How to start a military family savings plan
Don’t wait until that “perfect” time to start your family’s financial plan … because there isn’t a perfect time. The moment you think you’re in the black, something happens or breaks and another bill is due. That’s why you should start saving today. These tips compiled specifically for military families from Military OneSource and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you create a plan, lower your debt and save for your family’s financial future no matter when and where the military sends you.
Financial planning basics
A comprehensive financial plan is a framework to organize all the pieces of your financial life (income, assets, liabilities, etc.) in a way that brings your goals and the choices you will have to make to achieve them into sharp focus. The earlier you start to plan for your financial future, the fewer difficult choices you may have to make. A good financial plan will:
- Provide a clear picture of your current financial situation
- Establish and prioritize your financial goals and the timeframes for achieving them
- Identify strategies you will use to address weaknesses in your financial situation and build on its strengths
- Identify the financial products or services you will use to help you achieve your goals
Financial planning does not end once your plan has been created. Because life happens, you can expect to modify your plan as new or unforeseen circumstances affect your family’s financial situation - an extended illness, birth of a child or job loss, for example. Maybe your goals and time horizons change, or perhaps fluctuations in the economy or tax laws make a positive or negative impact on your resources. It’s a good idea to review your financial plan each year to make sure it continues to support your vision and goals.
Helping you save
Here are three valuable resources available to you, at no charge:
Personal financial management services
As you learn more about financial planning, you may realize that you need some professional expertise to help you plan. Present on all DOD military installations is the Personal Financial Management Program. These offices offer classes and counseling sessions to help with all aspects of financial planning. Find the location and contact information for yours by going to and choosing “Personal Financial Management Services” under program/service. You can also access information and personalized financial counseling assistance at no charge through Military OneSource online or by calling 001-800-342-9647. The Exceptional Family Member Program can provide you with information and resources that may help you decide what to include in your planning for special needs. And the legal assistance office can help you with information and advice related to your estate planning. Contact information for these installation programs is available through militaryinstallations.dod.mil.
Thrift Savings Plan
Service members and federal employees can participate in one or both of the Thrift Savings Plan options (traditional or Roth TSP). By contributing as little as $20 per payday, your savings could really stack up.
Use the TSP.gov Calculator at to see just how much money you could make.
Savings Deposit Program
Military personnel have the opportunity to earn 10 percent interest on up to $10,000 in savings annually while deployed to or in support of a combat zone. Uniformed members of the Armed Forces can contribute to the Savings Deposit Program after 30 consecutive days of deployment outside the United States, for as long as you are receiving hostile fire pay. Any military finance office in theater can help you establish an account and assist you in setting up the deposit method most convenient for you.
Common financial planning areas
The typical financial plan will address several broad areas that encompass most families’ specific goals for the future they envision:
Reducing debt Your first priority should be to reduce and eventually eliminate debt so that more of your income can be applied to saving and investing for the future.
Building an emergency fund - Many financial advisors recommend having three to six months of your normal income in an account that’s safe and liquid. This account should only be used to cover unforeseen financial emergencies and as a place to save for planned major expenses. Taking advantage of the Savings Deposit Program while deployed is one way to get a head start on building your emergency fund and other goals as well.
Saving and investing for college - If you envision paying for college in the future, it’s important to have a good understanding of the cost and the ways you can lower expenses, such as beginning a 529 college savings plan, and start planning as soon as a child is born.
Saving and investing for retirement - A comprehensive financial plan should address retirement, even when it seems very far off. Utilizing the Thrift Savings Plan can make saving for retirement easy. Many military spouses work for employers that match contributions to a 401(k) plan. Any employer-sponsored retirement program that offers tax advantages or matching contributions is a smart way to invest in having a comfortable retirement.
Providing for your family in the event of death - As a service member or veteran, you have the benefit of low-cost group life insurance through the government. For all of your family’s insurance requirements at each stage of life, your planning task will be to select the amount of coverage that best meets your needs for the least cost.
Get started saving now. Use the valuable tools offered through the resources in the sidebar. Make TODAY the perfect day to start saving for your family’s financial future.