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Commentary | Feb. 12, 2009

Basic Money Management

By Lt .Col. Kerry D. Britt 1st Comptroller Squadron

We all remember basic training. Whether it was Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Field Training through Reserve Officers Training Corps, or the lifetime at the Air Force Academy, each of these experiences serve to reinforce one thing - the fundamentals of military service. For that service we are rewarded every two weeks with a modest thank you in the form of a pay check. We're also expected to understand the basics of how to manage it. 

Finances are something that most people hate talking about, but basic money management is probably one of the most important conversations a supervisor can have with his or her subordinate. Sound financial management is important for two reasons. First, it is important for your future and can directly affect your military service and quality of life today and tomorrow. Second, it is rewarding. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of being in control of your finances, it keeps you targeted toward meeting your goals. 

Basic money management starts by asking the question, "What do I want?" Consider both your short and long term goals - a new plasma television, a new car, a new home - and then consider how much you'll need to reach that goal and plan your budget by keeping track of your spending. Know how much money is coming in, going out, and where it's going. Make saving a priority. Most financial experts recommend building an emergency fund equal to three to six months pay. 

Tips for improving your Financial Readiness include the following. Don't spend more than you have. Sounds simple, but the economic crisis we're faced with today was caused by individuals borrowing more than they could afford coupled with living beyond their means, not only by greedy bankers on Wall Street. Manage debt wisely by seeking overdraft protection, paying off your high-interest debt first, and limiting your total debt to no more than 20 percent of your income. 

Most importantly, don't be afraid to get help if you need it. The Airman and Family Readiness Center has trained consultants and technicians on staff dedicated to helping Airmen avoid financial problems. 

As service members, we know about the value of discipline. We should be disciplined about our money. Take charge of your money - don't let it take charge of you.