Monthly Archives: February 2013

Military Saves: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

Military Saves: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.The theme for Military Saves Week 2013 is more than just a theme; it’s the essence of a sound approach to savings, designed to help individuals take financial action. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then automating the savings process will allow you to reach your savings goal.

Set a Goal

You can save more by having a specific goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to spend your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car? Go viral with your savings goal! Take a photo of your goal and post it on our Association’s Facebook page or tweet it using the hashtag #MSW2013.

Make a Plan

Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference.
Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.

Save Automatically

It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Use an allotment or automatically transfer a portion of your paycheck into a savings account.

We want to hear from you! Have you already set a goal? Made a plan or budget? Do you save automatically? Share what has worked for your family.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military Saves Week: Starting to save

Military Saves Week: Starting to saveI remember when my husband and I made our first concerted effort to save. He had just left for his first deployment and I decided I wanted to sign up for the Savings Deposit Program (SDP). Fresh off a pre-deployment brief, I wanted to put my newly found knowledge to good use and take advantage of this great savings opportunity.

A military member can deposit funds into a SDP account once he or she has been deployed for 30 days. The military member must be receiving Hostile Fire Pay. A total of $10,000 may be deposited during each deployment and will earn 10% interest annually. This sounded like an attractive option for us.

Although my intentions were good, we didn’t get a chance to set up the account before my husband deployed. I went to our local finance office and learned I would need a special power of attorney to set up the SDP account on my husband’s behalf. (My general power of attorney wouldn’t work.)

I didn’t let this setback derail us from our long-term savings plans. Instead, I researched products available through military banks and credit unions and settled on a money market account. Every other week I would take my paper paycheck (yes, I worked for a small employer who did not use direct deposit) and deposit half of my paycheck into our new money market account. I calculated that about half of my paycheck was the additional funds we received while my husband was deployed, which included the family separation allowance, hostile fire pay, and tax benefit.

By the end of the deployment, we had a good savings foundation! The most valuable lesson we learned was about financial discipline and how to save money. We successfully accounted for savings in our budget. It was no longer an afterthought, but a regular habit.

During Military Saves Week I encourage you to take the saver’s pledge and put that pledge into action.

My husband and I are faithful savers today. I look forward to the messages I receive from the Military Saves campaign in order to help find new ways to save and to stay on track.

What helped your family start to save?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association and blogger at www.MilitaryFamilyCents.com, where this post originally appeared

5 Easy Ways to Get Involved in Military Saves Week and Save Successfully

5 Easy Ways to Get Involved in Military Saves Week and Save SuccessfullyMilitary Saves Week (February 25 – March 2, 2013) is a chance for individuals to evaluate their saving status, take financial action to reach goals, and become part of a supportive environment of military savers. Everyone can take the Military Saves pledge, and if you’ve pledged in the past, you can renew your pledge and commitment to saving. Studies reveal that having a savings plan with specific goals can have beneficial financial effects, regardless of income level.

Here are 5 easy ways to get involved in Military Saves Week:

1. Take the Military Saves Pledge 
Pledge or re-pledge today! Those with a savings plan are twice as likely to save for emergencies and retirement as those without a plan. Join over 310,000 people who have already committed to save.

2. Assess Your Savings
Find out if you are saving in all the right places with this 12 step savings assessment.

3. Test Your Savings Knowledge
Take this savings quiz to reveal how much you understand about the realities of saving in America.

4. Share Savings Tips and Advice with Family and Friends
On Twitter and Facebook? Share your pledge and your best savings and financial tips with your family and friends. On Twitter, use hashtag #MSW2013. Get everyone to become a saver!

5. Share Your Savings Goal
We want to hear from you! What are you saving for? Post or tweet a photo of you with your savings goal to Facebook or Twitter. Download the “I’m Saving For…” sign and share your photo and savings goal today!

Military Saves Week is coordinated by Military Saves and is part of the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign. Started in 2007, Military Saves Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to evaluate their own saving status.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association 

10 years and 4 stars: “It’s a matter of trust”

National Military Family Association - 4 Star CharityWhen choosing an organization to support, donors tell me over and over again “it’s a matter of trust.”

The phone calls I receive as a fundraiser usually start like this: “I was researching an organization on Charity Navigator and saw that the charity is not using donations for the things they say they are. I saw your name and top rating, and decided I would donate to you instead.” Each time I hear that, it reinforces how important it is that our donors trust in us, and that we continue to earn that trust.

We devote a great deal of time and energy tracking our funds and reporting the impact our donors have on military families. If something works well, we expand it. If it doesn’t, we go back to the drawing board to make it better. We strive to do things as efficiently as possible, without lowering the high standards we owe to the military families who rely on us. This commitment over decades of service has helped us develop and nurture trusting relationships with our donors.

As a result of our hard work, the National Military Family Association recently received Charity Navigator’s coveted 4-Star rating for our 10th consecutive year. Charity Navigator is America’s largest and most-used independent evaluator – or “watchdog” – of charities. We’re proud to be among the 1% of charities rated that have ever received 10 or more straight years of this top rating.

We strive to be good stewards of the trust placed in us by military families and donors who want to help. Our Executive Director, Joyce Raezer said it best: “Military families are our Nation’s families, and it is our duty to protect and serve them, as they do for us on a daily basis. We look forward to continuing our mission in 2013 and encourage all Americans to take part in it with us.”

To our donors – a big “thank you” for your ongoing support and trust. We realize that there are so many worthy causes you can support. We’re grateful you choose to put your trust in us and make your donation to our Association. If you’re looking for a charity worthy of your support, learn more about our Association and check out our rating on Charity Navigator. I look forward to speaking with you!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

MyMilitaryLife app for military families – updates and a new look!

MyMilitaryLife app for military families - updates and a new look!Have you seen the new updates to MyMilitaryLife? We now offer four new Life Paths—Raising Kids, Having a Baby, Moving, and Reintegration. Remember to answer the new questions that pop up when you visit these Life Paths and be sure to regularly update your profile information in order to have customized content available to you and your family. The more you fill out your profile, the better MyMilitaryLife can tailor information to your life.

In addition to four new Life Paths, we’ve also been working on a new look for the App! The new design features a swipe action and larger images to make it easier to navigate and discover the answers you’ve been looking for. Just swipe your finger right to left to progress to the next Life Path. Once in a Life Path look to the top left of the screen for easy access to the menu that includes your profile, favorites, alerts, help, and a shortcut to other Life Paths.

To get the latest look and additional Life Paths be sure to update your MyMilitaryLife App today. Android users will see the app updates automatically, but iPhone users must manually update the MyMilitaryLife App.

If you loved the old design, don’t worry – in the upper right hand corner of the App is an option to go back to the previous look. Personally, I love the new look and how user friendly it is to swipe from one Life Path to the next.

If you haven’t downloaded MyMilitaryLife, do so today to receive personalized to-do lists to help you navigate the many adventures of military life. MyMilitaryLife is available for free on Android, iPhone, and an online portal at www.MyMilitaryLife.org.

What do you love most about the new upgrade?

simmoneBy Simmone Quesnell, Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife at the National Military Family Association

Celebrating Presidents

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Whether you have the day off or not, join us in celebrating the eight presidents the Association has worked with since it was founded in 1969. During this year’s Inauguration we reviewed our work during the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Sr., Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Check it out if you missed it the first time!

Do you have a favorite president? Who is it and why?

How the Five Love Languages saved a military marriage

Guest Post: The Five Love Languages - National Military Family Association blogValentine’s Day is the one day each year designated to celebrate love. For many, it’s highly anticipated. The chocolates, the flowers, the romantic, dim-lit dinners without kids—all something we (especially women) look forward to. Who doesn’t love romance and attention? Unfortunately, our relationships and marriages are not always in the best condition so to speak. If you are like me, the military lifestyle began to put my marriage through the ringer. Not on purpose, of course, but deployments, crazy hours, and TDYs certainly didn’t help. As the military lifestyle started wearing on me, both my husband and I let it wear on our marriage. Communication ceased and left us living like roommates with our marriage tearing at the seams.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to receive assistance on the Oprah show from Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, a New York Times bestseller. His insight on relationships and marriages is brilliant. With the help of Dr. Chapman, my husband and I were able to see what was tearing us apart and obtain the skills to piece our marriage back together.

We all need to be loved and have certain ways that we express our love, but the problem is that your spouse might not feel loved by the way you show it. Most likely, you are not speaking their individual love language, you are speaking yours. Have you ever gone to another country and the people spoke a different language and it became frustrating when you could not communicate effectively? That is how it is in our relationships. We normally use our own love language to communicate love and affection even if it isn’t necessarily our spouse’s love language. This approach can leave you tired and frustrated – I know it did that to me! But there is hope.

Dr. Chapman says there are five love languages that we use:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

His book teaches you how to speak your spouse’s love language, and who doesn’t want to learn how to make their relationship with their spouse better? It can be fun and exciting learning how to relate to your spouse, especially if their love language is physical touch (wink, wink). With the help of Dr. Chapman, my husband and I are now better able to communicate. We can’t let the lifestyle that we military spouses endure affect our marriage!

Learn your spouse’s love language and how to express it to him or her. Marriage is beautiful and coming together for a common purpose with a partner that loves and cherishes you is incredible. It is a rocky road sometimes, but learning how to communicate effectively will make your marriage stronger and unstoppable. Speak one another’s language and feel the success in your marriage that will come from it.

Do you know what your love language is?

Guest Post by Amber Turner, Air Force spouse, hippyfitmom.com

Military spouses with professional licenses: we need your feedback to improve the process

Military spouses with professional licenses: we need  your feedbackWe all know it – between frequent moves, maintaining the household during a service member’s deployment, and providing strength and support to the entire family, military spouses make sacrifices every day. Their service to this country is invaluable and such an important part of the success of our military.

These sacrifices often include a spouse’s career. We often hear that many of you face career challenges due to frequent moves, especially with professions that require a license.

The National Military Family Association has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense State Liaison Office to address state licensing issues to ensure military spouses can pursue their careers regardless of the number of times they have to move. We were asked to reach out to see if state legislation has impacted your professional career in a positive way. If you have a story or experience to share, tell us the following information:

  • What is your spouse’s branch of Service?
  • What is your professional affiliation?
  • Have you applied for a license in your current state using new legislation? Which state?
  • Have you benefited from spouse licensing state legislation?
  • Was it a positive experience? If so, please tell us why!

We look forward to sharing your positive experiences with state legislators so more states can support military spouse career portability!

To obtain more information about state-specific licensing, review our 50 State Licensing Chart and see where your state stands.

Military families and Earned Income Tax Credit – what you need to know

Military families and Earned Income Tax Credit - what you need to knowFor many of us, tax season comes with a sinking feeling. The incomprehensible forms, piles of documents to sort through, and the unwelcome prospect of writing a large check to the IRS leaves us with a splitting headache.

However, tax season does not have to bring bad news. In fact, some military families may find that they are eligible for an income tax credit that will allow them to keep more of the money they have earned, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate income families. To qualify, your taxable income must fall below a certain threshold. For 2012, a married couple with two children may qualify for the EITC if their earned income and their adjusted gross income are below $47,162. Remember that allowances, such as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) are tax-exempt. Combat pay is normally not taxable but you can elect to have it included in your Earned Income if doing so increases the amount of your credit.

Intimidated? Don’t be. There are plenty of resources to help military families tackle tax season. The most important thing to remember is that in order to qualify for the EITC you must file a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file. For more information about the EITC, check out the IRS online guide for families and individuals.

Do you think you might qualify for the EITC? What other tax tips do military families need to know? 

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3This is Part 3 of a series explaining the National Military Family Association’s legislative priorities for 2013. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Some issues affecting military families can only be taken care of through Congressional action. We see most of the work on these issues being addressed through the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the laws and regulations for Department of Defense (DoD) and the Services to follow. The funding of this legislation comes through the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with the Defense Appropriations bill and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

Congress did not pass the Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13), which began on October 1, 2012. They passed a Continuing Resolution or CR, which forced DoD to work on 2013 missions, projects, and programs with 2012 levels of funding. The current Continuing Resolution will expire March 27. While military paychecks are protected for 2013, essential services could shut down if the CR is allowed to expire. This isn’t the first year we have had the threat of a government shutdown.

Pass the NDAA FY14

This is why our first “ask” for Congress is to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 and the bills that fund this legislation by October 1 in order to eliminate the uncertainty faced by the military community.

Increase Impact Aid

If you have children attending public schools, you should be aware of how important Impact Aid funding is to local school districts that educate large numbers of military children. We’re asking Congress to increase the level of Department of Education Impact Aid funding to meet the Federal obligation to support school districts educating military children and continue to fund the DoD supplemental impact aid and grant program. Impact Aid funding has not kept pace with rising education costs.

Protect surviving spouses

Survivors of service members who have died on active duty or from a service-connected disability are unfairly penalized by having their Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity offset by the Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment. Under current law, survivors who are eligible for both SBP and DIC must forfeit a dollar of their SBP annuity for every dollar of DIC received. Often the offset eliminates the SBP annuity altogether. We ask Congress to end the DIC dollar for dollar offset of SBP payments for surviving spouses. For more details on this issue, visit the Survivors section on our website.

Ease transitions for the whole family

DoD does not always need Congressional approval to improve or change policies. We are asking DoD to address the informational needs of military families transitioning out of the military by expanding the opportunity for spouses to attend transition classes with service members and tailor information to address family transition issues.

Support families with special needs

It can often take DoD a long time to implement programs mandated by Congress. In the NDAA FY13, Congress charged DoD to start a pilot program to provide therapy for some families with special needs. We want DoD to implement the new pilot program to provide Applied Behavior Analysis to ALL eligible TRICARE beneficiaries.

If you have questions about our priorities for 2013 or would like to provide us with information about how these issues will affect you and your family, please leave a comment below. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog series, we are sharing your stories, your experiences, and your suggestions to improve the quality of life for military families.

These are not the only issues we will be advocating for. When a new challenge surfaces that affects military families, we will make sure it is brought to the attention of the policymakers who can make a difference. We are listening to you and for you. We are your voice.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association