From The Mailbag: New Wife In The Dark

It is amazing how many letters I get from military spouses who haven’t been given the opportunity to learn anything about the military or it’s benefits.

Here’s one letter from last year:

I am the spouse of an active duty military Member (Navy). He is in A school on texas and i have stayed in Florida to attend college. I’m finding it hard to get by. I have been going to school full time and living with my mother, but now I am not getting any financial aid for next semester. I have not been recieving any benefits. All I have is my dependant card but im not even sure how to use it. I rarely get to talk to my husband and when I do, he isn’t sure what I should do either. I need help understanding the programs and I need to know where to go.

Thank you,


Wow!  I can’t imagine how overwhelmed she must feel.  I think that I hit most of the major points in my response:

Dear Ms. M,

Thank you for writing into The Paycheck Chronicles.  I’ll tell you what I know, and you’ll have to take it from there.

You need to talk frankly with your husband about your joint financial situation. Particularly in the military, it is very hard for a couple to maintain separate finances and have it work well. The most successful couples have the idea that any income is “their” income, and that any expenses are “their” expenses. It can be hard to get to a place where you can talk freely about money, but it is well worth the effort. Communicating your desires and goals, and listening to his desires and goals, is a huge step to making joint decisions about how your family’s money should be spent.

If your husband has filled out his paperwork properly, he has been getting Basic Allowance for Housing since he entered his basic military training or since you got married, whichever happened later. The amount is based on your location while he is in a location that does not allow you to accompany him. In addition, he is receiving a separate Family Separation Allowance. With his housing and meals paid for by the military, you should not have a serious financial problem unless one or both of you have substantial debt from before the military or before the marriage.

In addition, if you are not working, you probably need to get a job. This will help you feel more secure, provide the marriage with extra income, and help him feel more confident that you are not just expecting him to pay for everything.

Beyond the financial issues, you should be enrolled in Tricare for your medical insurance. If he has not enrolled you, take your military ID card to the nearest military treatment facility and talk to the people at the Tricare office. They can also be found online.

There are a variety of different scholarships for military spouses. I try to highlight them here at The Paycheck Chronicles. One that particularly might help you is the MyCAA program. There is an entire section devoted to it, look in the categories section on the left and click on MyCAA.

I hope this helps. Good luck to you.


There are so many services to help new military families learn about military life.  I do try to direct people in the right direction, but sometimes it is hard.  If you have additional suggestions, please put them in comments.  (Only nice things, please.)  Everyone can learn together!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.