Work Life Balance…What’s your reality?

Posted by Elizabeth Gorkowski

Are you a working military spouse just dreaming of work life balance?  For just $9.99 a month this dream can be yours!  Ahhh if only it was that easy. How is a working military spouse supposed to fit in all of the demands placed on them, work, eat, perhaps raise children, sleep and find precious minutes for themselves?

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30, I greeted the yet to be seen sun with a P90x workout,  jumped in the shower, made lunches for the kids, dressed all three of them (ages 5, 3.5 and 1.5) for picture day at school and somehow arrived at school by 8am.  I worked on rewriting necessary policies for M.O.M. FIT to continue its growth; attended a luncheon for Americans Working Around the Globe (I am almost positive I brushed my hair), sprinted to the park  to run a M.O.M. FIT class and at 2:15 picked the kids up.  We returned home for snacks and an awesome hour of tag, soccer, jump rope and sprints in the backyard.  (Oh yes I said sprints, that way I can get my “speed” workouts in).  We showered, ate dinner, dressed for bed and I high fived the babysitter on the way out to attend a coffee for RHHT.  It was of course everyone’s lucky night that it was karaoke coffee and I love Bon Jovi.  At 9:45 I hugged my friend Morgan and thanked her for watching the children, laid out their clothes for school, sat down to work on my white paper for MOM FIT and at midnight went to sleep.  Perhaps outsiders who don’t know me might think this was a day of pure insanity but for me it is a perfect example of work life balance.

My balance did not arrive without a lot of planning, effort and the shocking realization that I simply can’t do it all.  As a military spouse it becomes far too easy for our lives to be pushed to the back burner as we attempt to cram our own dreams and goals into a life that is already packed with moves, work, family obligations and no luxury of extended family support.  Sometime during the fall of 2010 I realized I had too many extraneous factors pulling me in a hundred different directions and that the one item I had always cherished, working out daily sometimes twice a day was no longer a part of my life and it was making me a miserable person.  Exercise is my drug of happiness, nothing makes me feel better then a workout and the benefits are numerous.   I decided at that point to make a list of my top priorities and that they would be non negotiable  1)MY FAMILY  2) Fitness  3) M.O.M. FIT  4)Learning to say “let me check my calendar” and then had to actually make it happen!

I have a wonderful family but three girls under the age of 5 can easily steamroll out of control and my husband and I decided upon arrival in Germany (which was the 5th move for my 4.5 year old daughter) school and daycare options would be the best solution to set me on a path to being a better mother, spouse and owner of M.O.M. FIT . Their attendance allows me to put quality hours in on the continuous development of M.O.M FIT  and more importantly provides them with quality mom/daughter time when they  aren’t in school. I quickly realized I had too many friends where I was the primary giver using up a lot of my time and energy.  I decided to cut ties with many so called friends and it was shockingly easy.  I started adding fitness hours to my daily calendar, worked hard to build workouts that didn’t require me to go to the gym and slowly regained myself one step at a time.  I also learned to add the magical phrase “let me check my calendar and get back to you” before saying yes to any requests.

Numerous volunteer requests always fall at the feet of military spouses with little acknowledgement of the outside job many spouses are already balancing as a military spouse and perhaps parent.  Spouses are part of a culture where expectations exceed the normal standard and if you don’t make your time a priority no one will do it for you.  I have now cut my volunteer time to only saying yes to INGEAR,  Americans Working Around the Globe and coaching high school basketball. Nothing else provides me with the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction like those organizations, which allows me to justify taking time and energy away from my family.

For years coaching basketball was my life and passion but 5 moves in 4.5 years quickly put a 12 year career to a screeching halt.  I was fortunate enough to take advantage of the MYCAA benefit offered to spouses and obtain my personal trainer certification and begin the development of M.O.M. FIT.  Our mission at M.O.M. FIT is to improve the wellness, overall health and fitness levels of military spouses through a supportive team environment.  Daily we make in home visits for individual workouts, meet at parks across Germany for boot camps and stroller fitness, teach families how to meal plan, educate them on nutrition, teach goal setting and most importantly build the TEAM concept so spouses always have a support system in their lives.

Today was a balanced work life day for me; there are days work garners more hours, the family receives less attention and vice versa.  Take a moment and share with us the way you find balance in your day, you just might help another spouse achieve their pursuit of balance. There is no perfect in the pursuit of work life balance and I have come to the realization that as long as the good days far outweigh the bad days then my balance is successful.

Liz Gorkowski , a military spouse with  15 years in the fitness industry has mentored Olympic, professional, collegiate, All Army Team and military spouse athletes.  Liz is an ACE certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor and former college basketball coach. She is the owner of the Fit Group which is home to M.O.M. FIT where WE ARE CHANGING LIVES ONE WORKOUT AT A TIME! Like the Fit Group today on Facebook at The FIT Group or visit our website at www.the-fit-group.com.  If you would like a M.O.M. FIT chapter on your post please send all requests to thefitgroup11@googlemail.com

Health Coaching – Versatile, rewarding and mobile!

Posted by Jolie McShane

Moving around the country..wait..moving around the world?  How does a military spouse find sources of income when they are constantly uprooted?  As a Certified Health Coach I can recommend my own profession as an option, specifically for those of us with a passion for nutrition.  Once we become parents, we better understand the importance of food and nutrition.  A sick child will bring out the “Mother Bear” in every one of us and we become advocates for our children’s wellbeing.  This is what happened to me and many of my colleagues in this industry.  My youngest was born with total body coverage of eczema, so severe he never should have survived.  The top 6 local medical doctors all prescribed steroids, a remedy that only covered up the underlying problem.  Years later and many doctors, alternative care professionals and research I finally found the source of his problem and was able to heal him.  He is now eczema and asthma free, living a mostly normal life.  I wanted to share my expertise but needed some sort of credentials or certification.  This is when I found a new profession called health coaching.  Once one completes the training, miracles happen.  Your diet is dramatically changed and nagging health issues are addressed and reduced.  For some, their weight issues are under control, for many, women’s issues in general are placated.  Other health coaches combine fitness certification along with the health coaching, offering fitness and nutritional counseling.  Health Coaching is an amazing profession that allows each coach to uncover their own hidden specialties in order to help those around them.

Health coach training is available via the internet; there is no need to ever attend any onsite classes.  Upon your completion of this 12-month course, you are certified through the State University of New York (SUNY) with 40 college credits.  The cost is between $4,000-$5,000 depending on when you register and how it is paid.  Materials are provided digitally, printed or online.  A mentor checks in with you for one hour a month.  The ability to listen to the lectures on your time, as many times as you want is perfect for the military spouse on the move.  Each week requires between 2-6 hours of study, depending on the subject matter.

No matter where you reside, you will have a huge community of internet and (if stateside) local health coaches where you share ideas, workshops and business tips.  Your coaching can be conducted via the medium of your choice.  Some coaches have business models where webinars are their sole source of income, while others coach over the phone or in person.  Hourly rates are set by the coach and range from $50 – 250 per hour.  Work as little or as much as you want.

There are many options for health coach certification.  The school I attended fit my needs and nutrition interests.  The added benefit was their “Fast Track” program which concentrated on the business aspect of health coaching.  This option is provided free of charge.  In addition, the school offers website design and hosting, all at no additional cost.

My website is www.healthmaniacs.net, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition can be found at www.integrativenutrition.com.  Referrals to the school are also a small source of income, ranging between $300 – $500 per registered student.

This profession is not for everyone, but certainly satisfying for those who wish to help others.  The education is based on the concept of food = medicine, no scientific modeling or chemistry required.

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But The Tooth

 

Posted by Grace Chung

 

The “tooth” is, I never thought I’d end up where I am now – a second year dental student, mom, spouse of an active duty service member, and completely unsure of what path I’ll take in two years when I graduate with my degree.  When I started out in the Army, I didn’t think much about where I’d be past my service obligation.  I was young, newly married, eager to get paid, and kept my rule pretty simple: I’d stay in until it stopped getting fun.

I didn’t expect that fun to stop so soon – and the blame was not to be placed on the military at all.  While I mostly enjoyed my jobs, I realized early on that sacrifices had to be made if you are sharing your life with another person.  Although it was never really an option, I had many opportunities to assume more exciting positions or jobs with increasing responsibility, but only with the stipulation that my husband and I would spend some time apart.  I was unwilling to do that any more after our first deployment apart, and therefore I spent my entire 6 years of active duty as a (great!) staff officer.  Even before we had children, I knew in my heart that only one of us could continue on if we wanted to ensure that we, as a family, could move everywhere together.  That being a priority of mine, I decided I needed a career switch at some point to better accommodate our lifestyle and family goals, so I started on the tortuous path of trying to discover what it is I was supposed to do with myself that I could a) enjoy, b) contribute to supporting our family, and c) follow our family from place to place as we PCS.

I think it’s safe to say that many military spouses come across a similar path at some point in their lives.  And it’s a tough place to be when you feel like you have so much potential and gifts to offer but you may not be given the chance to use them when your future is so unpredictable.  While I always knew being a stay-at-home-mom was certainly a viable (and totally ok!) option – I wanted to see if there was anything out there that I could at least try for to gain a skill set that could ultimately be valuable somewhere.  I was in the healthcare services while in the Army, so I was fortunate to be in the company of many doctors, nurses, PA’s, physical therapists, and the like….and of all people I always dreaded going to as a child, it was the dentist that sold me.

The dental profession is HUGE – I had no idea just how big it is.  In fact, I didn’t even realize that the person who cleaned my teeth (the hygienist) was a different person that did my fillings (the dentist), who was also different from the person who took my X-rays (the dental assistant).  One of the ladies and spouses in my unit told me that she had been a dental assistant back in FT Carson and encouraged me to apply to dental school, with the notion that I could always still become a hygienist or an assistant if I didn’t get in.  She also explained how dentistry was great for her family life because of the flexible schedule and the fact that you are really never on call, and she learned to be an assistant without any formal education but instead as “on-the-job” training (which later discovered is very common for many assistants across the country).  A dentist I met in the Army concurred that it’s a fantastic profession for balancing family life, and much easier to transfer licensing from state to state than other medical professionals.

So I looked into it – and I liked what I saw.  In my mind, it is like this well-kept secret of healthcare professions that is SO adaptable and DO-ABLE for anyone, especially those that may be moving around, that like working with and helping other people, and for those with families to consider.  I looked into dental schools in the US and found several that are around major military installations, and discovered that many more schools offered dental hygiene programs, and even county community colleges held 1-year dental assisting programs to better facilitate the job-hunting process.  While not every license transfers from state to state, I found that dentistry certificates are acquired within regions (so having a Northeast Regional Board license allows you to practice in most states along the eastern border of the US.)

A big selling point for a career in dentistry is that there are still a vast majority of private practices in this field, so getting a job as an associate dentist, hygienist, or assistant is not nearly as difficult as trying to fit yourself into a salaried position at a large hospital or even getting into the GS system.  The GS system has its inherent complexities in terms of how long it takes to get into the system, and every new place you go to, there may be longer indoctrination period before you can even begin working.  Most military installations are within a reasonable distance from a city that has its hospital to support the population.  So even if you didn’t want to work in the GS system, you still have to apply to a large organization like a city hospital that still (I presume) takes a bit of time to get the process started.  I know of some military spouses that have successfully landed jobs in hospitals around post, but I also know of many more who were denied the opportunity to work due to the short duration of their projected working time.  On the contrary, I have spoken to several ladies who were hired as dental assistants just by writing letters to all the local private practice dentists in the area near their duty assignment, and because many of them gear their practices towards serving the military, they were often very well received and the job contract was much simpler – just between two people.

I am certainly not saying that it’s impossible or unfavorable even, to work as a civilian health care professional in a hospital setting – I just wanted to shed some light on a different healthcare career field that some may not have noticed because well, most try to avoid the dentist.  And by the way, the number of people working in the dental world is expected to increase far faster than the average for all occupations through 2014 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) – it’s a field that will continue to be in demand in the coming years.

So, do I have you hooked?  Does this interest you at all?  If so, keep reading.  I’ll try to condense what I had researched a few years ago when I first began applying to dental schools.  Hopefully this will help streamline some information for those who may consider this field of work.

 

DENTAL ASSISTANT

A dental assistant does a lot and fills a variety of roles in a dental office.  Some of these include preparing patients for dental procedures, ensuring that the office is sterilized, assisting the dentists during procedures by providing the tools and supplies, helping with oral health care instructions for the patients, and taking x-rays (with some formal education).  Dental assistants generally earn a respectable salary, and they can find employment in almost any community.  A dental assistant, just like any other job, is one based off experience – so the more places you work, sometimes, the better you are fit to work in another environment because you bring variety and knowledge to a new practice whenever you move.

The steps to becoming a dental assistant vary.  Some people first volunteer at a dental office to shadow an assistant, and then learn “on the job”.  Many community colleges offer a dental assisting program that can be 1 year long, or condensed into just a few months.  In the end, most dental assistants choose to pursue an official certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) – this exam is accepted in 38 states as a qualifying certification to practice, and certainly helps boost your resume when transferring from state to state if applying for a private practice job.  Passing this exam signifies that the dental assistant meets the highest level of professional competency for potential employers.  You can take this exam after finishing a dental assistant certification course, or, for those with unaccredited training (on-the-job), you must have 2 years of work experience prior to being eligible to take the DANB.

Regulations vary from state to state, and some states recognize just a few subsections of the DANB exams for certification instead of the whole exam.  Either way, certified dental assistants will undoubtedly receive a higher salary and probably can find jobs more easily, but it is not a mandatory certification to obtain to be a dental assistant.

 

For more information on becoming a dental assistant, you can visit these sites:

www.dentalassistant.net

www.danb.org

 

 

DENTAL HYGIENIST

Becoming a dental hygienist in today’s world is an excellent option.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists will grow 36% by the year 2018 and is also one of the fastest growing occupations in the country.  Dental hygienists are the folks that you see when you go in for a “cleaning”.  They are experts at clearing your teeth of plaque, debris, and tarter, and they also administer cavity-prevention treatments.  They are also responsible for providing hygiene home-care instructions for the patients, and they assist the dentist by helping to treat gum disease.  They also are able to take x-rays and help the dentist by administering the diagnostic tests for the dentist’s evaluations.  In some states, hygienists are allowed to administer anesthetics and even place temporary fillings for teeth.

To become a dental hygienist, you must complete an accredited dental hygiene program, and there are about 300 or so programs currently in the U.S.  You must have at least a high school degree and submit college entrance test scores to become accepted (SATs / ACTs).  Some schools require at least one year of college as well.  Most programs will offer an associate’s degree upon completion of the program, but some offer certificate, bachelor, and even master’s degrees.  Some schools vary, but my research showed that most programs were 2 years long (some offer a 3 year, less condensed program as well.)

The course work for a dental hygiene program is very thorough and not to be taken lightly – they include subjects that are holistic in medicine (like pharmacology and nutrition) and not just teeth-related.  A dental hygienist is certainly a member of the clinical society of medicine and the wealth of knowledge and skills they have are most definitely respectable.  With that said, it’s do-able!  Most dental hygiene students I have met in my school are those that made career switches along the way, came back to school after staying at home for a while, or just wanted to try something new.  Many juggle their dense school work with their family lives, and they all seem to do very well with the support of each other.

All dental hygienists must be licensed by their practicing state.  Usually it’s a combination between a written and clinical examination (with the written part through the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, and the clinical portion run by the state or regional testing agencies).  However, for the state requirements, many states fall under one regional test that covers several states.  See below under “Dentist” for more on this.

 

For more information on becoming a dental hygienist, you can visit these sites:

http://www.dentalhygienist.org/

http://www.adha.org/careerinfo/licensure.htm

 

 

DENTIST

Employment of dentists is also expected to grow by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, just alongside the predicted growth of hygienists and assistants.   The dentist is responsible for diagnosing and treating disease, injuries, and malformations of the teeth and mouth.  A dentist can perform anything from simple cleans and fillings to complex surgical procedures in the oral cavity, and they can further specialize into fields to become orthodontists, oral maxillofacial surgeons, endodontists, periodontists, prosthodontists, radiologists, and several more.

The road to becoming a dentist can be a long one depending on where you are in your educational timeline, but it’s do-able at any phase of life and certainly if you are determined.  All but one of the ~40 dental schools in the US are 4 years long, and most require at least a bachelor’s degree to apply.  For all schools, an applicant must take the Dental Admissions Test, which covers basic sciences as well as math, reading comprehension, and a perceptual abilities test.  The prerequisite coursework varies from school to school, but generally all schools require college courses in the sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.) with some requiring more advanced studies in anatomy or biochemistry.

Upon completion of dental school, you obtain either a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or D.M.D. (Doctor of Medical Dentistry).  In order to become certified, a dentist must pass the National Board exams, which is unique to dentists.  However, like dental hygienists, they also have to take state or regional licensure exams to practice in that state.  However, as I mentioned before, many states fall under the umbrella of a larger regional licensing requirement, so you may not necessarily have to re-take an exam every time you move.  For example, the North East Regional Board (NERB) offers dental hygiene as well as licensing exams for dentists, and they cover 20 states, including some that aren’t even in the north east (Nevada and Hawaii are covered under the NERB!).  This certainly makes it easy to move from state to state without necessarily having to re-take a licensing exam.

After obtaining your dental license, you are free to practice in any state with the exception of NY, which requires you to do a 1-year general practice residency at one of the very many hospitals that offer it.  With this exception, there is no requirement to do a residency following dental school and many do graduate and then pursue work.

 

For more information on becoming a dentist, you can visit these sites:

 

For general information: http://www.dentalsite.com/dentists/densch.html

http://becomeadentist.org/

For information on the Dental Admissions Test: http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Any time one considers a change in career or decides to go back to school or work after staying at home for a while, it is extremely daunting and quite frankly, well – outright scary.  There is a lot of information out there and on the websites that I have highlighted that are both very helpful, but also intimidating.  Once you lay it out in front of you and create a checklist of all “things to do” prior to even applying to a program, it will be easy to turn the other way because you may think it’s impossible to even meet half the prerequisites.  But, I will say first-hand, that anyone can come into this field – it is not just for young kids who knew they wanted to do this all their lives from childhood.  And if you plan it just right, you can take some courses or apply to several programs across the country and work with your spouse’s assignment manager based off of where you got accepted.  You’d be amazed to know that there were 12 dental schools that were within reasonable driving distance from military posts throughout the country that I applied to that were around places like FT Lewis, FT Carson, FT Knox, FT Meade, FT Sam Houston, FT Rucker, FT Bragg, FT Irwin, and that’s just to name a few.  There are many, many more schools offering hygiene, and countless community programs for dental assisting.

Also, the military offers some great benefits that spouses can enjoy while being full time students.  The Post-9/11 GI bill has been a tremendous help for us in financing my education, and with my husband’s orders to FT Meade, I automatically became a Maryland resident and thus qualify for in-state tuition.  Another great resource that really helped my family was childcare subsidy for finding off-post childcare and fee assistance.  National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) helps military families find and afford child care that suits their needs.  Through the fee assistance program, families are eligible to receive a monthly subsidy to help offset the cost of childcare in their communities.  If you are a military spouse and a full time student, you are eligible.  Please go to this link for further information:  http://www.naccrra.org/military-families.

Finally, I must add that considering a field of dentistry is hard work.  It is not easy material to learn, and if you’re like me and didn’t particularly love science in high school, the coursework will be hard.  But what you, the military spouse, must realize is that you are stronger than most other creatures on this planet.  I have been in the company of spouses who keep their families together strong and united, survive deployment after deployment, go through the packing and unpacking, transferring schools, and adjusting to life overseas as quickly as they do coming back.  And I admire you and am honored to be one, too.  Nothing is harder than doing what you do every day or right now – and please remember that when you decide you want to challenge yourself to pursue a career that will ultimately, in the end, be a piece of cake.

 

 

Comment by Ashton Peterson on June 23, 2012 at 9:05pm

What school is near ft irwin? I have been looking and can not find anything.

 

Comment by Grace Chung on April 5, 2012 at 7:12pm

Hi Katharine! Thanks for reading it and offering comments :) I did have to do my first year of school away from my husband, and he joined me right before I started second year for his 3 year duty here in Maryland. So, yes, I see it may be tricky to get a solid 4 years out of the Army unless you’re at a big place like FT Bragg or Hood where some people can move around jobs within the post. But, as a backup, I did see that many schools do let you transfer and it made me feel better going into this. I just started a Dental group if you want to join, and we can further our discussion there if you’re interested. Also, I’m working on a Part II version of my post specifically geared towards applying to dental school, so let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like to see addressed there. Look forward to chatting with you some more!

 

Comment by Katharine Leming on April 5, 2012 at 11:59am

Grace, Great post!  I would love to do something like this, but I don’t know if the Army can support me being in the same place for 4 years in a row for dental school.  Do you have a plan “b” for an unexpected transfer to Ft. Drum or other sufficiently rural post that does not have a dental school within a 1.5-hour radius?  Is there a residency requirement after dental school?

Paying Taxes in the Military

Posted by Emily Gluck

It’s that time of year again; April 15th is quickly approaching.  Some lucky families have lived the entire year in one state, others may have lived in two or three.  Each move can effect your tax filing status.  In addition, filing multiple state tax returns is repetitive and expensive.  It doesn’t help that the internal revenue code and its state counterparts tend to be ill-written and confusing.

Luckily, there is a multitude of information on the web.  For example, simply searching for “Military Spouse Residency Relief Act” produces dozens of helpful websites.  Hopefully a short summary of the wealth of information out there will lead you in the right direction.  All the information below is available on the Internet.  It is not intended to be tax or legal advice, just a short recap to help everyone find the information they need.

 

Websites I found useful:

 

 

How does the tax code affect our taxes?

It depends on the active duty AND the spouse’s residence state or domicile.

 

As is typical of the law, regular words often take on special meaning when contained in a statute.  So, first we will look at the active duty spouse’s “resident state” and how that can effect the taxpayer.

 

Every person, military or civilian, has one legal “domicile”.  The requirements to establish domicile differ from state to state, but generally include:

 

  •                 Registering to vote, and actually voting
  •                 Maintaining a driver’s license
  •                 Registering automobiles
  •                 Maintaining professional licenses
  •                 Owning property
  •                 Accepting tax breaks for homestead properties
  •                 Preparing legal documents, such as wills, referencing a specific state
  •                 Maintaining a physical presence in the state for a specific period of time

 

You do not get to choose your domicile state.  It is established by living in a state with the intent to remain.  The aforementioned list is just an example of what different states look for to determine whether or not you are a legal resident.

 

One way for the active duty spouse to conclusively establish his/her legal residency is to fill out Form DD2058.  Often times, “legal domicile” is where (s)he lived upon entering the military.  For Example, my spouse lived in California when he entered the military.  Whether he moves to Hawaii or Timbuktu, he retains his California residency status for tax purposes. The active duty spouse is permitted to maintain his/her domicile regardless of where they are moved.

 

Once you know the active duty spouse residence, you must determine whether the state of domicile taxes military pay regardless of where they are stationed.  I have yet to encounter a state that taxes military pay when the soldier is stationed outside of the domicile state, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist.  So, your best bet is to do some research.  Here it a great link that provides information to each state’s governing tax agency.

 

http://www.military.com/money/content/personal-finance/taxes/state-…

 

Also, don’t forget JAG.  They are free and it’s part of their job to help you understand the affect of the military on your tax status.

 

I find an example usually helps make things more clear.  As I mentioned earlier, my spouse is a domicile of California.  We are now stationed in New York.  California does not tax military pay when the active duty spouse is stationed outside of California on official orders.  Therefore, he does not pay California state income taxes.  In addition, he is exempt under New York from paying state income taxes on his military pay.

 

**It is important to note New York will collect state income taxes on any non-military pay.  For example if he worked part-time on the weekend for a retail store or sold items on ebay/etsy.  Yet again, another example of why it is so important to familiarize yourself with each state’s tax laws regarding the military.  That last thing you want is to owe state taxes at the end of the year because your spouse worked a second job to help out.

 

In addition, many states do not tax certain types of military pay or offer extended periods to file the returns during the period you are earning said pay, such as combat pay.  So again, you must be familiar with the state tax laws to make sure you are correctly paying or, more importantly, not paying taxes.

 

A great place to start is the state publication/instruction for military personnel.

For example, here is NY’s publication:

http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/income/pub361.pdf

So the questions you need to answer for the active duty spouse include the following:

 

  • Home state (residence/domicile)
  • Home state tax law regarding:

Taxes on military income if stationed within home state

Taxes on military income if stationed outside home state

  • Station State

Taxes on military income as nonresident (most likely none)

Taxes on non-military income as nonresident (usually requires you file a separate tax form)

  • Type of military income and any tax special treatment

 

If you discover that you have been overpaying taxes, you can file an amended tax return and state tax form specifically for reimbursement of state income taxes. In NY it’s form IT-203.  Some states limit the time to request a refund to three years, so be sure to check how long you have to file that request for a refund.

 

Of course, most of this should be taken care of by the military personnel handling the active duty spouse’s pay.  But, people make mistakes, so it’s important to make sure everyone understands their paystub.

 

Now onto the military spouse…

 

The most important tax law affecting the military spouse is the Military Spouse Relief Act.  I recommend googling or using the links above to familiarize yourself with the Act.

 

How does the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act affect the military spouse?

Prior to its enactment in 2009, the military spouse was subject to the state laws of each state that (s)he moved to with the active duty spouse.  Each new state often enacted mandatory residency requirements such as laws requiring one obtain a new driver’s license despite the fact it was only for two or three years.

 

Pursuant to the Act, the military spouse can retain the same home state or domicile, as long as the military spouse’s sole reason for leaving that state was due to a permanent change of station (PCS) for the active duty spouse.  This means military spouses are now allowed to keep their state of legal residence for tax, voting, car registration, etc., regardless of where they are stationed.

 

The Act also specifically applies to military spouses who: 1) earn income in a State in which the spouse is present with their active duty spouse pursuant to military orders and 2) that State is not the spouse’s domicile.  Under these conditions, the military spouse generally will not have to pay income taxes to the state where they are stationed with their active duty spouse. Depending on the laws of the home state, the spouse may be required to pay income tax to the domicile state.  This does not mean you are exempt from all taxes, such as property taxes.  The Act applies to personal income.  Again, each state may provide greater tax benefit or protection to military families, so check those state tax laws!

 

In other words, you do not have to pay state income taxes to the state you are currently stationed if the only reason you moved there was due to a PCS.  For example, I am a California resident, moved to New York with my active duty spouse due to a PCS, and am now employed full-time in New York.  I pay federal income taxes (of course).  I do not pay NY state income taxes.  Although, I still pay NY state disability tax.  Luckily, California does not tax my out of state income, so I do not have to pay California income taxes on my New York earnings.

 

Unfortunately, this is not automatic.  You will likely have to educate human resources or the payroll service about the benefits proscribed to you by the Act.  In NY, I had to call our payroll service and educate them about the Act.  Once we were on the same page, I filled out the applicable NY tax form to ensure NY state income taxes were not taken out of my paycheck.  See NY’s form here: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/2011/fillin/wt/it2104ms_811_fill_in.pdf.  Each state will likely have their own version.

 

But, we’re not done yet.  Just as your active duty spouse may be required to pay income taxes to his/her state of domicile despite being stationed out of said state, you are also subject to those same rules.  So check your state of domicile’s tax rules regarding military spouse income earned while stationed out of the state.

 

Even if you aren’t subject to state income taxes while stationed out of state, you may still be required to file a tax return.  Some states require every person domiciled in the state to file a tax return or at a minimum a tax form.  It’s usually a one-page form that, in effect, states I don’t owe the state taxes.

 

This scheme gets complicated when you are stationed in your domicile state for only part of the year and PCS to a different state.  You must apportion the income you earn in your domicile state and the income earned out of state.  For me, it was easy because I had two w-2, one from my California job and one from my New York job.  I paid income tax while working in California but did not in New York.  On my California tax return, I only entered the California w-2.

 

It is more difficult if you work from home or consult (1099).  If you are a 1099 self-employed individual, you will likely need to separate your income and file a state tax return for the period you earned money in your state of domicile.  All the while, checking each state’s laws to make sure you don’t need to file anything in the PCS state.

 

Hopefully, this information was helpful.  If any information is incorrect, feel free to let me know.  All of this information is available on the Internet.  It is not legal or tax advice, so make sure you seek the help of a professional or JAG if needed.

Don’t Wait to Find a Mentor

One of the main reasons we started In Gear Career was to connect military spouses with other professionals in their fields- to create mentorship and sponsorship relationships to enable you to succeed in pursuing a professional career.

 

As a career minded military spouse, it is imperative that you have a mentor.  Why?  As you move from duty station to duty station, you will come across unique career challenges.  A mentor is someone who believes in you and wants you to succeed.  They are typically more senior, have experience in your career field, and are willing to help you.  He or she is a trusted ally that can provide critical feedback, encouragement, and wisdom in your decision making process.  Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially.

 

Who should be my mentor?

 

Your mentor doesn’t have to be a military spouse, although it would be helpful to have someone fielding your career development questions who understands the military community and the challenges you face.  Ideally, your mentor is someone with significant experience in your chosen career field.  You should admire him or her and have a natural connection when speaking with that person.

 

How do I find a mentor?

 

If you are working, your company leadership may be a great place to start.  Barring that, networking with other professionals is a way to connect with possible mentors.  One way to do this is through forums, like InGear, or your professional associations.  If you are not working, you need to join your professional association to begin meeting others in your field – doing so, will also improve your chances of getting a job, because a mentor can also become a sponsor.

 

The Art of the Ask

 

The key to forging a mentor relationship is to be open to opportunities. When you feel a natural connection with someone, just ask for help. Tell them how much you admire what they have accomplished, their work style, or (fill in the blank) and would love to meet for coffee and learn more about their career path.  For the most part people enjoy sharing their experiences and helping others.   You have nothing to lose by asking.  If they say no it’s likely because they are simply too busy and they may be able to suggest someone else.

 

What should the relationship look like?

 

Once a connection is established, ask if they would be willing to get together on a regular basis. From there, you need to ensure the relationship is mutually rewarding. Some things to keep in mind:

·      Respect their time: Suggest meeting once a month, but always ask how often they can get together.  Adjust your schedule to accommodate them.  Everyone’s time is valuable, but you need to show that you value theirs by limiting engagements to appropriate lengths.

·     Consider reciprocity: Don’t just “pick” their brain. Think about what you can offer them that will add to their brain-power!  Some mentors get a reward from a creative exchange and will appreciate reverse mentorship.  Do some research ahead of time to add to the conversation rather than just asking away.  What can you teach them about social media, the latest in pop culture or how to motivate 20-somethings in the workplace? Recommend articles that may be of interest to them that they may not be in their line of sight.