savings

Now the GI Bill Is for Families, Too

You can transfer education benefits to your spouse and kids.

One of the best things about the new GI Bill, which took effect August 1, 2009, is that if you are a service member, you may transfer your benefits -- the full cost of in-state tuition and fees at a state school for up to 36 months, plus a stipend for housing and books -- to your spouse and children.

If they attend a more-expensive private college or grad school or pay out-of-state tuition, they may receive additional financial assistance from the Yellow Ribbon program; more than 1,200 U.S. colleges participate and agree to cover some extra costs beyond the GI Bill limits.

Who’s eligible. You can generally sign up for the benefits transfer if you’re on active duty or selected reserve, have served at least six years in the armed forces and agree to serve four more years (the extra service requirement is shorter if you’re eligible for military retirement between August 1, 2009, and August 1, 2013). Spouses may use the transferred benefits right away; children must wait until you’ve served at least ten years. Service members and veterans (and spouses) must use the benefits within 15 years after leaving the military. Children have more than 15 years, but must use the benefits by age 26.

If you’d like to transfer your benefits to your children, apply for the transfer as soon as you’re eligible, even if your kids won’t be attending college for a long time. The clock starts ticking on the extra four years of service on the date the transfer is approved, so even if you’ve already served 15 years, you may still need to serve an additional four years after you elect to transfer your benefits, says Department of Defense spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. Each service branch has its own procedure for enforcing the extra service commitment.

You can’t add new beneficiaries after you leave the military, so you may want to sign up your spouse and all eligible kids for at least one month of benefits as a place holder, then change the allocation or remove beneficiaries up until the time the benefits are used, says Lainez. For more information, see www.gibill.va.gov.

Most Popular

You'll Save More on Green Home Improvements Under the Inflation Reduction Act
Tax Breaks

You'll Save More on Green Home Improvements Under the Inflation Reduction Act

Tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements will be extended and expanded by the Inflation Reduction Act.
August 12, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
3 Dated Rules of Thumb Retirees Should Think Twice About
investing

3 Dated Rules of Thumb Retirees Should Think Twice About

The tried-and-true investing and saving rules of thumb retirees depend on may no longer be as reliable as they hoped. Don’t let dated “rules” steer yo…
August 11, 2022

Recommended

Should You Treat Your Kids Equally in Your Will? 12 Financial Planners Weigh In
retirement

Should You Treat Your Kids Equally in Your Will? 12 Financial Planners Weigh In

What's the "fair" way to divide an estate? Many parents think they should divvy things evenly among their children ... but that can backfire. So what'…
August 1, 2022
How Big Should My Emergency Fund Be?
Brandon Copeland

How Big Should My Emergency Fund Be?

NFL linebacker and Kiplinger contributing editor Brandon Copeland discusses the importance of building an emergency fund.
June 30, 2022
Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers
credit & debt

Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers

What money-management guidance can we glean from the words — and experience — of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and others?
June 30, 2022
Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid
retirement

Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid

You may be surprised at how easy it is to make an expensive mistake with your beneficiary designations. Here's how to help avoid the five most common …
June 6, 2022