If you have a loved one serving in the military or you’re the servicemember in question, then you already know that military life is really different than anything else in the world. It really is its own little world, but that doesn’t mean that lenders and other predators don’t seek to take advantage of you. In fact, it can be even worse because you are a servicemember and you know that there will be times where you need credit products. In addition, you might find that you qualify for credit a lot easier than civilians do. There’s a reason for that — your employer is well known.
When your employer is actually the U.S Government, there’s a lot of expectation that you will pay up. You can’t be behind on your bills in the military, because that raises security risks and concerns. So you’re a lot more likely to actually pay your debts because you don’t want to have problems at work.
There are some things that you need to pay attention to and watch out for, even as a military family.
First and foremost, you will want to make sure that you know exactly who needs your Social Security number and who doesn’t.
The ones that need your SSN are credit applications (and every business that you’re requesting credit from, by proxy), whenever you do a cash transaction over $10,000, when you’re applying for federal benefits, when you’re at the DMV, and when you have military paperwork.
Drugstores, preschools, airlines, supermarkets and even doctor and dentist patient intake forms don’t need your SSN. They will ask for it — but you need to let them know that you are not comfortable giving out that information. If they want to keep you as a customer, they will have to find another way to assist you without exposing your information.
The trouble with giving out your SSN too much is that it leads to unauthorized people having access to your information. It might seem harmless, but there are stories of employees misappropriating customer information. That means that the smiling happy face behind the counter might end up trying to sell your information to a criminal organization someday. Will it happen? The chances aren’t that high, but there’s still a chance. Or there might be a data breach and then your information is just out there, floating in the wind. Do you really want to put yourself through that worry and fear? Not at all!
You also want to make sure that you avoid automatic payments. If they deduct directly from your paychecks, it can be difficult to cancel them when you want to. You’re probably going to have to file a lot of paperwork in order to get the payment stopped. Until then, it’s going to wreck havoc on your paycheck at a time where families need every last drop of cash they can spare for their own expenses.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The service has plenty of counselors that deal with financial terms and other things that can confuse busy military families. It’s totally free, and it’s there when you need it. Why would you pass that up?
Checking out your credit report is something that you will still need to do. A lot of servicemembers end up paying more interest because they’re terrified that they have bad credit. You could have good credit and not even know it!
This goes for the spouses of military members — you need to make sure that you’re looking at your credit report too. Contrary to popular belief, you still have a separate credit history when you get married. So you don’t lose all of the hard work on your credit just because you got married and even changed your name — your credit file is tracked by your Social Security number.
Setting up an emergency fund is still important, especially for military families. You never know when you’ll have an unexpected emergency and have to make some serious repairs to your car or even handle costs that military health insurance doesn’t normally handle.
A family budget is always a good thing, but many people feel that they don’t need one. No matter how busy you are, you really need to sit down and build a good budget that’s going to let you actually take care of all of the things that need to be taken care of in your life. That’s the key to financial stability, so don’t forget about it!