Financial tips for soldiers before deployment

Get a will. The office of the Judge Advocate General, or JAG, provides free legal services, so take advantage. You can get a legal officer to not only draw up a standard will but also prepare a power-of-attorney, in which you give to a spouse, parents, sibling or friend the authority to handle financial matters for you if you are unable to do so. Lankford used it to write her husband's checks, sign his tax returns and close on their house while he was in Iraq.

Buy life insurance. The basic policy offered to members of the military through Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance is a good deal, says Lankford. You can get $400,000 in coverage and a $100,000 benefit on your spouse for $312 a year. If you need benefits in addition to SGLI, shop for a plain-vanilla term policy from a major insurer. But make sure that term plan doesn't exclude war as a cause of death. One insurer that specializes in policies for service members is USAA.

Don't drop auto coverage. If you plan to tuck your car in storage while deployed, consider keeping your auto insurance. If you drop your policy you might find it difficult to get it reinstated when you return or else you'll have to pay a lot more. Lankford suggests lowering your liability coverage to the state minimum and dropping collision coverage altogether. That should lower your rate substantially. Keep your comprehensive provisions, though, to guard against theft, vandalism, flooding and other mishaps.

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