After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
Tax time is here! W2s should be released on myPay by 24 January. If you’ve properly configured your tax withholding, your tax return should be quite small. However, we know how crazy the military tax situation can be, with many of our benefits not taxable (BAH, BAS), the constant moving, and some of our pay eligible for Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE).
US military personnel enjoy one of the lowest tax rates possible, given their income. If you did have taxes withheld this year, chances are you’ll be getting a return.
The IRS has a lot of information about special military tax situations on their website. Check it out if you’re not familiar with some of the credits, exemptions, and tax benefits available to military servicemembers.
Free Online 2013 Tax Return Services for US Military Personnel
It’s always nice to get a refund check from Uncle Sam: it’s even better when you don’t have to pay for it! There are several free tax filing options for military members. Here’s a few:
Tax Slayer offers free military tax filing for the 2013 tax year. All state (up to 50) and federal returns are free. Free live phone support is also provided.
Military OneSource offers free tax filing through H&R Block for 1 federal return and up to 3 state returns, which is good especially if you change your tax residency in a year, which some military members have to do.
Intuit Tax Freedom offers free federal tax filing services to those who qualify.
Anybody, civilian or military, is eligible for the IRS federal free file service if their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $57,000 or less. Most military personnel will be eligible for this benefit, given their low rate of taxable income.
Free In Person Tax Filing Services for Military
Most posts and bases offer VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs. These are free, IRS certified individuals who can help you prepare your tax return and file it for you electronically. Check your base finance office for more details or the IRS Free Tax Prep website.
There are so many free options for military members to file their taxes. If you feel more comfortable paying an accountant to file your taxes, then by all means, do that.
If you are a self-filer, don’t bother paying for expensive software or online programs when the same software is available for free to military personnel through the programs listed above. Good luck finding those deductions and credits, and happy filing!
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.