Is it yours? Is it his/hers? Do you call it ‘ours’? Do you even talk about it with each other?
I’ll be honest with you. Before becoming a milspouse, I worked. At age 12, I began babysitting and pet sitting. At age 17, I got a job at a local grocery store and cleaned houses. After college, I worked for a number of years only to walk away to become a milspouse and stay-at-home mom to a baby and toddler… in Germany!
To say that it was an intense transition feels like an understatement. I clearly recall:
- Feeling like a “burden” since I was no longer contributing financially.
- Thinking that the money was “his” and not “ours.”
- Throwing myself into my new role as a domestic goddess so that I was “pulling my weight” (and becoming utterly exhausted).
- Having an awkward discussion when I deposited some of his Army pay into my Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
- Feeling pressure to intensely manage our money by couponing, asking for military discounts, and lugging my baby and toddler into periodic Women, Infants and Children (WIC) appointments. I wanted him to see that even though I wasn’t earning, I was being remarkably mindful about our military family’s spending.
Was a lot of this in my head? Probably. Regardless, it felt very real at the time, and looking back, I can say that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. If only I had opened up to my spouse at the time, or talked to friends in the same boat, it would have helped.
Money and Military Marriage
Compared to other military spouses I met, I had it easy. Some were married to active-duty service members who were compulsive spenders, throwing money at expensive cars, motorcycles, video games, and alcohol and arguing that, “It’s my money, I can spend it how I please.” Other military spouses didn’t have a joint checking or savings account, so they had no idea of their family’s financial status whatsoever. The most unusual thing I encountered was when a working spouse set spending limits on essentials, much like an allowance, versus a healthy spending plan.
I then looked at friends who longed to work again, to feel that sense of purpose, self-worth, and not only contribute to the family, but also grow his or her own retirement or fun money account. Some successfully found work at the bank on post, the PX, or the Commissary, and others started their own business through baking, photography, or house cleaning, to name a few.
The bottom line is that money can come with complicated emotions and uncomfortable conversations. Military Saves wants to change that and invite military spouses to the table. Imagine the freedom and power that can come with positive, healthy, productive talks about money with your military family, and eliminating the taboo surrounding this potential hot topic.
Why Military Spouses Need to Be Part of the Conversation
When our active-duty spouses go through their initial briefing, we aren’t present for those discussions. We don’t know the ins and outs about paydays, bonuses, finances, or their TSP retirement account. We do know the realities of sometimes waiting for payday to have enough money to shop at the Commissary, or the unfortunate situation of getting overpaid and then having reduced paychecks for a while.
A moment ago, I mentioned Military Saves. It’s a program that I have the pleasure of working for with two other phenomenal military spouses, one of whom is also a veteran and an Accredited Financial Counselor AFC®. Our team of three is on a mission to help military families save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.
Military spouses face unique challenges when it comes to finances, and we have lived through many of them ourselves. We want you to know about free tools and resources that can help you on your financial journey.
Join Us for Military Saves Month
April is Military Saves Month, an annual free, virtual event where hundreds of organizations come together to encourage the military community to do a financial wellness check in. It’s hosted by Military Saves, a participant in the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Network. Our research-based program is coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Consumer Federation of America.
Over the course of a month, we’ll cover money-related topics from a relatable, down-to-earth, positive perspective. Savers will end the month with tools, resources, and clarity on their current financial situation, new savings goals, and a realistic plan to achieve them.
We’ll focus on the tangible and intangible ways we can set ourselves up for success as military spouses when it comes to money, spending habits, and saving.
In addition to this wealth of information, Military Saves Month participants have the chance to win $500 during our #ImSavingFor Sweepstakes! What a perfect way to jump-start your military family’s financial goals!
Start With the Pledge, and Then Join Us In April
As you count down to our event, we encourage you to take the Military Saves Pledge. Once you make a promise to yourself to embark on your financial journey, you’ll join a community of #MilitarySavers and can look to Military Saves for accountability. We’ll keep you on track with emails, text reminders, free resources, and tips to help you realize your financial goals. Visit militarysaves.org for more information.
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