On Veterans Day, Talking Cents wants to focus specifically on veterans’ financial needs. Our credit counseling advice is to save for emergencies. Since 52% of enlisted personnel and 32% of officers reported not saving at all, let’s focus on saving for emergencies.
Tips for Saving: Veterans’ Financial Needs
Saving for emergencies is one of the most important financial steps anyone can take. However, veterans and military personnel should be even more focused on saving. An emergency fund can protect your current and future finances against unforeseen changes in residency, deployment, plus all the ordinary family and household money hits a budget can take.
How Much to Save an Emergency Fund
Starting an emergency fund begins with a plan. First thing is to calculate how much you spend every month. A good way to do this is to go over the past three months of bills and get a monthly average of your expenses. Expenses that should be included are:
- Mortgage or rent payments
- Insurance premiums
- Car expenses including gas and loan payments
- Discretionary spending
It’s important to be realistic, especially when it comes to discretionary expenses. Although it may be easy to cut back on dinners out or trips to the mall, cutting your “fun” spending completely will most likely not be possible.
Veterans’ financial needs, as well as those of active duty military personnel, might be a little more difficult to calculate if you have just ended your service, have relocated to another base or have a growing family. These kinds of factors can make your calculations more challenging. Do your best to make a good estimate for your family’s needs. Reach out for help if you need more guidance.
Building an Emergency Fund
There is no pressure to save your entire emergency fund in one day, week or month. This process can take several months to a few years depending on your income, budget and life events. As a veteran or military personnel, you will face certain life events that civilians don’t encounter. However, the general rules of saving remain the same. Many financial experts advise reducing or completely eliminating consumer debt before beginning an emergency fund. Although, many find that you can manage some debt and saving at the same time.
One way to grow your emergency fund is to automatically transfer 5-10% of every paycheck directly into your savings account. What you don’t see in your checking account, you won’t miss! On top of that, try to cut back on unnecessary expenditures. Maybe pack your lunch or make coffee instead of buying it. If you know you usually spend $30 per week on lunches and coffee, you can now use that money to build your emergency fund.
Financial Resources for Veterans
Consumercredit.com has a section specific veterans’ financial needs. ACCC’s Military & Veterans Financial Education Center offers multiple financial literacy resources for veterans and military personnel. These resources include:
- How to budget for deployment
- Military discounts
- Directory of other resources
Beyond these resources and Veterans Day discounts, it’s important to understand and adopt good habits of personal finance, like saving, budgeting and eliminating credit card debt.
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.