Ask a JAG_171209

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Q: I feel behind the curve when it comes to my finances, specifically in regards to money management, saving for retirement, and taxes.  Do you have any suggestions to help me sort out these difficult issues?

A: Personal finance issues, such as the ones addressed above, are areas that many people generally understand and know are important, but often put off, or worse, simply ignore, due to their confusing nature. Doing so can have serious ramifications, both personally and professionally. Specifically, mismanaging finances could result in credit report issues that could affect a security clearance. Failing to save for retirement could result in a sudden decrease in lifestyle upon retirement, and improperly filing taxes could result in back taxes and large penalties.

The great news for all military personnel in Stuttgart is that there are a myriad of programs in the garrison that address these issues and assist service members.

For money management and retirement issues, Army Community Service and the Stuttgart Law Center are two resources that can help service members, free of charge. While both services assist service members on finance issues, they serve different functions.  ACS has excellent programs that will help them to design and stick to a budget.  Doing so can help them save for retirement and avoid piling up debt and getting in over their head. 

When it comes to retirement, understanding the difference between the Thrift Savings Plan, a traditional Individual Retirement Account, a Roth IRA, and countless other retirement plans can confuse even the most knowledgeable service member. Luckily, Judge Advocates at the SLC can help them to understand each of these programs and determine which is best for them, based upon their future goals and tax situation.

Unfortunately, even with the best of planning, sometimes service members fall into debt. If that occurs, the SLC can work with them and any creditors to try to work out a solution. This is especially important for service members with security clearances because credit problems can result in a suspension or even revocation of their security clearance.

Finally, for tax issues, the SLC’s Tax Center can help service members file their 2009 taxes for free and can also look over and help amend any previous year’s returns (if needed). 

The Tax Center will open full-time Jan. 25 to June 15, 2010.  If you need tax help before Jan. 25, please contact the SLC to make an appointment.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/ civ. 0711-729-4152.