I remember a time when I was young and the only PCS I had ever gone through was a partial DITY move from my hometown to our first duty station together. I thought it wasn’t a big deal if we didn’t have an emergency fund because he couldn’t lose his job. We were young and broke, so we didn’t have much to put away, but we could have put something back. Some many odd years later, I’m wiser and I wish I could slap some sense into my younger self. Just because his job may be secure (and we know that’s not even secure), doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other reasons why we need savings.
This is the big one. PCSing is expensive. While reimbursements are to be expected for many things, you’ll still need to come up with the money to drive to the new duty station. Depending on the distance, this could include hotels as well. What if you do a partial DITY move and have to rent a trailer? Our last move, the Uhaul trailer cost us $800. Then there was the expense of staying over a week in temporary lodging, plus the deposit and first month’s rent on a house. It adds up quick and can really hurt if you don’t plan for it.
This is just as costly, but there are so many different expenses. Temporary lodging is always a factor here, sometimes on both ends. Some OCONUS stations allow you to ship a vehicle and others don’t allow it at all. That brings in the cost of a buying a car, if not two, depending on what your family needs. Moving overseas often times means restocking your pantry and spice cabinet, as well as buying all new cleaning supplies. Some locations also use different electrical outlets, which require adaptors. All those little things can add up too.
Not everyone has or wants to use a government credit card. If that’s the case, you’ll need to be able to pay for lodging, travel, and meals up front. Yes, you will get reimbursed for it, but if you don’t have a credit card or maybe don’t have the room on a credit card, the money will need to come from somewhere.
We all have unexpected expenses. Car repairs, a surprise vet bill, your crown falls off your tooth, you name it. It’s the unexpected military related surprises that always get me though. Standing at the counter to fly with your dog and children overseas to finally get to the new duty station where your husband already is and be told by the airline that it’s $600 to fly your dog. Apparently the military pays for everyone’s tickets but his. I was then prepared when we PCSed back from OCONUS.
Losing An Income
Many military families are dual income. When PCS time rolls around, the spouse in many cases loses their job and has to start over at the next place. This isn’t true for everyone, work at home and some GS positions, will guarantee you a job, but for the rest of us, it’s having to readjust. PCSing can also mean losing income, COLA or BAH, depending on the locations. Savings will be helpful if that second income was helping pay bills.
Leaving The Military
The military has been downsizing in recent years. It seems to have slowed now, but there is always the chance. What if the service member is injured or goes through a medical separation? If the plan wasn’t to get out that soon, are you prepared for life after the military? If the service member decides they are done with the military, can you make the transition financially? You may not think it will happen, but military life could end at any time.