Military Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves are going to happen whether you’re ready or not. Moving is simply a part of military life. You can make things a little bit easier on yourself by preparing not just your home and family ahead of time, but also your wallet.
Clay Stackhouse is a regional outreach manager for Navy Federal Credit Union, which sponsored season one of PCS with Military.com. In this sponsored episode, he shares some financial tips and tricks every military member should keep in mind while preparing for a military move, plus how Navy Federal Credit Union can help military members and their families get ready for whatever the next duty station brings.
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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of PCS with Military.com.
When it comes to your money, you can never, ever be too careful or too prepared. And that's especially true when it's time to move. Relocating is already stressful enough on its own. And all of the financial considerations can add just another layer of complicated challenges. And that's why we have Clay Stackhouse, a regional outreach manager with Navy Federal Credit Union with us today to talk through everything we need to know about keeping track of our money in and around PCSing. Clay has been with Navy Federal since 2015, and served in the Marine Corps for 25 years. That makes him the perfect person to talk to on this subject. Clay, welcome to PCS With Military.com.
Clay Stackhouse 1:39
Thank you, Amy. I'm so happy to be here. It's good to talk to you.
Amy Bushatz 1:44
So you were in the Marine Corps for a long time. Tell us, how many times have you moved, with or without the military?
Clay Stackhouse 1:52
So do you know I was so excited to come and talk to you all about this because now that I've been out for a little while, and my wife and I look back on the things that we did when we were in the service, it's kind of mind-blowing. I think we did 11 moves in 25 years. And I mean, it, they were some good moves; there was some moves that we could have hoped we did over again. But I'm really excited to share some of the insights and overwhelmingly remind people that you know, that once you have a plan, and financially you're situated and everything, these moves can be fun, especially with your children. Once you get into the groove, you cooperate with your partner, and you, and you, you just accept the fact that this is a fact of life. And we're going to get after it as a family like so many military families do. I know you know all about that, Amy. But once you do that, I think it can be fun.
Amy Bushatz 2:50
Oh, yeah. Join the military, see the world, as they say? Yeah, OK, so I find there are sort of two types of people when it comes to this subject: those who hate talking about their finances, and just, like, avoid making eye contact as much as possible. And though like with it, and those that love talking about it, because they have a very specific plan. I feel like you, given your line of work, might be the latter and the fact that you were a Marine. You love a plan. Right.
Clay Stackhouse 3:22
I mean, you know, I know that your family is involved in the military. And you all would understand that you never really do anything without a plan. I mean, could you imagine? Hey, guys, we're gonna take that hill over there. And let's just see how it goes. You know, nobody would do that. So when you do something as important as moving with your family, of course, you're going to have a plan. Now, I'm not saying that spontaneity isn't fun. Of course it is. You can be spontaneous. But I mean, Amy, let's face it, spontaneity is a little more fun when you have some cash in your pocket.
Amy Bushatz 3:54
So at the risk of being too simple, what is the importance of having a specifically a financial plan?
Clay Stackhouse 4:01
Right? So obviously, there's people out there who are what you called, you know, don't want to talk about finances and are thinking, well, I don't have a plan. I haven't had a plan. You know, and I have to worry about what I have to worry about now. And the situation I'm in. Hey, look, that's fine, too. The first step, you know, for any plan, you got to get with people you trust, right? We want to get with a financial organization we trust. And when I say that, I'm not just talking about is, you know, I deal with the Guard a lot in my area is Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. And I talked to some people, let's say in rural Mississippi who go yeah, I know, Jim, up at First National, I trust him. But that's not what I'm talking about. When I'm talking about trusting a financial institution. I'm talking about, you know, their their online ability, their security as an institution, right? Are they going to charge me fees? Are they getting interest on my account? So when I start people, talking to people about that first step, Amy, about selecting somebody who you trust, you really need to get specific about the type of institution, you know, you choose. And then once you do that, and you understand what accounts to open and everything, you get a budget, you can start that, Amy, whether you're kind of in trouble now, or whether you've been doing it for a long time. So the military does have a lot of programs and things that you can use once you PCS, I mean, there are advanced pay things that that's a different topic and something that you probably only want to use in extremis. But what I'm saying is, there's a lot of people out there who want to help you. Right? You have that plan to say, how important is it to have a financial plan? Well, that is fundamentally important, not just for a PCS, but for any time, I'll share a quick story, if I can, what I call her the lovely and talented, my wife of 29 years now, I think we when we moved each time we got to a location, we would get these pickle jars. And I would come home from work and I would put change from my pocket into the pickle jar and we would fill up the pickle jar. And then when it came time to move, we take whatever money was in the pickle jar and go to the children and go look, we have this amount of money to go do something whatever because we're moving, which would link the move to something fun. And it's interesting, as we've talked to the kids, they're they're almost out of high school. Now, as we talk. And we say remember at this point, we went to Chucky cheese. And then after this move, you know we went zip lining. And then after this move you guys wanted to go paragliding. So it's interesting how you can kind of trace the growing up, of your children to the PCSes as you do that. But that was that was just a little, a little trick that the lovely and talented came up with which you know, we had a plan, we had some extra cash on hand and we were making it fun.
Right, right. And it all comes back to like you said, having that plan and knowing that you have enough money on end to cover what you need, and then also have that padding to really create those memories as you're going. You know, we've heard the figure in another episode that the average unreimbursed out of pocket costs for a military move is about 5000 bucks. And that figure was compiled by our friends over at the Military Family Advocacy Network MFAN through their survey. So that means you need some spending cash around a move more for some folks, less for others, right? Because it's an average. So tell us like from a real practical perspective, what do you recommend people have in their accounts in terms of a PCS fund?
Clay Stackhouse 7:48
Right, so Cpl. Smith, and Lieutenant, Lieutenant General Jones are going to differently, right. But for one, we think an 80/20. Right? When you set up, I talked about a financial institution of trust, I talked about opening the right accounts. And then once you get a budget that you adhere to, if you've kept about 20% of your pay, and put it away into savings up to a point and then starting to invest in and you use 80% for your everyday expenses, we think that's going to yield something that you're going to be able to fall back on. Because, you know, I remember coming up into actually, we moved here to Pensacola, and the house wasn't ready. And then all of a sudden, everything had to go into storage. And some things they didn't want to put into storage. Or I could make I couldn't move a truck and I had to pay out of pocket to move a pickup truck from the National Capital Region down here. Those are things I didn't expect. So you're absolutely right. That's something that goes back down to that, that fundamental plan that people need to think of. Right away, actually. So if you haven't, that's what I'm telling everybody listening. If you haven't done that yet, I mean, at Navy Federal, we would love to have you we have we even have free financial planners that are that work on on salary, who will help you with your investments and things like that. But fundamentally, you got to get that sound plan where you have a little backup, you have a little cushion. And when you're rolling down the road, you're going to be able to take care of some of those expenses that as you said, are inevitably going to pop up.
Amy Bushatz 9:26
Right, right. So what I hear you saying are is have a plan, stick to the plan and get help making the plan.
Clay Stackhouse 9:35
Yeah, and and see that, you know, I'm probably so I'm a retired colonel with 25 years and I thought I was doing things pretty well and I probably, as truth be told, did not take as much advantage of the help that was out there for me. So reach out to your financial institution, financial institution. Reach out to the financial planners and tell them. Because you're right, a lot of people don't like to talk about their finances, it's embarrassing, or they didn't talk about it as families. You know, that's okay. I actually, I wrote something for Navy Federal, it's, it's published talking about financial fundamentals will always work. Good financial fundamentals will always work. And it's, it's like that house, you know, that you, I'll huff and puff and blow my house down. If it if you've got a good brick, fundamental, financial financial foundation for your life, then things are going to come easier, and you're going to be able to make investment decisions and things like that. So take advantage of them and don't be reluctant to reach out.
So let's get even more practical because I love being practical on the PCS with Military.com podcast. Talk to us about, like the steps and practicalities of developing a financial plan around a PCS. What do people need to be thinking about?
Clay Stackhouse 11:03
So yeah, we keep falling back on that financial institution, it's it, it really becomes interesting to me as I talk to people from the Guard who don't really realize there's organizations out there like Navy Federal who are gonna be overseas with you. I mean, there's a good online presence that you need to deal with. But not only that, places like a Navy Federal has 184 branches near military installations. I mean, we're all all over the place overseas. And they're, you know, being able to I remember going to the Navy Federal in Rota, Spain when we were coming back from a med float. But yeah, I think the biggest problem is people don't realize, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna need some spending cash here beforehand. So if you just stumble up onto the PCS and think, Okay, well, let's go, then you're going to run into using your credit card, and that's going to be tough, right? Spending, the money we don't have at high interest rates is not what we're looking for. So when you have that good savings to fall back on, and you have some cash, and you've planned this out, then you can just boop. Take it out of the debit machine or write a nice check, right and get the the fee done. And also, I mean, the military. We're actually focusing on the challenges, Amy, but remember, the military does kind of bend over backwards to try and help. So ensure you understand the things that in a PCS, right, moving expenses are tax deductible, make sure you know those things. When you to move your personal goods and everything. Make sure that you know any advances you can get, and you know what receipts you need to save, and don't go into it willy nilly. I know it sounds I keep getting back to the same thing, Amy, but if you don't have that solid plan, you're going to fall back on doing things like not saving your receipts. You know, not taking advantage of all the things that are out there for you using credit cards that you're gonna end up paying off at a high interest. And that's how people get themselves in trouble. That is what we want to avoid.
Amy Bushatz 13:12
Right. So I want to go back real fast to to something you two things you just said actually, first is about Navy Federal locations. You noted that we that you have almost 200 of those bad boys. I remember seeing one outside the gate at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. And that made me think of the fact that hey, the word Navy might be in the title but it's not just for Navy folk. So you don't need to be a sailor or even a marine to use Navy Federal Of course, it's open to to all branches, right and guard and reserve?
Clay Stackhouse 13:47
All branches Guard Reserve veterans and their families. That's why we exist. I mean, all day every day. We were called Navy Federal because we started in 1933 in DC with some Navy guys, but we have since grown I mean growth is a touchstone of Navy Federal. Do you know that we have over 10 million members, we're the largest credit union in the world right now. Which pulls us to deliver you know, those products and services that are in my opinion a perk of military service It is my honor actually after getting out and serving with those people that I just love the people who said I will support defend the constitution United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Those are my guys and gals and when I go out there and able to help them even a small thing like getting that good financial future set up for them. It's something you know it it makes me happy it makes me know that I'm I'm helping who I consider the good guys I know your husband is an infantry officer, I used to fly helicopters and I like to say I'm done chasing the bad guys and now I'm helping the good guys and the good guys are those military veterans that family and in Navy Federal members out there who we just bend over backwards every day to try and help. Yeah.
Amy Bushatz 15:05
So the second thing I want to talk about was exactly that. So, a little while ago, you talked about having access through Navy Federal to somebody who can help with that financial plan. So I'm wondering if you could actually talk a little bit more about what someone like that can do. So if I'm a Navy Federal Credit Union member, I pick up the phone, I call you guys I set up a flare, I walk into a branch, and I say, help me. What happens next?
Clay Stackhouse 15:33
No, Amy, I love the way you I love the way you said that, because that's exactly right. You can do it online, you can dial 888-842-6328, 24 hours a day, right? If you're lucky enough now, you said almost 200, those are near military bases, we have over 300 branches, you can probably walk into, right? Those are ways you can do it. But you know, you show that you are eligible for membership, if you're not already a member, right? And just starts from there in plain language, say, hey, look, I'm in financial trouble, I want to talk to a financial advisor, you can make an appointment. And that's just that's covered in your membership. Like I said, our accounts yield interest. We have guys like me who roam around in different areas of the country, talking to people because that it's fundamental, you know, they were teaching me in the Marine Corps, we recruit the Marine, though we retain the family. Because if the family is not happy, you know, people are not going to are not going to stay well, I think we kind of feel the same way at Navy Federal, I mean, we bend over backwards to ensure we're helping them financially and coming up with that plan. And I'm, I'm not telling you, you know, we're we're doing some crazy day trading and we're doing I'm just talking about a solid financial plan that will give you the confidence to embark upon something that you're gonna have to do like a PCS with joy to where you can take your family, get your little jar, your pickle jar full of change, and hit the road with the lovely and talented like I did, you know, and just pull off the side of the road and maybe, you know, I don't know, have some fried pickles and and cokes and have fun with the family. And that's how we did.
Amy Bushatz 17:19
Yeah, Clay Do I hear that you like pickles, because that's the second time in one statement you mentioned pickles and pickle jars. Pickle fan?
Clay Stackhouse 17:29
Perhaps they play a larger role in my life than I then I was aware of.
Amy Bushatz 17:35
Let's pull over for a break to thank our sponsor, PCs with military comm is brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union, they might be called Navy Federal, but they don't exclusively serve sailors serving all members of the armed forces, they have the products and resources to help support you with your next move. So even if you can't tell port from starboard, they'll still help you learned about mortgages and auto loans, Learn more at Navy federal.org. Navy Federal Credit Union, our members are the mission. An Equal Housing lender. Now, back to the show.
So I love your your optimism and your practicality. One of the things we do here on PCS with Military.con that anyone who's listened to any of the episodes now is really break things down in a way that helps people not make mistakes, or really make the best of their PCS, their PCS move so in the spirit of that can you talk to us about maybe the biggest financial mistake you see individuals make around PCS so that we can you know, not do that?
Clay Stackhouse 18:51
Yeah, Amy I think it's the credit card thing. And which which goes back to the plan. Right if you have the plan and you have the basic fundamentals squared away and you have some money put away and you understand all of the benefits that you get from the military, but it boils down any financial plan Amy as you know as military spouse is just not spending money you don't have right especially money you don't have a high interest rate. So whereas we do have credit cards that Navy Federal and we know you need to use credit in order to compile a credit score there's a responsible way to do that there's there's things that we we talked to you about at Navy Federal pride about how you pay things off but the bottom line Amy is if you go into it without a plan you're going to probably spend money don't have a high interest rate. And that's what we want to avoid that's what we want to help you with.
Amy Bushatz 19:48
Right so and that looks like you know i i keep I'm guilty of often keeping my credit card just in my pocket right just like I leave the wallet behind entirely and I carry that bad boy because it It scans it inserts and yeah, like I don't even have to think about it right? It's just in my pocket. This, by the way is not a good strategy. Guys don't do this because it leads to you losing your credit card a lot, often under the seat of your car. So
Clay Stackhouse 20:15
Amy you can do that with a debit card though, right? And just use it like it's, uh, you know, I'm an old guy, but like, it's a checkbook, you know, you can where it comes directly out of the account. And that's what I would suggest.
Little tip for Amy. I like it. All right. I see you're helping me now, I appreciate that. Well, so okay with that, too. But what I was gonna say is like, the fact that it's so easy and thoughtless, right? So using a debit card instead, as you just said, would, you know, make that take the thoughtless process out. But when I'm PCSing when I'm moving, you know, inevitably I'm setting up my home, I'm finding that all the you know, movers broke all of my glasses, we need glasses right now, theoretically, I will be reimbursed for that later. Theoretically, I have been given a cash advance that, you know, dislocation allowance, DLA, which is essentially a cash advance to pay for stuff like this. But nobody's watching the store to make sure I didn't also buy 15 new dog beds or 15 new dogs, right? Sure. So I whip out my credit card, I'm buying my glasses. And the same thing goes for every other thing. And that stuff. Just, I mean, it's just plain adds up.
Clay Stackhouse 21:28
Yeah, of course it does. And once you get down, so I'll share with you I have twins who are teenagers, right. And as a teenager, we live down downtown here in Pensacola. And there's a lot of festivals, especially before the pandemic, they go downtown and they'd say, Daddy can have some cash for this, daddy can have some cash for that. Before you know it, I'm just bleeding cash. And so we got them a debit card, linked to campus, checking at Navy Federal when they were younger, and then they would swipe the card, right? And then we would get the statement and I would sit down with the children. And I'd say, Well, you know, what about this? What about this? What about this, it was a great opportunity to sit and talk as a family. Because eventually you're going to have to talk about finances, you're going to have to wrestle down some discipline, just like you did in the military. Right? All the military people didn't just join the military, knowing how to about face and salute and say, Yes, sir, yes, ma'am. And all that you had to learn. So understand, you're gonna have to do that and in financially as well. And you're gonna have to teach your children that we've made it fun, right? So when they swipe the card, and it says no funds available, they're gonna realize why. Because we didn't put X amount of money into their campus checking, but it's a it's a way for us to educate them, so that they can go on and make responsible decisions.
Amy Bushatz 22:57
Oh, I love that. That's such good advice. And it, it doesn't have to be a hard conversation, right? It just has to be a planned conversation goes back to our theme, right? That you are making that happen and that you're having, having those discussions with your kids, I have opened some accounts for my for my kids at a local place. Because I wanted that we don't have a Navy Federal location near my house, and I wanted them to be able to walk in there and, and do their accounts. But on this theme, you know, it's meant that they are thinking about how much money they have in their account. And you know, putting their birthday money in it or whatever, my, my guys are a little bit younger. They're 12 and 9, so they Yyah, so they're just learning. Right? But what's so funny is that I have found myself borrowing cash from my kids, right? Yes.
Clay Stackhouse 23:54
Amy, I'll bet you they're gonna be able to use our online mobile app. Better than you or I can. It's right there on your phone. You know, I mean, it's I get and it is nice walking into a place and I know you're in Alaska. But it's amazing what you can do online. Well, this podcast, I'm in Pensacola in your in Alaska, and we're just getting after it. So yeah, we have them too.
Amy Bushatz 24:20
Yeah, absolutely. But you know, they they all have cash on hand that's destined for their account and, and I find myself with no cash. And yeah, that I right, okay, there's that and then. And then I'm thinking, you know, squirreling away five bucks here five bucks there from my, from my sons to, you know, Hey, I'll pay you back. Do you have five extra dollars you know? Yeah, that's become that's become real life around here. It's almost like I could see my future.
So there so there you go. Okay. So talk to us like we've been talking about you mentioned the accounts you have for your kids, you mentioned that we have these app tools that I could be using for mine, and I'm slacking over here, talk to us about maybe some of the underutilized PCS specific or not financial tools, people might just like forget about or simply not know about kind of like I did with the app right now.
Clay Stackhouse 25:22
There are as as I would, and all the people listening who are kind of more seasoned military members know as you as you come along, and you you're training the younger members, a lot of times just that attention to detail about how they do their job, or how you do an inspection, or the the amount of attention to detail that that's required to get something done correctly, right. So when I say I alluded to earlier, Hey, you got to get an institution you trust, right? There, you need to really drill down about that, what does that mean an institution that you trust, and it's not just, I know, Jimmy, who works at that bank, you need to look at what they offer, because you're going to become an international man of mystery or woman of mystery, as you join the military, because, you know, the United States military is the greatest military in the history of the world. And we are all over the world. Right? So you're going to, you're going to need that security, you're going to need that online banking, you're going to need branches, you know, in Spain, or Korea or Japan like we have. So you're going to really need to drill down and understand financially, how an organization can help you, right? And to do that, and you select one, hey, think about it simply, right? I've grabbed who it is I want to go with financially, you know, I know the right accounts to open, I'm going to start a budget, and then I'm going to learn to invest. It's, it's not complicated. As you said, Amy is just difficult to do. Because there's so many, so many easy ways to spend money you don't have or they end up doing things at a high interest rate, you know, so in with your partner, I know, we've talked about your relationship with your husband, me with the lovely and talented, it needs to be a joint effort together, the family as you move through this, right, helping one another in understanding what's out there and taking advantage of it and make a concerted effort to say, you know what, let's stop even for half an hour, 20 minutes, stop and make a concerted effort to talk about it for a little while, you'll be surprised the results that that will yield.
Amy Bushatz 27:46
Yeah. And you mentioned, you know, we've talked quite a bit about our kids on this episode. And it occurs to me, while you're while you're speaking, just now that so many military kids end up joining the military themselves. I mean, it's a really kind of shockingly high rate that I don't know, off the top of my head, but I remember being really surprised. Um, and I mean, you know, sitting here with a nine and 12 year old, I cannot imagine that being a thing, but it is. And so having a, you know, having a family history with a specific type of financial institution that then does have those considerations and then can be passed to your kids choose an example as something to use, maybe they even already have accounts set up for them, like we just read earlier. It's just, I mean, it just sets everybody up for success.
Clay Stackhouse 28:39
And Amy, don't think for a second I've, you know, I'm realizing there's a lot of people listening who are maybe on their first tour, maybe about to you know, they're single about to embark upon their first PCS. And I'd say to them, Look, this can be a pretty, this can be a pretty simple evolution, you know, you have the the ability to do a DITY move, which I did when I was first in the military, just kind of put everything in a u haul, and move it yourself and you can go from barracks to barracks or ship to ship eat in the chow hall. That is what I preach with those, you know, like junior enlisted, who I just graduated from high school and now here I am in the military. Make your life pretty. A lot of the distractions you had beforehand. I mean, think about it an Amy you have your medical your dental paid for right if you can have your lodging paid for uniforms issued to you, right? You can eat In the chow hall, which I love chow hall food and it gets better and better every day have some I'm an old fleet Marine, but especially my goodness, some of the food on the Navy ships. I'll tell you what, shout out some of those Navy chiefs now to put together some chili Mac, I'll tell you but yeah, so I'm not. You're right. You and I both have families and there's, you know, it does tend to get a little more complex. But, you know, for those guys and gals who are just now doing their first PCS, or on their first tour, look, come on over. We have a lot of help for you all, too. And I want to make sure that they know that.
Amy Bushatz 30:15
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for that. So walk us out. Now with a few. Just like, like we said, We'd love practical here. So just really practical tips for getting through a PCS with our wallets and our sanity intact. Yeah, just give us some things that folks can do. Right. This hot second.
Clay Stackhouse 30:34
Sure. By the numbers. Military, right.
Amy Bushatz 30:37
Yeah. Give it even if maybe they're like listening to this while they're already on the road, because that's the thing, right? Listen to a podcast while you're driving. So give us just walk us out with some practical tips.
Clay Stackhouse 30:48
Okay. Yeah, I'd say obviously, if they're on the road, now, it's, it's, once you get to your stopping point, get to a plan. So whatever point you're in, you need a plan. Right? So first off, I'd say, let's have a plan for doing this right to honestly. And I know you understand this, Amy, do it with joy. I mean, no, they call it the service. Do something to make it fun, as you know, Mr. pickle jar guy. And that may be that made me funny, but it was a way we we made it. joyous, right? And then three, and you can do this I don't know, is it 90 days? I don't quote me. But up until after the move, ensure you know, all the things that are out there for you to take advantage of. All right. So that plan that it's never too late to get to, two do it with joy, like hopefully, you're doing everything in the military, you know, and then three, ensure there's a lot that the military does a lot to try and reimburse you to make sure but but if you don't have the receipts, right, and you didn't put in for the right things that gets back to that plan stuff, it's going to be more difficult. So I'd say plan, joy, benefits. How's that?
Amy Bushatz 32:03
Yeah. Oh, so good. It's good Clay. That's how it is?
Clay Stackhouse 32:08
Amy Bushatz 32:10
Yeah, I'm happy too and hopefully, our, hopefully our listeners are just walking away from this knowing that, you know, it, finances can seem a little bit daunting, they can be a little bit scary. But there's folks out here with the expertise and the tools really, to help you make it less scary, less daunting, and you know, even enjoyable and in a lot of ways. So thank you so much for offering that to us. Thank you so much for being on PCS with Military.com today, we appreciate you.
Clay Stackhouse 32:38
Thank you, Amy.