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United States Army
Financial Readiness Program
Vilseck Germany 92249
Resources are available to help you understand and manage your finances, including one-on-one financial counseling to assist you and your family with financial readiness. Services are designed to focus on money management issues throughout your active-duty lifecycle and into retirement. Financial readiness educational opportunities range from basic planning to long-term investing. Check out the information below to see what’s available at your installation.
The Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program exists to help soldiers, civilians and their family members to deal with the financial implications of living overseas. Unique challenges include the language and cultural differences, a fluctuating currency exchange rate and the natural desire to use this opportunity to see Europe. We have experienced counselors whose mission it is to help make living in Germany a wonderful experience. They conduct classes for arriving soldiers and their spouses, unit briefings on a wide range of financial topics and seminars to help soldiers and families make the most of their time and money while assigned to Germany.
The FRP offers two types of services—seminars and classes on a wide range of financial topics as well as individual counseling for any money-related or consumer-related topic. Popular classes include a three-part series that covers Saving and Investing, Home Buying and Credit Reports/Identity Theft. Individual counseling provides confidential one-on-one appointments to discuss anything from too much debt to credit reports to a multitude of consumer issues. Appointments are usually of one-hour duration and can be scheduled within a couple of days of the request. All of these services are available for identification cardholders.
The cost of living in the immediate area is one of the lower rates in Germany. A couple can dine at a nice restaurant in the range of 20-30 euros. There are some discount stores which offer competitive prices. Germans are known to bargain for a lower price, and Americans having Status of Forces protection can eliminate the 19% value-added tax under certain circumstances. Tipping is not expected; most people will round up their bill at a restaurant one or two euros.
Renting has become more expensive in the last couple of years, particularly as the U.S. military has increased its presence in this community. Rent can range from 800 to 2,000 euros; rent may or may not include utilities. Soldiers and Department of Army civilians should visit the Housing Office to get a full explanation of the details of their own rental agreements. There are some special differences in Germany; for example, electricity, water and sewage and heating oil utilities are often billed annually. These larger, once-a-year utility bills require individuals to plan and budget accordingly.
Temporary lodging is available on and off the installation. Local "gasthauses" are often a real bargain; their prices should include breakfast, and special deals can be made for extended stays of five days or longer. Gasthauses may also accept the tax relief forms to eliminate the 19% value-added tax.
Insurance coverage for automobiles can be bought from a limited number of U.S.-based companies as well as many German firms. German firms offer one-year insurance contracts, and it's important to understand the terms at the time of purchase. Special arrangements can be made when a vehicle will be stored during a deployment. All vehicles must have liability coverage.
Soldiers arriving with their family members are usually housed temporarily at the post guesthouse, Tower Inn in Grafenwoehr, or at the Kristall Inn in Vilseck. If covered by Temporary Living Allowance, the Tower Inn or Kristall Inn is paid directly by the Finance Office at no out-of-pocket expense to the service member. The nearby area offers relatively inexpensive eating options. There are on-post food courts both in Grafenwoehr and Vilseck, as well as a reasonable selection of nearby off-post restaurants offering German, Italian, Greek, Chinese and Thai food. Meal prices range from 12 to 20 euros per adult, including a beverage.
The two categories in the family budget that tend to be high are car insurance and utilities. Car insurance for newer models where the owner is under the age of 25 can run as high as $275 per month. Auto repairs, especially for American models, are also high, and many U.S.-built vehicles are not made for the high speeds allowable on the autobahns. For families who now own an older model automobile, it may make sense to leave the vehicle in the continental United States and purchase a second-hand German vehicle upon arrival that can be more easily repaired. Utilities are deceptively high. If the Army is paying the rent directly to the landlord or if the family is living in government-owned or government-leased quarters, the utilities are included with the exception of the telephone. For private rentals, it is the occupant’s responsibility to understand how the various utilities are to be paid. Often incidental utilities, including water, trash, sewage and even cable TV, are paid once a year; that can be a real shock for a family who has not budgeted for those fees in advance. The electric company bills every second month on an estimate, based on the previous year for that unit; there is an annual reconciliation of those bills/fees based on actual use. Telephone installation costs 45-50 euros, and the monthly charges can be high. Only a few calls are included in the basic monthly rate; no stateside calls are included in the basic rate. It makes good sense to use a long-distance company that offers discounted rates. For most families, the Cost of Living Allowance more than covers these additional costs. However, there is always danger that families will regard their COLA as additional income and will not be prepared for unexpected costs. Be aware that the amount of COLA paid varies with the current average exchange rate.
There is a Women, Infants and Children Program on the installation located in Building 221 in Vilseck. For a crisis, an Army Emergency Relief section is available at ACS in both Grafenwoehr and Vilseck. The American Red Cross has active chapters at both communities. ACS also offers enrichment classes on topics ranging from basic money management to investment strategy and even a class on buying real estate.
Unless you know that you will be living in government housing, consider the option of storing your 110-volt appliances stateside and buying 220-volt appliances once you arrive. You can purchase appliances almost anywhere, including at the Thrift Shop. Transformers will convert your 110-volt appliances to 220 volts, but it is not efficient and will increase your electric bill.