A focus on personal finances equals readiness

  • Published
  • By the 162nd Fighter Wing Command Chief and wing First Sergeants
  • 162nd Fighter Wing
Recent reports indicate nearly one-third of U.S. enlisted servicemembers have moderate to severe difficulty in paying their bills, and that's counting only those who report having trouble. 

We may not realize it, but job performance and mission accomplishment are directly affected by our personal well-being. Financial distractions negatively impact readiness,
and the state of servicemembers' personal finances affects their security clearances. 

An exorbitant amount of debt can be a potentially disqualifying identifier, or "red flag," when it comes to having your clearance suspended or revoked. Virtually all positions at the 162nd require a secret clearance. Without it, Airmen are denied access to the network and restricted areas on base. 

If our members would approach their personal finances with the same discipline used in their professional lives much of their personal stress could be avoided. 

American author E.E. Cummings once said, "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart." 

Spreading your income too thin and struggling to pay bills, especially when unexpected expenses such as home or auto repair, or health or legal problems arise, is not sound financial management. 

This subject shouldn't conjure feelings of embarrassment, but rather inspire people to take steps to improve their situation. 

We all should consider our family's needs for adequate personal property (renter's) insurance; and if you're a homeowner, consider purchasing flood insurance. 

Make a detailed inventory of your personal property. Many insurance companies encourage customers to take photos or video of their belongings. Insurance obviously cannot replace the sentimental value of your property, but it can certainly help you with monetary losses. 

Finally, don't forget comprehensive coverage for your cars. Liability insurance alone won't pay for damage from weather, fire, theft or vandalism. With a little preparation you'll minimize the burden of such sudden expenses. 

Avoid credit card debt and high interest loans. According to the Federal Reserve, today's average consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau and the total U.S. consumer debt, which excludes mortgage debt, reached $2.46 trillion in June 2007. 

Protect your personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Arizona is among the list of states with the highest per capita rates of identity theft. Be extremely cautious about the way you dispose of personal documents and be careful about the personal information you transmit over the internet. 

Though retirement seems like a long way off for our junior members, investing today will help you maximize the cumulative effects of a disciplined savings plan for your family. 

Along those lines, the government offers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) which allows your money to grow tax-deferred while being automatically deducted from your pay through allotments--this is an easy way to invest your money systematically. Regardless of your status, DSG, technician or AGR, you should take advantage of this program to supplement your retirement. 

The Family Readiness Group has a wealth of information to educate you on the many tools available to help you manage debt, begin saving, protect against identity theft and secure your family's future. 

The Personal Financial Management Program at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base provides education, information and individual budget and/or financial counseling, on a wide variety of financial matters. They provide one on one spending plan analysis and financial management counseling to identify financial concerns and assist in developing immediate and long range financial plans. Check the base events calendar at www.dm.af.mil for upcoming classes. 

Moreover, we encourage everyone to look into services offered by militaryonesource.com and the new Department of Defense program, Military Saves, at www.militarysaves.org. These programs sponsor money management seminars and provide access to financial management information and personalized money management plans. 

We want confident and proud Guardsmen. When your personal life is in order, you are a better asset for our state and our nation. Gaining and retaining control of your family's personal finances will provide you the right situational awareness to truly focus on the professional side of your life. Your secure tomorrow begins today!