Permanent Change of Station & Military Spouses—Closing the Income Gap

By: FINRA Investor Education Foundation Staff

Active duty military personnel make permanent change of station (PCS) moves about every two to four years. PCS expenses—such as the high cost of temporary lodging, meals, vehicle maintenance costs, fees for boarding pets and housing transaction costs—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. Then make a PCS plan and set aside funds specifically for the move. Couples should discuss well in advance of moving day how to steer around the financial pitfalls that can trap the unprepared. And it’s a good idea to start planning for the next move shortly after you’ve unpacked from the last one. This can help you prevent PCS surprises.

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 military move.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia provide eligibility for unemployment compensation to military spouses who are “trailing” their service member on a PCS to a new state. This is most commonly done by providing an exemption to the general rule that you cannot receive unemployment compensation if you voluntarily quit a job. Most states recognize that when a military family moves for duty, quitting is not “voluntary” and therefore allow the trailing military spouse to receive unemployment compensation.

Unemployment compensation claims should be made to the state in which employment was held, not in the new duty station state.

Many occupations require a state license, often with state-specific conditions and processes. Military spouses who work in fields that require such licensing might experience lengthy reemployment delays when moving between states. Because of these delays and the expense involved in re-licensure, some spouses decide not to practice in their professions. This can be a difficult financial and career choice for military members and their spouses. One way to avoid this situation is to set aside some money to pay for a new state license and, as appropriate, to cover the cost of maintaining your existing state license through fees and continuing professional education. This should be a key part of your family’s relocation plan.

You can also ask your new state to support your effort to obtain its license by:

  • accommodating a gap in employment for military spouses with active licenses from another state;
  • providing a temporary license to allow a military spouse with a current license in another state to secure employment while completing state requirements or while awaiting verification for an endorsement; and
  • expediting procedures for regulatory departments or board approval to provide opportunity for spouses to obtain an endorsed to temporary license.

For more tips about how to have a financially successful PCS move, visit SaveAndInvest.org.

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