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Military families putting finances in order for summer moves

May 28, 2021

FORT WORTH, Texas – Career military families who expect to move to a new duty station this summer are busy putting their financial houses in order, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

Results of the fourth annual PCS survey reveal that 93 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who expect to make a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) this summer have budgeted for the costs of their relocation. Forty percent of these families say they expect out-of-pocket costs of at least $500, and 20 percent expect to spend at least $2,000. The average expected out-of-pocket cost is $972.

“PCS season is a regular part of life for our Nation’s military families, and service members and spouses have learned that realistic budgeting is critical to managing the costs of these frequent moves,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “Nine out of ten relocating families say they feel extremely or very financially confident about their preparations.”

Optimism is also strong among military spouses who will be looking for work in their new location. Three out of four report feeling extremely or very confident about their employment opportunities.

The Index reveals that 60 percent of survey respondents expect to have a PCS move this summer. That’s up 10 points from last year, when fewer families expected to make moves due to the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly two thirds of respondents report completing a PCS within the past two years. Peak season for PCS moves runs from May through August.

Service member families are eligible for a number of valuable PCS benefits, including:

    • Advance Basic Pay. This is an interest-free loan that covers up to three months of basic pay.
    • Advance Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which is an advance on monthly pay for off-base rental housing.
    • Dislocation Allowance (DLA). It helps pay for moving expenses.
    • Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (MALT). Service members are paid for mileage when driving to a new station.
    • Per Diem Allowance, which helps pay for meals and lodging while traveling.
    • Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) for OCONUS or Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) for CONUS. This allowance helps pay for meals and lodging when temporary housing is required.
    • Personally Procured Move. Also known as a do-it-yourself (DITY) move, this program provides 100 percent of what the government would pay a contracted moving company. It was put in place during the pandemic and is now permanent.
    • Move-In Housing Allowance (MIHA) for OCONUS.  This allowance reimburses service members for overseas costs associated with privately owned or leased quarters.
    • Advance Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) for Outside the US.  This is an advance against any projected OHA to cover the difference between the cost of non-base rental housing and the BAH.

First Command coaches service members to take full advantage of these benefits so they can keep out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum.

“The key to effective budgeting for a PCS move is knowing what is and is not covered,” Steffe said. “Four out of five of our Financial Advisors come from the ranks of veterans and military spouses. They have first-hand experience with the challenges of budgeting for unexpected costs that are not covered by their government benefits. Deep experience and understanding of military life has prepared us to coach our clients through PCS moves and other financial challenges.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. For more details on our research, please email

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Brokerage Services and First Command Bank, coach our Nation’s military families in their pursuit of financial security. Since 1958, First Command Financial Advisors have been shaping positive financial behaviors through face-to-face coaching with hundreds of thousands of client families.

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