When in the military, preserving and maintaining your credit can be difficult. It's even more challenging when you have predatory lenders who prey on military members. It never fails, at every military post, you see payday loan lenders right outside of gate entrances. So, how do you avoid falling into the trap of predatory lenders? There are a few protections in place, like the Military Lending Act and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), that can help you take control of your finances and get out of extreme debt situations. Here are a few tips and options to help you and your family get credit card and debt relief.
How Bad Credit Can Affect Your Security Clearance
A bad credit score can affect your chance of obtaining a security clearance. The military wants to know that you can handle your finances carefully while operating in an advanced position. In addition, when receiving a security clearance, you have access to protected information. If you are having trouble with your credit, individuals who want to gain access to protected information could use your debt as an end to their means. How can this happen? The bad guy could offer you money to reduce your debt in exchange for information, putting national security in danger.
See my feature in Military Money Paying Off Credit Card Debt: Tips & Methods
What To Do If You Are In Debt
The first step to take when you are in credit card debt is to pay your bills on time every time. It's also essential to create a budget that can help you reduce your debt. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects military service members with this. The SCRA allows individuals in the military to reduce their credit card interest rate to 6%. Reducing your interest rate can be done by showing the credit card company a copy of your military orders, and they are required to adjust your interest rate. The protections of the SCRA extend to default judgments, foreclosures, and property repossessions and enable you to exit a lease for a home or automobile without a penalty. However, any debt must have been incurred before joining the military to take advantage of this rate reduction.
How To Pay Off Debt Fast
You can pay off credit card debt fast by paying more than the minimum. Paying more than the minimum payment amount allows you to pay a smaller amount of interest on your purchases. It's essential to eliminate the need to use your credit card for purchases to decrease your balance continually.
See my feature in Veterans Build Debt-Free Life After the Military in Military Families Magazine.
Resources To Help You Budget
Financial Coaches are available to help you put a budget together that works. Many military bases employ financial coaches that help military veterans evaluate and control their finances. The AFCPE also provides free financial counseling and coaching sessions to military veterans. Some independent financial coaches and counselors can also help you build a tailored approach through one-on-one sessions.
You can eliminate unnecessary spending by evaluating your income and expenses. Print out your monthly bank statement and assess your income and expenses. Highlight any expenses that are a necessity and those that are a luxury. If the expenses are necessary, continue with them in your budget. If they are a luxury, work to eliminate or reduce your spending in these areas. Evaluate your spending at least semi-annually to see where you can cut costs.
In Too Deep? Help Is Available.
Seek assistance. Financial coaches and counselors can help you understand your financial situation and guide you in setting achievable goals. They work with you to build your financial literacy and provide you with the tools and resources needed to manage your wealth.