The nature of military life can lead to a spouses’ retirement savings playing second fiddle to the servicemembers’. Military spouses are often unemployed or unable to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, making their retirement savings nonexistent or sporadic at best, which can negatively impact your future finances. But that’s not how it should be.
There needs to be a balance in the equation between saving for yourself and as a couple. There is no such thing as a joint retirement account; accounts are for individuals, whether it’s the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or a 401(k). On one hand, just because retirement accounts are separate doesn’t mean your planning should be disconnected. On the other hand, life happens, and you may need to pivot your joint retirement plans. Here are some reasons military spouses’ retirement should be part of the equation.
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Grow Funds Faster
When both spouses save and invest for retirement, your family can reach goals faster or exceed them altogether. If your goal is to retire with $2 million, both spouses contributing will help you achieve that amount quicker. Uniting your retirement savings also will protect your ability to reach your goal when things like unemployment or a downturn in the market happen.
Military Spouse Investing Options
Military spouses can have more employer investment options than servicemembers. For example, a spouse’s employer may offer a more generous match than the TSP, allowing a military spouse to save more for less. Or their employer may offer more investment fund options than the TSP. In some cases, employers may offer free financial planning for employees to make investment decisions.
It’s sad, but unfortunately, some military marriages break up. In most divorces, retirement savings will be divided, reducing the amount each person receives, leading to working longer and retiring later in life to compensate for the decrease in retirement funds.
A military spouse saving for retirement from Day 1 of the union can help lessen the financial blow of separating finances later and give military spouses some financial stability through a divorce. It’s thoughtful financial planning for both spouses just in case that situation arises.
Invest While You Can
With military life comes frequent transitions. A military spouse’s retirement should be part of the equation every time possible … because sometimes it’s not.
Often, military spouses are unemployed and only able to contribute to an Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). This limits the amount they can save for the future. Other times they’re employed, but the employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan. And sometimes, military spouses are eligible to contribute but don’t bother because of an impending PCS. Saving while you can helps your finances stay on track to reach your financial goals.
A military spouse’s retirement savings is essential to the couple's retirement and life planning. Priorities should be made to ensure a spouse sets aside money for the future to help grow retirement funds faster and prepare for when life happens.
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