Financial Readiness Program
APO, AE 09112
Phone (DSN) 314-476-2650
Fax (DSN) 314-476-2234
Soldiers arriving with their family members are usually housed temporarily in the post guesthouse, called the Tower Inn in Grafenwoehr or the Kristall Inn in Vilseck. If covered by Temporary Living Allowance (TLA), 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 is relatively inexpensive for eating. 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 and Chinese/Thai food. Prices range from 12 to 20 Euro 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 $275.00 per month. Auto repairs, especially for American models, are also high, and many US-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 it in CONUS and plan on buying a second-hand German vehicle 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 occupants responsibility to understand how the various utilities are to be paid. Often the incidental ones, to include water, trash, sewage, and even cable TV are paid once a year, and that can be a real shock for a family who has not planned ahead. The electric company bills every second month on an estimate, based on the previous year for that unit, then there is an annual reconciliation. The telephone installation costs 45-50 Euro, and the monthly charges can be high. Only a few calls are included in the basic monthly rate, no stateside calls. It makes good sense to use a long-distance company offering discount rates. For most families, the Cost-Of-Living-Allowance (COLA) 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 (WIC) on the installation in Vilseck Bldg. 221. For a crisis, there is an Army Emergency Relief section at ACS in each Grafenwoehr and in Vilseck. The American Red Cross has active chapters at both communities. Army Community Service 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 and buying 220-volt ones here. You can pick them up almost anywhere including the Thrift Shop. Transformers will convert your 110 appliances to 220, but when you have to pay the electric bill, this is not efficient.
ACS Financial Readiness Program
The Financial Readiness Program at Army Community Service 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 (these are open to spouses, too), unit briefings on a wide range of financial topics, and seminars to help soldiers and families to make the most of their time and money while assigned to Germany.
The Financial Readiness Program offers two types of services - seminars/classes on a wide range of financial topics, and individual counseling for any money-related or consumer-related topic. Popular classes include a 3-part series on 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 ID-card holders.
Cost of Living
The Cost of Living for the immediate area is one of the lower ones in Germany. A couple can dine at a nice restaurant in the range of Euro 20 - 30. 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% tax under certain circumstances. Tipping is not expected; most people will round their bill at a restaurant up one or two Euro.
Renting has become more expensive in the last couple of years, particularly as the U.S. military has increased its presence in this community. Rents can range from Euro 800-2,000; the rent may or may not include utilities. Soldiers and DA civilians should avail themselves of the Housing Office and get a full explanation of the details of their own rental agreements. There are some special differences in this area; i.e., electricity, water and sewage, and heating oil are often annual expenses so that future planning is necessary.
Temporary lodging is available on- and off the installation. Local "Gasthauses" are often a real bargain; their price should include breakfast, and special deals can be made for extended stays of five days or longer. They 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 US-based companies as well as many German firms. Contracts with German firms are of one-year duration, 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.
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