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PCS: The Financial & Emotional Impact

2019-07-31

According to DoD statistics, approximately one-third of military members will experience a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move each year. That’s a startling statistic and proof that every member of the military needs to understand what PCS is, how it works, and the financial and emotional impact it is likely to have.

No matter what your military status is, you are likely to be impacted by a PCS. Here are some tips for handling your next move.

The Financial Impact of PCS

A long-distance move can be difficult and pricey. Here are some tips to help you plan for a seamless move that fits within your budget.

Budget Carefully

According to Military.com, the average service member will incur more than $1,700 in non-reimbursable expenses during a Permanent Change of Station. Budgeting for these expenses in advance can lessen the financial impact considerably.

Rent or Purchase?

One of the first decisions you and your family will be  faced with is whether you will rent or purchase your next home. Buying a home is a very big decision that needs to be carefully considered with your family objectives and real estate market data in mind.

There are advantages to both renting and purchasing, so consider these questions when making this decision:

  • How long are your PCS orders?
  • Will you rent or resell your home when it comes time to relocate again?
  • Are you nearing retirement with your military career?
  • Do you have a down payment saved?
  • Are you located in a desirable school district?

Know Your Moving Options

Another decision your family will need to make is if you will complete a Do-It-Yourself move (DITY), now called a Personally Procured Move (PPM), or let the government handle all PCS affairs.

If you choose not to do a PPM move, the government will pay to pack and move you within maximum allowable weight limits based on rank and number of dependents.

When you take care of the whole move yourself and absorb all costs up front, it is called a Full PPM Move.  Here are a few advantages of this move:

  • Extra Cash – If you move on your own and keep your costs under 95% of the Government Constructive Cost, you keep the extra cash. You can use the extra cash to furnish your new home or save for the future.  If you’d like an estimate for how much the government will pay you to “do it yourself”, use the PPM Calculator.
  • You’re in Control - If you handle the move on your own, it will happen on your timetable. This provides flexibility, and you may find the move more enjoyable.

Taxes

You can deduct reasonable unreimbursed moving expenses on Form 3903 if you are moving because of a PCS. Here are a few examples of qualified expenses you may be able to deduct, but please speak with your CPA for personalized advice:

  • Cost of shipping POV
  • Cost of a trailer to tow your vehicle
  • Moving household goods and personal effects
  • Mileage
  • Cost of gas
  • Traveling expenses (including lodging but not meals)
  • Parking fees and tolls

Spouse Employment

Spouse employment friction is an unfortunate but very realistic effect of a PCS move, and it can have a major financial impact on military families.  It’s important that you know your resources. If your spouse needs to work, there are many agencies that support employment and provide very specific resources to military spouses. Here are a few:

The Emotional Impact of PCS

While many people focus solely on the financial impact of PCS, it is important not to understate the emotional repercussions of the change. Regardless of the circumstances, moving to a new location can be stressful. These stresses are often exacerbated for first-time PCS military members and those in difficult family circumstances.

There are actions you and your family can take to reduce the emotional impact of PCS. Moving will always be stressful, whether you are relying on military movers or taking a PPM approach. Here are some practical tips to make your next PCS as smooth as possible.

  • Over-communicate - Talk to your kids and your spouse regularly. Talk about their uncertainties, worries, and fears. Getting these things out in the open can reduce the emotional impact.
  • Meet with the movers - Having a personal relationship with the moving company and its workers can set your mind at ease.
  • Pack a First-Day Box - This is the box you need on your first day at your new place. Include toilet paper, paper towels, a shower curtain and toys for the kids. All the essentials for night one in your new house.
  • Open One Box at a Time - Only open one box at a time. Once you open a box, empty it completely and break down the box. Then, you can move on to the next box. Otherwise, you will have a bunch of half-open boxes and nowhere to put things.
  • Find out about your new home - There is a lot to like about your post-PCS home, so learn about the schools, restaurants, the culture, and your new neighbors.
  • Label everything - In the wake of a PCS move, all boxes look alike. Make sure everything is carefully labeled with both room name and contents.

The stress of moving is very real, and so is the emotional and financial impact of PCS. For service members and their families, these Permanent Changes of Station are a way of life, so the best thing to do is prepare carefully, budget well, and learn to take these frequent moves in stride.

With a lot of emotional and financial stress that can be brought on by a PCS move, it is best to have a team that is able to help you when you need it most. A Relationship Manager at AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust will be able to assist you with your finances and ease your financial stress. Reach out to see how we can help, so you can enjoy the positive aspects of your PCS.

*Information provided by AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust LLC is not intended to be tax or legal advice. Nothing contained in this communication should be interpreted as such. We encourage you to seek guidance from your tax or legal advisor. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Resources

Enhancing Family Stability During a Permanent Change of Station: A Review of Disruptions and Policies

Rand Corporation

rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2304.html

PCS: The Basics About Permanent Change of Station

Military One Source

militaryonesource.mil/moving-housing/moving/planning-your-move/pcs-the-basics-about-permanent-change-of-station

How to Save on Moving Costs

Kiplinger

kiplinger.com/article/spending/T010-C011-S001-how-to-save-on-moving-costs.html

The Psychology of Moving

The New York Times

nytimes.com/2010/02/28/realestate/28cov.html

Tips For a Smooth PCS

The Military Wallet

themilitarywallet.com/permanent-change-of-station-pcs-tips/

Financial Tips for PCSing

Military.com

military.com/money/pcs-dity-move/financial-tips-for-permanent-change-of-station.html