There are currently over 1.4 million active service members in the U.S. military. The Army has the highest number of active service members, followed by the Navy and the Airforce. The U.S. armed forces are one of the most trusted institutions in the U.S., with a public confidence level of 72 percent in 2020.
Military service is something to be proud of in the U.S. While serving in the military, you make a lot of sacrifices for the sake of others. But of course, you also have to be mindful of your financial status and future. Take time to also care for yourself financially by saving and earning smart. Here are ways to make the most of military benefits and save money.
- Save Wisely
Typically, when serving in the military, most expenses are covered, such as meals and boarding. So it’s easy to accumulate income. Results from the 2019 Status of Forces Survey revealed that 72 percent of active duty service members have a comfortable and secure financial condition or can make ends meet.
Around 82 percent reported having a savings habit, with about 42 percent of active-duty personnel even having regular monthly savings. This is a good sign that members have realized the value of saving money. Be sure you are saving your money wisely during this time. Find a high yield savings account. Also, check out the backing services offered by the U.S. Automobile Association (USAA). This can also entail building an emergency fund.
- Budget for What Matters
Life in the military is different from civilian life. You move around more depending on where your unit is assigned. This unique military lifestyle can sometimes put a strain on you financially. The good news is that the Department of Defense has implemented programs and resources supporting service members’ financial readiness.
Your objective should be to become financially ready throughout your military career and beyond. Make a plan for your future and what you hope to achieve financially. Then create a budget to make those dreams into reality. There are many helpful budgeting apps available for free to help with this. Remember to buy only what you need and stay within your budget.
- Ask About Discounts
Be a wise consumer, always find the best value, and look for exclusive deals for active military personnel. Many establishments offer military discounts, such as Apple, AT&T, Dell, Verizon, Home Depot, and more. Ask for discounts even if you’re not sure they offer them because they may decide to give you a deal anyway. These discounts may not seem like much, but they can add up over time.
- Utilize a VA Home Loan
A VA home loan is backed by the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs and allows for zero percent down payment, and does not require a high credit score to purchase a home.
Private banks and mortgage companies provide VA home loans. Calculate your VA home loan amount using the VA mortgage calculator to start budgeting for the home of your dreams. Be sure to find a lender that specializes in VA loans to reap the full benefits.
- Don’t Forget About Retirement
The U.S. has one of the largest militaries in the world. An estimated 2.19 million military personnel will retire in 2021. This number is expected to grow to 2.28 million a year by 2031. However, only those who actively served for at least 20 years are entitled to military retirement pay. Sadly, some veterans struggle to find regular jobs and save for retirement.
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Opening a retirement fund is something you can never start too early. Although the military does offer veterans some retirement funds, often, there is a need for additional retirement funds when the time comes. Think about the type of lifestyle you want in retirement and create a retirement plan that achieves this.
Start preparing early in your career. Begin by allocating a percentage of your salary for savings and investments. Then slowly add more savings as you become more financially stable. These savings will grow until your retirement.
Save While You Serve
There are many opportunities that you can take advantage of while in the military. Saving money is an essential task to ensure that you and your family can live comfortably. Saving also prepares you for the future, especially when you move back to civilian life.