MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
As a First Sergeant, I have seen the effects financial problems can have on Swamp Foxes. Beyond the obvious difficulties in maintaining the physical household, financial issues can cause problems for those who dwell in it. The financial stress and strain can cause physiological issues, fracture relationships, and be a detriment to one’s work performance. If left unchecked, financial shortfalls can also affect your security clearance and retainability. The common keys I have found to avoiding these negative effects are education and staying ahead of the game.
First and most important to financial stability is to have a comprehensive monthly budget. You need to be able to have a positive cash flow month to month in order to survive. I personally made a spreadsheet to track my expenditures versus my income. The “comprehensive” part of my budget is that I have set allowances for fuel, food, and other daily needs. I suggest taking EVERY expense you incur into mind when building your budget. A financial advisor can help you set one up if you need help. Advisory services are also available through the South Carolina National Guard, MilitaryOneSource.mil, and numerous private sources.
Once my bills for the current month are paid, I send a percentage of the surplus to savings and start to forecast what the next month will hold. Most of the time your budget will be repetitive month to month, but some months will also contain car taxes and other once a year charges. These need to be planned for so you don’t run into any shortfalls due to a lack of preparation.
A financial advisor will typically tell you that it is suggested to have six months of living expenses in your savings. I am in no way going to argue with that, but I do understand how difficult this can be to pull off in the real world. A lot of times, “life happens.” Refrigerators break, air conditioners go out, and other needs will arise in your life. It sometimes does not take but one unlucky month to sap your savings. As frustrating as this can be, you need to keep trying to push forward with building your emergency fund. A financial advisor can teach you ways to keep your monthly debt ratio at a safe level so you can survive those “life happens” moments.
If one of these seemingly inevitable moments happens in your life and causes a strain, please reach out to your McEntire family. Most of the time, individuals can work through these hiccups in life by themselves, but it can help you to just talk about the events. What most people don’t see is that they are truly strained when “life happens.” Financial stress will affect most people in a negative manner. Although you may not notice it, your attitude and mood may diminish. Talking to a supervisor, coworker, or First Sergeant can vent your internal pressure and be helpful to you physiologically. And if the financial strain is more than can be easily handled, that person you reached out to can point you toward the resources available to you. These resources can potentially keep you from falling too far behind and having other compounding issues. So please, do not let pride get in the way of seeking help. We are a family here at McEntire. A family that will try its best to help its own.
Aside from “life happens,” another common problem in personal finances is over extension. Just because you can afford a new Corvette does not mean that you NEED that new Corvette! Use common sense prior to making a purchase to keep your debt ratio within a safe margin. A couple of little caveats most people neglect to consider when buying that hotrod are the higher insurance premiums and property taxes that come with it! So, keep in mind the associated expenses new big ticket items have before purchasing them. Financial advisors will be able to help you see potential pitfalls before you find them the hard way.
One of my favorite tools for keeping good visibility on my purchases and potential debts is a website called PowerPay.org. This is a free resource that I learned about at a Yellow Ribbon event many years back. This website lets you put in detailed information about your mortgage, automobile loans, credit cards, and other obligations. This website shows you how long it takes to pay off your debts if you pay only the minimum payments. You can also easily see how paying a little more shortens the time to settle your debts as well as how much money you can save in the process. So, if you have ever been curious how helpful paying $50 a month extra toward your mortgage can be, this is the quick and easy way to find out!
Remember, the best way to avoid financial strain is to keep things in front of you. Keep your budget in front of you and make sure you are adhering to it. Keep your debt picture in front of you so you can make inroads toward being debt free. And if you have an issue and need assistance, put someone in front of you that can help you out. Your Swamp Fox family will do the best they can to help you succeed!