Content provided courtesy of USAA.
As a longtime military spouse, I have held various jobs, and I know many of you can relate. Among them, I served as a military and family life counselor at an Airman and Family Readiness Center and had the privilege of working with fellow military families to create budgets, develop debt-payment plans, manage credit and save toward goals.
I remember one military spouse in particular who came to see me while her airman was deployed. She "handled the family finances just fine" by doing what the couple had always done (even before the deployment).
She came to see me after hearing the Readiness Center offered free financial counseling. She thought she and her husband could be better at paying down debt and saving for a trip to see family when he returned. I only met with her twice, but together we developed a plan she knew she could follow by making minor tweaks to her everyday expenses during the deployment.
I happened to see her again shortly before her husband came home, and she gave me a big hug and told me she had managed to save enough for the trip home and pay off some of their credit card debt. I hope she and her airman were able to stay on track and reach their goals — healthier finances usually mean healthier families.
The financial well-being of our military community is a significant readiness issue. Today's complex financial environment and uncertain future demand we have the knowledge to make informed choices about budgeting, saving, credit and debt, the Thrift Savings Program and many other money matters. To further complicate financial readiness plans, our military lifestyle includes frequent relocations and deployments. But our way of life doesn't have to hinder our ability to manage family finances successfully.
There is a wide variety of resources available to help put us on the path to financial freedom. Whether you prefer a classroom setting, an online experience, a multimedia approach or an individual consultation, in person or by phone, there is a solution to help meet your needs.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center provides educational opportunities to help you take charge of your finances. The center offers classes and workshops on specific topics, but you can also meet with an Accredited Financial Counselor® to get personal assistance with your unique goals.
Emergency financial assistance organizations, such as the Air Force Aid Society, can meet immediate financial needs in an emergency situation. The society provides interest-free loans and grants based on your individual needs, such as basic living expenses, emergency travel, vehicle expenses, funeral expenses, medical and dental care, child care, respite care and moving expenses.
The Defense Department's Military OneSource page provides financial calculators, articles and other help with topics such as financial wellness, how-to strategies, sample budgets, mortgages and foreclosures. Financial consultants are available all day, every day, to provide up to 12 sessions (per person, per issue) of no-cost, confidential financial counseling. Counselors are available online and by phone at 1-800-342-9647.
Several nonprofit organizations, such as The USAA Educational Foundation and the Consumer Federation of America's Military Saves program, provide financial education, resources and programs to service members and their families. These educational programs focus on setting financial goals, managing credit and debt, saving and investing and managing risk.
Financial woes can negatively affect your personal and family well-being, not to mention critically injure the effectiveness of your mission readiness. These resources are ideally used as a preventive measure rather than a corrective measure, but like the spouse I worked with years ago, you must be proactive in identifying what assistance you need and seeking it out.
There's no shame in seeking help and taking action for your financial security. Use the resources exclusively available to the military community to help make effective financial decisions and improve your financial capability.
Remember, financial readiness is critical to mission readiness.