This was originally published on Monday, May 27, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Happy Memorial Day, Guam!
Today, I am dedicating my column to those who serve our country, past and present.
Being financially ready and healthy is very important in the military. Many jobs within the military require that you keep a certain level of security clearance.
Security clearances rely very heavily on your financial well-being. The military has many programs to help and most of them are at low cost or free to service members and their eligible family members.
One of the best benefits you can participate in is the Thrift Savings Plan. Service members are lucky to have access to one of the lowest-cost retirement savings plans.
Thrift Savings Plan
Thrift Savings Plan is similar to a 401(k) plan offered by private sector employees. Service members have the option of investing in the traditional Thrift Savings Plan or the newly released Roth TSP. Both offer low administrative costs, automatic payroll deductions, a variety of withdrawal options, and a diversified choice of investment options. For more information on the Thrift Savings Plan, visit www.tsp.gov.
If you receive extra money when you are deployed, put that money aside to pay off debts. Check with your personnel office if the area you are deployed to is tax-free. You may also want to look into the Savings Deposit Program. This program allows deployed service members to invest up to $10,000 and receive 10 percent annual interest.
For more information, go to http://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/payentitlements/sdp.html.
Another great benefit that service members can take advantage of is education benefits. If you have served for at least 36 months since September 11, 2001, you can use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The benefits can pay the full cost of tuition and fees. You may also transfer your education benefits to your spouse or children.
To learn more about your benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, go to http://gibill.va.gov/benefits/.
Service members can also participate in one of the lowest-cost life insurance programs around — the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, or SGLI. Premiums are currently $.065 per $1,000 of insurance regardless of the service member’s age. Your SGLI can also be converted to a post-separation insurance called Veteran’s Group Life Insurance (VGLI) upon release from service. Not only can service members receive this benefit, but so can spouses and dependent children under the Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). Go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/ to learn more about these life insurance programs.
Take advantage of your legal assistance center. They can help you draft wills, a power of attorney, medical power of attorney and living wills. They also may be able to provide legal assistance. All of which are free of cost.
There are many programs that military members may take advantage of such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, tax-breaks, housing benefits and health care benefits. Talk to your personnel office or visit your local support center to learn more about your benefits. Some services may even have an aid society that can help you in times of an emergency.
To our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families, thank you for your sacrifices and all that you do to keep our country free.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.