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20 Essential Financial Questions for Military Families


Financial planning can be more complex for military families than it is for civilians. Deployments, specialized benefits, and unique retirement options are just a few of the factors that make your situation different.

A recent study shows that career military families end up in a stronger financial position when they work with an experienced financial professional. The survey found that military families who work with a financial professional save and invest more than those who don’t.

• They accumulated nearly $140,000 more in savings and retirement funds
• 70% are “extremely” or “very confident” of their ability to retire comfortably, compared to just 29% handling their finances on their own
• 67% have a retirement savings account, versus 48% without a financial professional
• 52% intend to increase their savings compared to 29% without a financial professional

Much of our work is built around helping our clients ask the right questions. What questions should active duty families be asking about their finances?

The decisions you make now will determine your ability to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. Here are some questions you should be considering:

1. Am I maximizing my TSP’s long-term return?
2. Should I make traditional or ROTH contributions?
3. Should I opt-in to the new Blended Retirement System (BRS)?
4. What is the best way to handle my out-of-pocket PCS expenses?
5. Should I live on or off base? Should I rent or buy?
6. Can I transfer any unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to my spouse or children?
7. Do I have a sufficient emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses and my next move?
8. Does my Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) provide the protection I need?
9. Am I eligible for Continuation Pay? How should I spend or invest it?
10. Am I maximizing my tax breaks?

What questions should veteran families be asking about their finances?

Whether you’re retiring entirely from the workforce or planning for a second retirement, here are some key questions to consider:

11. How do I calculate an approximate amount of savings needed for retirement? Do I have enough?
12. Will I receive a pension? How much?
13. How can I maintain my lifestyle throughout retirement? Do I need a post-retirement budget?
14. When do I take my first RMD? How much is it?
15. Should I buy a permanent home after all the PCS’ing? Do I need to downsize?
16. Should I move retirement funds or leave them in the military retirement plans?
17. Is participation in the Survivor Benefit Plan the best path?
18. What healthcare options make the most sense for me? (TRICARE, Medicare, etc.)
19. When should I start withdrawing Social Security? Does my military pension affect Social Security benefits?
20. How can I ensure I leave a lasting legacy to my family?

These questions are simply a starting point. Because financial planning is so different for military families, it is important to work with an advisor who understands the benefits, resources, and challenges you experience. As Relationship Managers with AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust, we have hands-on experience with military finances. We provide financial coaching that is useful for every stage of our clients’ military careers and beyond, from new servicemembers starting their first tour to experienced veterans preparing for a second retirement.

Military One Source (2018) Blended Retirement System – The Essentials [Blog post] https://www.militaryonesource.mil/web/mos/-/retirement-planning-the-essentials

BusinessWire. (2018, Aug. 3) First Command Reports: Savings Habit Strongest in Military Families with Financial Advisors [Press Release] Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180803005539/en/Command-Reports-Savings-Habit-Strongest-Military-Families

Military Advantage. (2018) Benefits directory [web directory] Retrieved from: https://www.military.com/benefits/directory

Task & Purpose. (2018) Whether You’re In Or Out, Start Planning Your Civilian Retirement Now [Blog post] Retrieved from https://www.military.com/money/retirement/whether-youre-or-out-start-planning-your-civilian-retirement-now.html