By Brad Pagano
There’s nothing easy about preparing to leave your family, your home and the life you’ve established to go off to another part of the world for six months or more, but hundreds of members of our San Diego community do this every year as part of a military deployment.
We live in a region that has the largest military concentration in the world, according to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., with active duty military personnel and their families equal to almost one-fifth of the entire San Diego County population.
Earlier this year, a Congressional report found service members need better and more frequent financial literacy training. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission stated that the existing programs weren’t meeting their mark and that military personnel “regularly make minimum payments, pay late fees, pay over-the-limit charges on credits cards, and commonly borrow from non-bank financial institutions (e.g. pawn shops).”
Though the Department of Defense countered that financial literacy is already a priority, we can’t ignore what this could mean here in San Diego and the overall financial health of the people who live here. We need to take notice and make sure our military families have the resources they need–especially those facing deployments.
I know the story all too well. I saw it play out with my brother when returning home from his first deployment to Afghanistan in the early 2000’s. He was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps and he and many of his platoon mates came home only to fight another battle–one for financial stability.
His experience inspired me to help create the San Diego Financial Literacy Center and specifically has shaped our “Boost for Our Heroes” financial assistance and education program geared toward active duty, transitioning and veteran military members. Through a variety of free workshops, outreach efforts, and one-on-one consultations, the center’s goal is to help our men and women of the Armed Forces become financially fit.
We’ve learned that when it comes to preparing for deployment, these are four key action items our troops can’t afford to skip:
- Establish a budget and savings plan — Your family should live on your pre-deployment income by keeping a spending budget/plan. Deployments are an ideal time to start saving by getting into the habit of setting money aside to prepare for unexpected financial challenges.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! — Communication with your spouse, partner or other person responsible for your financials while you’re deployed is crucial to staying on top of your financial situation. Establish a communication plan before you deploy so you can discuss how bill payments, major purchases and other financial decisions will be handled.
- Establish a power of attorney and draft or update your will — While you’re deployed, it may be necessary for someone to make decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney allows you to legally grant an individual to act on your behalf. You will want to draft or update your will to ensure your property is handled as you intend in the event of your passing.
- Make sure bills are paid on time — Even while deployed you’re still accountable for financial obligations at home. Set up automatic bill payments prior to deployment to avoid late payments.
Our military personnel don’t have to leave one war zone for another. Preparation — as with anything in life — is the key to making sure everything is in order and taken care of while you are on deployment.
Brad Pagano is the co-founder and managing director of the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and resources that will empower San Diegans to enhance their financial IQ and help them make smarter decisions with their money. Learn more at www.sdflc.org.
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