MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
When is the last time you changed your toothbrush? A novel gift in my Christmas stocking this year was an electric toothbrush with a twist. Built on a subscription model, every three months the company mails you a replacement brush, battery, and toothpaste. The motor runs four 30-second cycles to ensure you brush a full two minutes, making your dentist happy and optimizing your dental hygiene.
If only our financial health habits were so easy to manage. There are steps and actions we can take to make it simpler and more automated. Since we are still near the beginning of a new calendar year, maybe you've done some of these as part of a New Year's resolution. If not, allow me to encourage you to consider some financial hygiene activities ASAP to invest in yourself, possibly saving time and headaches in the future:
1. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a dedicated page for service members to help navigate the military financial lifecycle including financial basics, deployments and PCS, transitions and life events, leaving the service and veteran's issues. Reviewing these now will familiarize you with these basics, giving a preview of what could come.
2. Take the time to review your LES for SGLI coverage (and depending on your situation, consider additional life insurance) to make sure your loved ones are protected. Double check your beneficiaries - family situations sometimes change but often the required documentation is forgotten!
3. Tax season is here - if not already done, most of us will soon be gathering the necessary documents and papers to prepare our returns. Before spending it, carefully consider how you can best utilize any refund you may expect. Are there any credit card balances you could pay off? Do you have an emergency savings account of around $1,000 established in case the washing machine or your vehicle’s transmission needs replacing? A bigger step: can you save toward a goal of 3-6 months of living expenses, in case of a career change or unplanned life event?
4. Consider your retirement plan, however far away that may seem. Can you contribute more of your military pay this year to the Thrift Savings Plan? For a quick guide and helpful links, in the October and November 2018 SCANG News "Shirt Blast," Senior Master Sgt. Alex Gross provides a great overview of TSP Funds.
5. In addition to the TSP, and depending on your civilian career, you may be watching the stock market and investing in a 401K or an Individual Retirement Account. Review Lt. Col. John Wilcox's "Commander's Corner" article in the September 2018 SCANG News for advice on strategies for navigating the Bulls and Bears.
6. Credit Monitoring: check your score regularly, and carefully consider a freeze of your credit if appropriate. You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228.
7. Set Goals - it's never too late in any year, calendar or fiscal, to be resolute and create SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Having a road map and plan will help get you to where you someday want to be.
Shifting focus from our individual situations to our Wing finances, we are now one-third of the way through the 2019 Fiscal Year. Thankfully the Department of Defense and Air National Guard received a full year appropriation (budget) at the beginning of October.
Each of you can help us execute the FY19 budget and make sure to receive your financial entitlements by doing a few things. First, when you are on orders and in a travel status, create your travel authorization in the Defense Travel System as soon as possible and file your voucher within five days of completion of travel. Unclaimed vouchers aren't as lucrative as unclaimed lottery tickets, but they do create extra work for others and slow the execution of the budget. Next, monitor your LES closely for Regularly Scheduled Drill status to ensure you have been marked appropriately via your roll-calls and supervisory chain. Last year's hurricanes and the cancellation of our September Drill created a difficult situation for some to train a full 48 periods. Keeping up with your status may help prevent unnecessary stress near the end of a fiscal year. Finally, if you are a Resource Advisor or someone in the acquisition/procurement process, please work closely and be patient with us as there are new and additional restrictions on funding this FY. There is less flexibility to move funding between various operational areas on base, so careful thought and planning will be required to make this FY run smoothly.
On a final note, in the Comptroller Flight, we had some notable activity and moves last year. If you haven't heard, this summer our Comptroller, Maj. Marian Burgess, was named the Air National Guard Budget Officer of the Year. Her promotion in June to Comptroller made way for the hiring of a new Budget Officer, Capt. Brian Gallimore from Maintenance. Also, Staff Sgt. Michelle Dickens is starting this month as our full-time Quality Assurance Manager. If you haven't had a chance to congratulate or welcome them in their new roles, please stop by and do so.
Thank you for what you do for our Wing, State, and Nation. It's an honor to serve you and alongside you.
“To carry on war, three things are necessary: money, money, and yet more money.”
Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, 15th Century Italian military commander