PCS moves can have a massive impact on your life—and your finances. These tips can help you plan ahead and feel prepared for anything.
Active duty military personnel make PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves about every two to four years. PCS expenses—such as the high cost of temporary lodging and meals, vehicle maintenance costs, fees for boarding pets and housing turnover fees—can eat into tight budgets.
To prepare for a life of moves, you need to know what to expect both before and after a move. That means asking a lot of questions and doing some research. Make a PCS plan, and set aside funds specifically for making a move. Couples should discuss well in advance of moving day how they steer around the financial pitfalls that can trap the unprepared.
Like it or not, it’s a smart idea to start planning for the next move shortly after you’ve unpacked from the last one. This can help you prevent PCS surprises.
Seven Ways to Prepare Financially
- Get on the same page. Start by talking with your spouse about your family’s finances.
- Close out and transfer accounts. Make a list of all your financial accounts. Note which accounts can be transferred and ones that need to be closed and reopened in your new location. Take advantage of the move as a way to shop for lower rates on some financial products (e.g., homeowners’ or renters’ insurance).
- Pay all your current bills. To avoid negative impact on your credit, be sure to pay all close-out bills such as electricity, water, etc., before leaving. Provide all organizations with a forwarding address as there may be unpaid bills that will follow you.
- Compare the value of your housing allowance. Sixty-five percent of military personnel live off-base. As you create a budget detailing expected income and expenses at your new duty station, be sure to compare current and future Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to determine how much house you can afford.
- Save those receipts! Be sure to keep all your receipts and put them in a central place—including expenses that don’t qualify for reimbursement—because they may qualify as tax deductions.
- Make sure you understand what the military and government will cover. If you’re facing a move, consult with your base transportation and finance resources to know the full extent of your reimbursable expenses.
- Consider a Do It Yourself Move (DITY.) The government will reimburse you 95% of what it would cost them to move up to you (determined by pay grades and dependents) and supply $25,000 of insurance coverage. If you plan well and spend less than the government’s payout, you can keep the difference.
Unemployment Compensation for Spouses
The loss of a military spouse’s employment is also frequently part of the PCS reality. Many military spouses report that they lose significant family income when moving from state to state. Unemployment compensation can be an important part of the solution for military families who cannot afford to lose income following a move.
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia provide eligibility for unemployment compensation to military spouses following their service member on a PCS to a new state. Unemployment compensation claims should be made to the state in which employment was held, not in the new duty station state.
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