Life Stages: Starting a Military Family
Having kids in the military presents unique challenges. From relocations to potential deployments, uncertainty is an aspect of military family planning that can take a mental and emotional toll on both spouses.
Military life also presents some unique financial considerations that you’ll need to consider if you’re ready to think about adding kids to your family. For the most part, your military pay and benefits will not increase just because you start a family. However, your expenses undoubtedly will, which is why financial planning is important before, during and after having a baby in the military.
So, what can you do to plan ahead and prepare for the inevitable? Start with understanding everything you need to be thinking about.
6 Financial Considerations When Having a Baby in the Military
For civilian couples, the medical expenses that come with having a baby can be overwhelming, even when they have a good healthcare policy in place. However, this is one area where servicemembers on Tricare do not have to worry. Tricare provides excellent medical care for pre-natal and hospitalization care, generally at lower costs than what’s available to civilians.
Do you have enough space in your current living quarters for a new addition to your family? If you’re currently in a one-bedroom apartment, for example, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a larger living space. Can you afford to do so?
If you did not use your one-time BHA (Basic Housing Allowance) increase when you got married, you may qualify for a slight increase. Additionally, if you receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), you’re likely aware that the COLA benefit is paid based on the number of people in your household. Therefore, you should expect the amount you receive to increase.
Buying a house is another option to consider as part of your military family planning process. Fortunately, most servicemembers are eligible to apply for a VA mortgage, which offers lower interest rates, no or low down payments, and other benefits for homeowners.
3. Parental (Maternity/Paternity) Leave
The military allows active duty birthmothers six weeks of maternity/convalescent leave, and another six weeks of Primary Caregiver Leave thereafter. These are all considered forms of “non-chargeable leave,” meaning they do not count against the birthmother’s leave balance. A parent who does not bear the child may receive up to three weeks of Secondary Caregiver Leave, which is also non-chargeable leave.
Once paid leave runs out, couples must decide what to do next — whether it’s having one parent stay home full-time or leaving the baby with friends or relatives during the day, hiring a nanny or enrolling the child in daycare. It’s a good idea to start researching options and costs as early as possible.
4. Post-Birth Expenses
Diapers, healthcare, childcare, formula, clothing and so on are all very real costs involved with having a baby. You will need to adjust your budget to accommodate for your new addition, preferably well before your bundle of joy arrives. You’ll also want to keep saving for emergencies and other unexpected expenses. The New Parent Support Program under the Military Family Readiness System offers access to resources and education to help new military parents get started on the right foot.
5. Cost of Higher Education
It may seem crazy to start thinking about your child’s future education before the baby is even born, but college is expensive! However, as a member of the military, you may be eligible to transfer all or part of your GI Bill benefit to your children to cover some or all of their future education. Either way, it’s smart to set aside a fund sooner rather than later so that it can grow over time.
6. Life Insurance
If you don’t have a life insurance policy, it’s time to get one. Signing up for a life insurance plan is an important step in building your Family Care Plan, which can help protect your spouse and children during a period of separation. Some policies come with a small amount of coverage for your dependent children at no additional cost.
If you do already have life insurance, you’ll want to update your beneficiaries, as well as your will, to ensure your children are well taken care of if something were to happen to you and your spouse. You may also want to increase the amount of coverage you currently have or supplement with an additional policy to ensure both your spouse and your children will be provided for after you’re gone.
You may also consider purchasing a life insurance policy for your child. While no one anticipates the tragedy of losing a child, it is smart to be prepared for whatever life brings. Beyond providing for the financial aspects should the unthinkable happen, having a life insurance policy for your child has some practical advantages. For example, the younger the insured child is at the time a whole life policy is issued, the lower their insurance premiums will be, and that monthly rate never increases for the rest of their life. Whole life insurance also builds cash value, which can help give your child a financial jump on their future. Not to mention the assurance that they’ll always be covered, even if health issues arise later in life that prevent them from qualifying for life insurance.
AAFMAA Can Help You Handle the Financial Aspects of Military Family Planning
No matter when you decide to start a family, AAFMAA is here to help you along the way. From home buying to life insurance to wealth management, AAFMAA and its subsidiaries provide military couples with the financial confidence they need to start building a family and a secure financial future. Contact an AAFMAA Membership Coordinator today at 866-533-0521 to learn how we can help.