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Paycheck Chronicles

Don't Touch That Money

When I go to military spouse events, a popular question is "If you had one piece of advice to tell a new military spouse, what would it be?"  My usual answer will be helpful to the person who wrote me today, asking what to do about a surprise pending deposit in her bank account.

Here is my advice: If you get a deposit that you aren't expecting, or if a paycheck is surprisingly large, do not touch that money!  Move it to a savings account and let it sit there until you are able to figure out why it is there and if it is correct.  There are mistakes made in payments all the time, and if your deposit is a mistake, the DOD is going to want it back eventually.  Most of the time, they want it all back pretty quickly, although they will set up a payment plan if it is a large amount.  No one wants to be surprised with a zero paycheck because of an accidental overpayment before.

If you find yourself with a surprisingly large balance in your account, and you don't know why, keep that money aside until you find out why it is there.  If it is correct, you will have the opportunity to use it once you verify that it is yours.  If it is incorrect, you will be glad to have the funds to repay Uncle Sam without being broke.

Of course, there are a million other pieces of advice I could have picked:

Start contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) now.

Be sure your spouse and you are both taking advantage of the low-cost Servicemember's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.

Start a transition fund now for when your spouse will eventually leave the military.

Stick with your own retirement savings through your job and/or an Individual Retirement Arrangement.

Of all the options, I choose that as  the single piece of advice because it is the choice that could take food off your table the soonest, not because it is more or less important than any other piece of advice.

What financial advice would you give a new military spouse?

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