Managing Your Money While Deployed, One Soldier’s Story

Joseph Meyer
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No Major Pre-Deployment Debt

Like many non-commissioned officers, Brant spent the first 10 years of his career in the military living paycheck-to-paycheck and accumulating a significant amount of consumer debt. The military life makes saving money very difficult. Managing your money while deployed is even more challenging. Prior to his first deployment in 2010, Brant began taking a holistic approach to managing his relationships, finances, and himself.

Part of that approach included learning about the importance of pre-deployment financial planning. Brant is a huge proponent of sorting out financial affairs before a deployment, not only because it makes financial sense, but also because it allows you to fully focus on your military mission while you’re gone.

Despite his earlier financial mistakes, when Brant deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, he was able to deploy without having to worry about his family’s finances. The absence of pre-deployment debt allowed Brant to do what he loved most ” “warfighting” ” without distraction.

We had a plan

When my wife, Angela, and I got married four years ago, she had a plan for us. It was a good plan, and with it, it would take us forever to reach FI. Two incomes, not a lot of debt, and tons of saving power.

But I didn’t like that plan. I mean, why should it take so long to reach financial independence?

My plan was similar, except I wanted to have wealth earlier than Angela was willing to allow. I wanted to increase her stake in FI as soon as possible. How did I have this knowledge at such a young age? Well, I listened to The Man in the Black Fedora (Rodger Paxton) every week, and he spoke of the four pillars of personal finance “ building wealth, spending less than you earn, financial independence, and generosity. Those pillars still guide my money management strategies today.

Automatic Investing

Be ready for the unexpected

As a soldier, a lot of things might be out of your control, like, for instance, going to war. But as a soldier, you have far better control over your finances. The most important concept I want to teach you is being ready for the unexpected. It doesn’t need to be because of some impending doom, just the fact that as a soldier, being out of town for long periods can wreak havoc on your finances.

I’ve been deployed three times and I have made some of my biggest financial mistakes in my time as a service member. In this section, I want to share some of the things that I wish I did differently. This way when you read it, if you’ve already made some of the same mistakes, you’ll have a good chance of recognizing them and fixing them.

Recognize where Your Money’s Going

One of the biggest reasons for my money problems was that I didn’t have any idea where it was going. Usually, if you have no idea where money is going or why, you end up spending too much and making bad decisions about how to manage your finances.

Limit the Unnecessary Purchases

While deployed you are often just taking care of yourself. That means that you have to make your own food, you have limited access to things like clothes and other amenities and the internet may not always be available.

You may find yourself spending your money differently than you are used to. With all of the late night snacks, late night runs to the store for things you need and the bar or club tabs that can run up so suddenly, you may find yourself with a lot more money in your pocket when you get home than when you left.

No matter how hard you try to stick to a budget, things in everyday life like going to the movies and eating out with friends can add up.

The best way to avoid financial stress while you are deployed is to have a budget and stick to it. Even if it means sacrificing things like going out for a treat or a movie or buying the latest gadget, work on your budget and lean towards the things you really want and need.

It is easy to get carried away with spending and purchases when you are deployed and may find yourself without adequate money when you need it. When I was in the Army, I purchased a cheap car when I was single, and I did the majority of the work on it. After I got married, I had money to buy a new car, but I could not afford it with a car payment and other financial obligations.

Excellent Supporting Cast

Steve Hanes was in an independent contracting business in Boise, Idaho, when the war in Iraq broke out.

He immediately contacted the U.S. military and volunteered to join the war effort. Unlike many men and women who decide to enlist, Hanes did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental or physical traumas.

Hanes, who volunteered as a citizen soldier, was driven by something else – a desire to help his fellow soldiers and their families.

Hanes had something most personnel in the War Zone do not have – a family member who was dedicated to helping him take control of his finances.

The Lottery Syndrome

This is the worst mindset in the world for a deployed service member. It is a mindset that will keep you from being successful in all aspects of your life.

The lottery syndrome is the mindset that you might hit on a big financial gain, whether by winning the lottery or inheriting an amount, and then you can be successful without doing any of the work. You won’t even have to work at your real job. You can quit the military. You can become an entrepreneur. You can retire early.

This is a very dangerous mindset.

Here’s why: If you believe it, you don’t need to hustle. You’ll just wait and see if you win or get lucky with an inheritance, and work just enough to get by, because once you have that magic amount, you’ll be set for life.

But let me tell you something. You cannot sit around doing nothing, hoping that the lottery will deliver your financial success. If you believe this it will keep you from ever building anything of value. And if you don’t build value, you won’t have anything to retire on.

If you’ve bought into this idea, this is a change you need to develop immediately.