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How to Make Your Money Work Harder For You When You’re Deployed

Saving money should always be a priority, even when you’re deployed.

Luckily, it may be easier than you think.

The majority of Americans aren’t doing any sort of savings. In fact, a recent March 2019 Bankrate survey showed 1 in 5 working Americans aren’t saving anything at all.

That’s a problem, especially if a true emergency like a leaking roof, blown transmission, or other life emergency happens. Most financial experts agree you should have at least 6 months of savings built up.

As an active duty service member, you have even more options to make your money work harder for you — even when you’re deployed.

In reality, deployments should actually be the time when you can save the most since you’re getting special deployment pay without much time to spend it!

Here’s a look at how you can save money for a rainy day, and then some:

Take Advantage of Special & Incentive Pay

Next time you receive your LES (Leave and Earnings Statement), take a look at any special and incentive pay you’re receiving. There are more than 60 S&I pay types.

The most popular are listed below:

  • Hardship Duty Pay (HDP): Up to $150 per month
  • Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay (HFP/IDP): $225 per month
  • Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP): Up to $3000 per month
  • Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP): Between $150-$240

While it’s tempting to splurge, especially when you’re on liberty or have a day pass in unique locations, consider saving this pay instead.

Military Savings Deposit Program (SDP)

This Department of Defense (DoD) sponsored savings account offers qualified deployed military 10% interest on their deposit up to $10,000.

It’s officially known as the DoD Savings Deposit Program (SDP).

To qualify, you must receive hostile fire pay for a minimum of 30 consecutive days, or 1 day in three consecutive months. You may deposit part or all of your paychecks into this account.

The important question: When do you get your money?

Upon leaving the combat zone that qualifies you for SDP, your account will be closed and all funds returned by direct deposit 120 days later. If needed, you can withdraw funds earlier.

This fantastic program began during the Vietnam War, then was retired. It was started again in 1991 and has been expanded several times since then.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

This plan is available to everyone in the military regardless of rank or station. It’s also not just for when you’re deployed. TSP is an easy way to add to your retirement savings at any time.

What’s it all about?  

  • It’s a lot like a 401K (pre-tax contributions from paychecks)
  • Open to military and employees of the federal government
  • You can contribute 1 to 100% of bonus pay, incentive pay, or special pay. You must contribute from your basic pay, though.
  • You can’t contribute from housing or subsistence allowances

Check out the TSP online calculators to see how much you should invest and how much your investments will grow. It’s an easy way to save for retirement without really thinking about it.

Pause Car Insurance

If your vehicle will be parked and unused while you’re deployed, contact your insurance agent to determine if you can lower your coverage while you’re away. You’ll also want to make sure your car insurance doesn’t lapse while you’re away, otherwise your rates could go up the next time you go to renew.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

While this act doesn’t necessarily earn you money, it does protect your money. Established in 2003 by President Bush, this act was designed to ease financial burdens on service members during their military service years.

Benefits include:

  • 6% cap on interest rates for debt incurred prior to military service
  • Residential lease termination, both pre-service and due to deployment or PCS
  • Auto lease termination (if certain qualifications are met)
  • Postpones some tax deadlines
  • Terminate cell and/or landline phone contracts (certain conditions apply)

The SCRA is quite comprehensive, and not all the benefits are listed here. For more information on what’s covered under the SCRA, visit your installation’s legal office. You can also find more details here.

Maintain Control of Your Money

Other than a trusted spouse, you should be the only person who has access to your money. If you don’t have a significant other, use autopay to pay your bills while you’re deployed.

Unfortunately, there are stories of active duty military members’ accounts being cleaned out by people they trusted to handle their financial affairs while deployed.

When possible, keep a daily or weekly eye on your bank accounts.

Check for fraudulent activity and report it immediately to your banking institution. This can be a pain to handle when overseas, but do your best and keep a paper trail of emails when contacting your bank. It will come in handy when you need to dispute transactions.

You work hard for your money — especially your deployment pay — so make it work hard for you when you can. With a little discipline and dedication, you can build a comfortable checking, savings, and retirement account to get you through the years to come.

What savings tips do you have for fellow recruits? Share in the comments below!

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