (which is a necessity) but also helps to normalize the growing grocery bill that seems never-ending. Planning not only avoids confusion and lengthy food conversations, but it also sets a routine the entire family can abide by. Easy food items such as tacos, burrito bowls, sandwiches, and an assortment of fruit provide a healthy balance while avoiding ordering fast food or takeout multiple times a week.  

Establish a lessons learnedlist 

Similar to an end of year job evaluation, you and your family can take a personal inventory of the things that have worked effectively while taking note of the things that didnt. At the end of every week have a very candid conversation with your children. Ask them what worked for their schooling and also self-assess the positives during your remote work. Remember to keep an open mind! Instead of automatically responding with frustration, consider how much of an adjustment this is for kids. Theyre accustomed to a multitude of settings and environments, which develops their reasoning and comprehension skills. If they identify something was less than satisfactory, ask what can be done (within reason) to improve their new learning environment. These notes can take place on sticky notes, a large whiteboard, or a simple notepad. This doesnt have to be a serious sit-down conversation; it can almost be presented as a game. Keeping track of these items will help you all make tweaks as necessary while finding a solid sweet spot.  

Give yourself (and your children) grace 

Life as we knew it switched in the blink of an eye. The busyness of going into the office, dropping the kids off at school, and shuffling them to extracurricular activities stopped more abruptly than any of us could have imagined. As we all know but dont like to admit, every day isnt a good day. There are many nuances that happen throughout the course of time that can derail our plans, leaving us to feel defeated. But before going off to the deep end, remember this every day serves as a chance to start over. If the food wasnt prepared ahead of time its okay. If the workday didnt go as smoothly as expected, its quite alright. Take a deep breath and remember we are all doing the best we can with what we currently have. Learning to navigate new waters such as this is only achieved through trial and error.   

Celebrate the small wins 

Lets face it this is new for all of us! While online learning and remote work have been in place for more than a few months, we have to grant ourselves grace. So, if you havent already give yourself and your children a pat on the back! Plan safe outings you and your family can enjoy such as picnics, movie nights, or any outdoor activities. Getting some fresh air for at least 30 minutes during the day can help boost productivity and the moods of you and your children! Each week may not be easy, but it is rewarding to know that the effort youve put forth as a parent is a positive contribution to your family.   

One question that we all need to ask ourselves is-will we ever gain this amount of time with our families again? Lets embrace this moment with learning and lasting memories.  

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Budgeting for a New Baby? Babyproof Your Budget in 4 Steps

Congratulations are in order! Amidst the excitement of your new family addition, consider the following steps to get your budget ready.

Having a baby means countless changes in your life, and they can happen very quickly. Diapers. Day care. Days running on little sleep. While it may not be on the top of your parenting list, budgeting for a new baby can help prepare your family for the excitement that’s ahead.

Kelsa Dickey is a financial coach and co-owner of Fiscal Fitness, a financial coaching company based in Phoenix. For her and her husband, budgeting has helped reduce money stress since they had their daughter in 2015.

“I absolutely worry less about finances because we budget our money,” Dickey says. “I find budgeting incredibly liberating.”

How do you prepare financially for a baby so you can worry less about finances as a parent? Here are four tips that expecting parents can use to help figure out their new financial reality and learn how to budget for a baby:

One important tip for budgeting for a new baby is making sure you're prepared for pregnancy expenses.

1. Prep for pregnancy expenses

Budgeting for a new baby often starts long before the baby arrives. You may have to account for medical bills, prenatal vitamins and maternity clothes, for example. Budgeting for a new baby can become easier if you account for these new expenses before you even need to make the purchases.

Alli Wittbold, a former teacher and blogger at Mom Smart Not Hard, and her husband, were able to save a significant amount on their medical bills when they had their daughter in 2016. Before they were even pregnant, they thought about ways to save money and researched the maternity coverage on both of their insurance plans. They found the coverage on her husband’s plan was much better than hers. By switching their coverage to her husband’s plan before getting pregnant, they were able to save thousands of dollars in maternity-related medical expenses.

While not all pregnancy expenses can be so well-planned in advance, sit down with your budget and make a list of all the new, common costs you’ll need to account for as you prepare for your family’s newest addition. Talking with other parents can help you get a sense for costs that may creep up higher than expected (for Dickey, it was maternity clothes, including new shoes and compression socks), as well as those not even on your radar.

2. Save for baby-related costs

For the Dickeys, budgeting for a new baby meant accounting for increased monthly spending on things they’d anticipated, such as diapers, wipes, baby food and day care. But they also encountered plenty of unexpected expenses. For instance, Dickey planned to nurse and found that nursing supplies and support took a big chunk out of their budget.

“Paying for one-on-one help and consulting was not something I anticipated,” she says.

The Wittbolds also encountered unexpected costs when budgeting for a new baby. They didn’t plan for supplies for when their baby got sick. “During our daughter’s first cold, we ran out to buy a humidifier and nasal aspirator,” Wittbold says.

To cope with unexpected expenses related to their daughter, the Dickeys adjusted their budget and began putting a set amount of money into a specific savings account each month. “I highly recommend doing this because you don’t necessarily know what you will or won’t need, so this allows for some flexibility,” Dickey says.

If you’re looking for additional strategies to learn how to budget for a baby, consider starting an emergency fund to help you better budget for a new baby’s unexpected expenses.

“You can’t plan for everything, but if you can plan for even 75 percent of what you’ll need,” Dickey says, “the other 25 percent will be that much easier to tackle.”

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3. Get creative with your purchases

While baby items can be fun to shop for (think cute little onesies), paying full price on everything can make it nearly impossible to budget for a new baby. The Wittbolds were gifted a lot of the things they needed at their baby shower, but they also shopped secondhand—a great tip for those worried about how to budget for a baby. They perused local classifieds and online marketplaces, and they even picked up hand-me-downs from friends with older children.

The Wittbolds also found creative (and fun) ways to save money by pooling resources from their friends. “My husband had a ‘daddy diaper party’ with all of his guy friends. As a gift, each friend brings a box of diapers,” Wittbold says. “We didn’t have to buy diapers for months.”

4. Account for income changes

Whether you intend to take a parental leave from work or have one parent stay at home to care for your child, you may have to figure out how to budget for a baby with less income than you’re used to.

Dickey and her husband own their financial coaching business, and they were worried about loss of income since they don’t work for an employer with maternity or paternity leave benefits. She knew she wanted to take six weeks off after having her daughter, so they started saving for the drop in income as soon as they knew they were pregnant.

“It made it so I didn’t worry and knew I could enjoy that time off with my daughter,” she says.

If you're facing changes in income after having a child, looking for ways to save money when you have a baby is even more important.

Wittbold decided to cope with her time off work as a school teacher by enacting a spending freeze once she was no longer earning an income. “For us, this means no spending aside from grocery store essentials, baby essentials like diapers, gas and of course bills,” she says. “To prepare for this, I stocked our freezer with homemade meals that could be dumped in the Crock-Pot or popped in the oven.”

Not long after her daughter was born, Wittbold decided to continue staying at home rather than return to her teaching position. She needed longer-term solutions to account for one less full-time income. After seeking out online opportunities, she found a remote position where she could teach English online. This helped her start earning enough part-time money to make staying at home possible.

“I teach every morning from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.,” she says. “This change meant an additional $1,200 for our family every month.” This kind of flexible side hustle that you can maintain while parenting is a great way to bring in additional income if you’re budgeting for a new baby and looking for ways to save money when you have a baby.

Sleep soundly (well, eventually) thanks to your budget

While you might not be able to sleep through the night anytime soon, budgeting for a new baby will help give you peace of mind. Knowing you have a plan for expected and unexpected expenses, as well as understanding ways to save money when you have a baby, can allow you to make the most of your time with your family.

“Budgeting has forced us to do things like meal plan, create cleaning schedules and use our time more effectively in order to earn money from home,” Wittbold says. “This all results in less stress and more time with our baby because we are using the time we have more intentionally.”

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How to Choose the Best Healthcare Plan for Your Budget

Healthcare expenses can take a huge chunk out of any family’s budget so I want to break down how a family can weigh the pros and cons of a traditional health plan vs a high deductible one.

Health Insurance Getting Too Expensive

If I asked you what’s are your biggest expenses each month, what would you say? If you’re like most families, you’d probably mention rent (or mortgage), food, or transportation. And yes, those are huge expenses for the typical family.

However, one of the largest can be healthcare. The crazy thing is how much it can drain from your budget even if you’re a relatively healthy family.

We found out firsthand a few years ago when my husband’s employer had open enrollment. Each year we review the health insurance options and it seemed to us that the costs kept rising. After having kids, we went with the ‘basic’ family plan and the monthly premiums still rose pretty fast. Finally, we hit our limit.

With the latest update, our monthly premiums would pretty much be the same as our mortgage. Considering we only visit the doctors for the girls’ annual well visits, we knew we needed to change things up. We know we’re not the only family dealing with this.

Right now for a family of four, the average monthly premium paid is $833 or  $9,996 annually. Add in the costs of the average deductible and you can see what a huge chunk of money health insurance can be.

However, this year when you get ready to review your options during open-enrollment, you may want to look into whether a high deductible health plan is a practical and affordable solution for your family.

How High Deductible Health Plans Work

As the name suggests, a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) comes with a larger deductible than a typical health insurance plan. The appeal for employers and insurance companies to offer this is that you’re taking on more financial responsibility for your health care costs.

The upside for you is that you should see a drop in the monthly premiums. For us, we saw a difference of a few hundred dollars for each month for premiums. Using a $300/month in savings, that’s like an extra $3,600/year that can be used for other financial goals that you may have.

Huge Tax Wins with a Health Savings Accounts

Another reason why a high deductible plan may be appealing for families is the ability to have a Health Savings Account (HSA).  It’s an extremely tax-advantaged account that you can use to pay for medical expenses.

If this sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard of or used a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). That’s what’s typically offered with the ‘more standard’ health plans. Basically you put money in there before taxes.

We used an FSA for years and it helped us to pay for regular expenses like my glasses and contacts. The problem was making sure we calculated enough to go into the account because if we didn’t use it by the end of the year, we’d lose it.

With a Health Savings Account, however, whatever you don’t use you keep. It can then grow in the account over the years. After saving enough to cover things like the deductible, you may decide to invest a portion to improve growth over the long term.

Making it even better is the fact that your HSA contributions are tax-deductible. Depending on your employer, they may also offer contributions to your HSA. That’s a fantastic bonus!

What really sweetens the deal is that families can contribute up to $6,900 each year, that money grows tax-free, and if we use the money for qualified medical expenses, what we pull out is tax-free.

Sounds amazing, right?

It’s enough to make you want to jump in and switch right now, but a high deductible and HSA may not be the best solution for your family.

The Pros and Cons of High Deductible Health Plans

A high deductible plan sounds great, but there are some costs to consider. With the higher deductible, you need to be aware of what your typical annual expenses would be to make sure you’re coming out ahead.

For example, if you have chronic health issues that require regular visits and perhaps medication, then you’d be paying a lot of money upfront before you hit your deductible and have your insurance cover their portion.

One way you can review your expenses is by using Mint to pull the numbers quickly. You can then easily see how much you’ve paid out of pocket.

When we looked at a few years of expenses, it confirmed that our visits were pretty much limited to annual well-visits (which are covered by HDHP plans), meaning we can save a significant amount of money.

When I spoke to a certified financial planner about what families need to consider, he pointed out families should also be aware of their out of pocket maximums with the plan they are looking into.

You want to have enough stashed away (either with your general savings or with your HSA) to cover those expenses.

A relative of mine recently had a procedure done. Even with insurance, her portion came out to be $3,000!

Thankfully she has some savings she can tap into, but still, that’s quite a bit of money.

So please run the numbers to make sure you could absorb a medical problem, especially during that first year of switching plans.

Choose the Best Plan for Your Family

So after weighing the costs and benefits, took the leap and switched over to a high deductible health plan and opened an HSA. Years later, we feel it was the best decision for our situation.

I hope you now have a better understanding of your options when it comes to health insurance. Having that knowledge can assist you in making the best decision for your family and finances.

I’d love to hear from you – what plan are using now? Do you have any plans on switching?

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Your Guide to Budgeting for Summer Camp

Send your campers off for summer fun without blowing your budget. Here’s how.

Summer camp is a rite of passage. A place where traditions begin and memories are made. A unique venue with a structured opportunity for kids to grow and learn new skills. As enriching as it may seem, embarking on the process each year can be intense: How do I choose a camp? Should it have a philosophy? How do I know my child will have fun? But often the question at the top of the list is, “How do I budget for summer camp?”

Whether you’re scrambling for camp arrangements for this year or getting a jump-start on next summer, you’re in need of a working budget for summer camp. “As a parent who sent several kids to summer camp for many years, I know how expensive it can be,” says Leslie H. Tayne, author and founder of debt solutions law firm Tayne Law Group.

Read on for expert budgeting tips for summer camp and how to save money on summer camp so you can make the best decisions concerning your wallet and your child’s wish list:

1. Get a handle on camp tuition

According to the American Camp Association, sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition isn’t too far behind, ranging from $199 to more than $800 per week.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child's interests.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp and prepare for tuition costs is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child’s interests. This will help you determine ‘how much’ and ‘what type’ of camp you want: Is day-camp coverage important all summer because of work? Does your child want to experience sleep-away camp for a portion of the time? Is a camp with a specific focus (say a sport or hobby) on the list?

Depending on your circumstances and child’s expectations, it’s not unusual to be looking at a combination of camps—and tuition costs—in one season. If you have multiple kids at different ages, with different interests, creating a budget for summer camp and understanding how much you’ll need to dish out in tuition becomes especially important.

Once your camp plan is in place, assess how much you’ll need to pay in tuition for the summer months with school out of session. The sooner you’ve arrived at this figure, the easier it will be to work the expense into your household budget, says Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of deal site Passion for Savings. “It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time,” Schisler says.

Sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition ranges from $199 to more than $800 per week.

– American Camp Association

2. Plan for expenses beyond tuition

One of the biggest budgeting tips for summer camp is planning for the many costs outside of tuition. Tayne points out that sleep-away camp usually comes with a longer supply list than day camp—such as specific clothing or gear and toiletries to cover the length of stay. If your child is heading to a sleep-away camp far from home, your budget for summer camp may also need to factor in the cost of transportation or the cost to ship luggage. Day camps can also have fees for extended hours or transportation if your child rides a camp bus each day.

Once you’ve selected a camp—day camp or sleep-away—check its website for camper packing lists and guidelines. Most camps offer checklists that you can print out, which can be good for tracking supplies and costs as you go. After you enroll, your camp may provide access to an online portal that can help you manage tuition and track additional expenses, like canteen money, which is cash your child can use for snacks and additional supplies while away.

One of the best budgeting tips for summer camp is making sure you understand how much everything will cost—that's tuition plus any extra camp costs.

3. Create a year-round savings strategy

By calculating the necessary expenses ahead of time for the camps you and your campers have chosen, you’ll be able to determine an overall budget for summer camp. A budgeting tip for summer camp is to save money monthly throughout the year. To determine a monthly savings goal, divide your total summer camp costs by the amount of months you have until camp starts. If camp is quickly approaching and you’re feeling the budget crunch, you may want to start saving for next year’s costs once it’s back-to-school time so you can spread out your costs over a longer period of time.

Once you start saving, you’ll need a place to put it, right? When it comes to budgeting tips for summer camp, consider placing your cash in a dedicated account, which will keep it separate from your regular expenses and help you avoid tapping it for other reasons. “Then you can have your bank set up an auto draft [for the summer camp money] so it automatically goes into your account each month and you will have the money you need when summer rolls around,” Schisler says. If you use a Discover Online Savings Account for this purpose, you’ll also earn interest that can be put toward camp expenses.

“It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time.”

– Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of Passion for Savings

4. Find ways to fund your summer camp account

To boost cash in your summer camp savings account, consider asking relatives and family friends to gift your children cash for camp in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts, says Tracie Fobes of budget blog Penny Pinchin’ Mom. “If your child has his or her heart set on sleep-away camp, they may be willing to forgo a gift or two,” Fobes says.

Another budgeting tip for summer camp is to put your cashback rewards toward your budget for summer camp. For example, if you open a checking account with Discover—called Cashback Debit—you’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 You can enroll to have that cashback bonus automatically deposited into your Discover Online Savings Account so it remains designated for camp costs (and can grow with interest).

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Lastly, if you don’t have your tax refund earmarked for another financial goal, you could use the windfall to kick-start your summer camp savings fund. Depending on the refund amount and your total camp costs, it could reduce your monthly summer camp savings goal significantly.

5. Reduce camp-related costs

Despite having your budget for summer camp in full view and planning in advance, camp can still be expensive. Here are some ways to save money on summer camp by cutting down on camp costs:

  • Ask about scholarships and grants: “Some camps offer scholarships or discounts for children and families,” Fobes says. Research your camp to see if they have anything similar to help offset—or even pay for—the cost of tuition.
  • Use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account is a pre-tax benefit account that can be used to pay for eligible dependent care services. You can use this type of account to “cover dependent care [costs], and camp may qualify,” Fobes says.
  • Negotiate price: “Many people don’t think about negotiating the cost of summer camp, but it is possible,” Tayne says, and more and more camps are open to it.
  • See if there’s an “honor system”: Some camps have what’s known as an honor system, where the camp offers a range of costs, or tiered pricing, and parents can pay what they can comfortably afford. Every child enjoys the same camp experience, regardless of which price point, and billing is kept private.
  • Take advantage of discounts: Attention early birds and web surfers: “There are sometimes discounts offered when you sign up early or register online,” Fobes says.
  • Volunteer: If your summer schedule allows, “offer to work at the camp,” Fobes says. If you lend your services—perhaps for the camp blog or cleaning the camp house before the season starts—your child may be able to attend camp for free or a reduced rate.

Focus on the experience—not the extras

Don’t let summer camp costs become a family budget-buster. Plan ahead and look for money-saving opportunities and work your budget for summer camp into your annual financial plan.

To save money on summer camp, remember that you only need to focus on camp necessities. “Don’t spend a lot of extra money on new clothing, bedding, trunks or suitcases,” Schisler says. “Remember, summer camp is all about the experience, not the things.”

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

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Guide to Managing Finances for Deploying Service Members

Life in the military offers some distinct experiences compared to civilian life, and that includes your budget and finances. The pre-deployment process can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re organizing your money and bills. 

It’s important you provide your family with everything they need to keep you and any dependents comfortable and stable. This means gathering paperwork, making phone calls to service providers, creating new budgets, and organizing your estate. The more you prepare ahead of time, the less you have to worry about the state of your investments and finances when you return home. 

To help make the process easier, we’ve gathered everything you need to know for deployment finances. Read on or jump to a specific category below:

Pre-Deployment Needs

Deployment Needs

Post-Deployment Needs

Before Your Deployment

There’s a lot of paperwork and emotions involved in preparing for deployment. Make sure you take plenty of time for yourself and your loved ones, then schedule time to organize your finances for some peace of mind. 

Review Your Estate and Beneficiary Plans

While there’s a lot to work through, you should prioritize settling your estate planning. This sets a plan for your property, finances, investments, and dependents. It’s an important conversation to have with your partner and establishes:

  • Power of attorney
  • Living will
  • Last will and testament
  • Long-term care
  • Life insurance
  • Survivor benefits
  • Funeral arrangements

Anyone with property, wealth, or dependents should have some estate planning basics secured. These documents will protect your wishes and your family in the event you suffer serious injury. There are several military resources to help you prepare your estate:

Reassign Your Financial Responsibilities

Communication schedules can become difficult to maintain while away from home, so it’s important you have a go-to contact for your financial responsibilities while gone. For many, this is a spouse or parent. You can choose whoever you trust, but keep in mind that they’ll have access to most of your personal information. Communicate in advance what your needs and expectations are, and make sure your point of contact is open to the responsibility.

If you have any dependents, you’ll need to ensure that they have access to your finances, too. Talk to caregivers and financial contacts to establish a plan for communication and access to money so everyone is on the same page and no one is left without resources while you’re deployed. 

Update Your Contracts and Services

List of SCRA benefits for deploying service members.

As you plan, go through your payments and determine which ones you can cancel while you’re gone. For example, you may be able to save on car costs by canceling your collision insurance, since you won’t be driving. Similarly, you won’t have to budget for maintenance or gas, though you should keep comprehensive insurance to cover damage or theft. 

For any payment you’ll continue to pay, it’s best to set these to autopay while you’re gone. Share any payment dates and account information with your financial point-of-contact in case anything needs extra attention. 

If you live on your own, then you can also cancel your rent. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows you to cancel a housing or auto lease, cancel your phone service, and avoid foreclosure on a home you own without penalties. Additionally, you can reduce your debt interest rates while you’re deployed, giving you a leg up on debt repayment or savings goals. Learn more about the SCRA benefits below:

Build a Deployment Budget

Your pay may change during and after deployment, which means it’s time to update your budget. Use a deployment calculator to estimate how your pay will change to get a foundation for your budget. 

Typically, we recommend you put 50 percent of your pay towards needs, like rent and groceries. If you don’t have anyone relying on your income, then you should consider splitting this chunk of change between your savings accounts and debt. 

Make sure you continue to deposit at least 20 percent of your pay into savings, too. Send some of this towards an emergency fund, while the rest can go towards your larger savings goals, like buying a house and retirement. 

Use these resources to help calculate your goals and budgets, as well as planning for your taxes:

Prepare a Deployment Binder

Mockup of someone completing the deployment checklist.

Illustrated button to download our printable depployment binder checklist.

It’s best to organize and arrange all of your documents, information, and needs into a deployment binder for your family. This will hold copies of your estate planning documents, budget information, and additional contacts and documents. 

Make copies of your personal documents, like birth certificates, contracts, bank information, and more. You also want to list important contacts like family doctors, your pet’s veterinarian, household contacts, and your power of attorney. 

Once you have your book ready, give it to your most trusted friend or family member. Again, this point of contact will have a lot of information about you that needs to stay secure. Finish it off with any instructions or to-dos for while you’re gone, and your finances should be secure for your leave. 

While You’re Deployed

Though most of your needs are taken care of before you deploy, there are a few things to settle while you’re away from home. 

Protect Yourself From Fraud and Scammers

Illustrated statistic that service members lost a median $775 to fraud.

Scammers have a habit of targeting military personnel, both while deployed and on base. Having someone you trust to maintain your assets and security at home can protect you from property and identity theft. You should also notify your bank and financial institutions of your leave so they can watch for suspicious activity. 

Still, many scammers take advantage of soldiers online through dating apps, phishing, and impersonation on social media. Keep yourself safe and don’t share personal information or money with people you meet online. Romance and identity scams are especially popular and can cost you thousands. 

Adjust Your Savings 

Since you won’t be responsible for as many bills, and you may have reduced debt interest rates, deployment is the perfect time to build your savings.

While you’re deployed, you may be eligible for the Department of Defense’s Savings Deposit Program (SDP), which offers up to 10 percent interest. This is available to service members deployed to designated combat zones and those receiving hostile fire pay.

Military and federal government employees are also eligible for the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a supplementary retirement savings to your Civil Service Retirement System plan.

Additional Resources for Financial Assistance

Deployment can be a financially and emotionally difficult time for families of service members. Make sure you and your family have easy access to financial aid in case they find themselves in need. 

Each individual branch of the military offers its own family and financial resources. You can find additional care through local support systems and national organizations, like Military OneSource and the American Legion. 

After You Return Home

Coming home after deployment may be a rush of emotions. Relief, exhaustion, excitement, and lots of celebration are sure to come with it. There’s a lot to consider with reintegration after deployment, and that includes taking another look at your finances. 

Update Your Budget

Just like before deployment, you should update your budget to account for your new spending needs and pay. It’s time to reinstate your car insurance, find housing, and plan your monthly grocery budget

After a boost in savings while deployed, you may want to treat yourself to something nice — which is totally okay! The key is to decide what you want for yourself or your family, figure if it’s reasonable while maintaining other savings goals, like your rainy day fund, and limit other frivolous purchases. Now is not the time to go on a spending spree — it’s best to invest this money into education savings, retirement, and other long-term plans.

In addition to your savings goals, make sure you’re prepared to take care of yours and your family’s health. Prioritize your mental health after deployment and speak with a counselor, join support groups, and prepare for reintegration. Your family and children may also have a hard time adjusting, so consider their needs and seek out resources as well. 

Pay Off Debt

Illustrated overdue bill stating that 34% of active service members don't pay their bills on time, and military families are more likely to fall behind on payments than civilians.

Instead of a new car, you should try to use a bulk of your savings to pay off debt. You may have saved on interest while deployed, but now your debt will continue to accumulate extra costs. Paying a significant amount now can save you hundreds to thousands in the long run, and may also reduce your monthly payments. 

Separate Your Emergency Funds

If you didn’t already have an emergency fund, now’s the perfect time to set some money aside. An emergency fund should cover three to six months of expenses should you lose your income. Separate some of your savings to start or complete this fund and feel confident that your family is protected. 

Review Your Legal Documents

Finally, you’ll want to go back over your estate planning documents and update them as needed. If you plan to deploy again sometime soon, make sure your power of attorney is up-to-date, as they do expire. Otherwise, adjust your beneficiary and estate details as necessary.

Families experiencing deployment have a lot to consider, from childcare and housing, to finances and estate planning. Explore the financial resources above to restore your peace of mind and spend your time where it really matters — making memories and enjoying time with your loved ones. 

Source: FTC | NFCC 

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