By Maj. James S. Rawlinson
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
Military members have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure they manage their money properly, which could include everything from using credit responsibly to putting money away for retirement.
To assist in financial management, the Defense Department provides resources and information to assist.
Most in the military are relatively young. A practical question may be why it would be necessary to worry about investing at such a young age.
"Achieving your long -term financial objectives is not about education, luck, work ethic or level of income. It is all about putting together a simple plan, getting started, and sticking to it. I encourage everyone to seek help and do that as soon as possible," said Michael Molosso, a financial planner and retired Army officer.
Edward Zurndorfer, a certified financial planner, said a 25-year-old who contributes $2,000 a year to a retirement program, with an average rate of return of 8 percent, will have $345,000 at age 60. At 10 percent, the amount would be $542,000.
By putting away less than $167 a month, someone young could have almost half a million dollars by age 60. As for the rate of return, now would be an ideal time to begin investing because of the poor market performance. Stocks purchased now will be of greater value as the market recovers.
Many soldiers see the 50-percent retirement as an excuse to not think about their financial future.
While the retirement program certainly is robust, it can be supplemented. There are programs already in place to assist soldiers financially after they get out of the military.
Thrift Savings Plan
The Thrift Savings Plan is a Defense Department program begun in 2001 for military members to invest a portion of their income toward retirement, similar to a 401K.
According to the plan's Web site at www.tsp.gov, it allows any and all contributions to be tax-deferred, meaning any money contributed is deducted from adjusted gross income when filing taxes. Someone who earns $50,000 and contributed $2,000 to the plan would pay taxes for $48,000.
While managing income is important, another consideration is how to manage the amount of taxes paid each year. The Fort Hood Tax Center offers tax services year-round, said Capt. Andrew Corimski, the officer in charge of the Tax Center.
"The actual tax center is open in its full capacity until 16 April," Corimski said.
After the Tax Center is closed, tax services are available at the Client Services Building at Building 4617 on 72nd Street and Santa Fe Avenue.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are exempt from paying federal taxes on pay and bonuses and get an automatic 180 day extension to file taxes for being in a combat zone plus an extra day for every day deployed during the filing season, Jan. 1 to April 15.
The U.S. government is offering the First Time Homebuyers Credit and the Long Term Homebuyers Credit to encourage potential homebuyers, Corimski said.
To qualify as a first time homebuyer, someone must buy a first home as a main residence, not rental property, between Jan 1, 2009, and May 1, 2010. Those who qualify receive an 8,000 credit. Soldiers deployed for at least three months during 2009 until April 15, 2010, get an automatic extension to purchase a home until May 1, 2011.