As military newlyweds, there are a handful more items on our checklist to make sure we’re all set for military life. Also, it seems like we all encounter unique, yet similar situations like unexpected separations, short order moves or whatever else the military can throw our way. My spouse got orders for an unaccompanied overseas tour, which escalated our wedding date. We got married in a courthouse a short two weeks before he was due to leave. That meant we had two weeks to make sure our finances were in order and ready for a yearlong separation. Immediately after our ceremony, we got the ball rolling.
Here’s what my spouse and I did to make sure we were squared away with organizing our finances before he left:
- Set up a Joint Checking Account
Even before we had rings on our fingers, we set up a joint checking and savings account with a bank that we can both access via the Internet. With USAA, you can establish fiancée joint accounts that of course easily transitioned to married accounts. We also like the other military benefits and had our car insurance with them too. It was a good fit for us, especially with all their online functionality. Luckily, there are great banking services out there tailored to military life. Research and shop around to see which one best fits your needs.
We also decided to keep our personal accounts, that way we are able to manage our own funds. Once we got married, we set-up a schedule to put our allotted military funds into our joint accounts. Every couple is different, so be sure you weigh pros and cons of your banking structure.
- Get Enrolled with DEERS
To make sure we were able to get the appropriate funds, we made sure I was entered into the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Without being in DEERS, I wouldn’t receive any of the military benefits, and it also allows my spouse to receive all the necessary pay for us. Make sure you keep all your DEERS information up-to-date to avoid any unexpected fees for Tricare, etc.
- Understand Your LES
My spouse (and all military members for that matter) use myPay to obtain their Leave and Earnings Statement (LES). In the LES, we were able to differentiate our Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) and Family Separation Allowance (FSA), which is given to families that are separated. A LES statement is important for military members to keep track of their finances. Not only does it include BAH, COLA and FSA, it lists base pay, federal/state tax amounts and all other deductions.
- Create a Spouse Account on myPay
My spouse created a limited access account for me on his myPay. This can be very beneficial for spouses to help set budgets and keep track of figures, especially if your service member isn’t within reach. It’s fairly simple to set up limited access.
To create a limited access account, log on to your myPay account, and at the very bottom of the list in the main menu, there is “Personal Settings Page.” Under Personal Settings, click “Limited Access Account (Create/Change/Delete)” to personal account. This is an easy way to stay on the same page.
- Make a Comprehensive Budget
Once we were both had access to the LES, we were able to calculate exact amounts for our joint accounts. We put all the BAH, COLA and FSA into our joint checking account to monitor together and we decided to budget a portion of the money into our joint savings.
In order to create a budget, we put all our financial obligations on the table. I still have remaining student loan debt and I’m using my own income to make sure that is on track. We also wanted to purchase cars when he arrived back. There were alot of little things we placed on our budget sheet.
Be sure to discuss all expenses with your spouse in order to set an appropriate budget for your circumstance because all couples are different. Also, remember to keep the line of communication open with your spouse when they are away because it is very critical (not just for your finances but for your relationship, too).
- Don’t Forget to Honeymoon!
Despite all the complexities with arranging your finances as a newlywed, don’t forget to celebrate your marriage! You may not have the time to long get-away soon after, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have your honeymoon later. Take the time to budget an overnight stay, weekend trip or save up for something bigger!
About the Author:
Rachel Tringali Marston is an Army spouse and daughter to an Air Force retiree. Rachel’s family settled in Texas and that’s where she calls home. Before getting married, she lived in New York City for almost 10 years and considers that her second home. Rachel enjoys learning and exploring the area around her husband’s duty station and is embracing life in the military. In her spare time, she shares her adventures on her personal blog called The Professional Army Wife.