JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
From the first paycheck to the last, financial counselors here want to make sure everyone is keeping their financial portfolio healthy for a lifetime.
Military members are required to pay debt in a timely manner and be responsible with their money, which counselors at the Military and Family Readiness Center are ready to help.
“They realize they don’t know anything about where their money is going; they don’t have that plan,” said Kevin Keith, 802nd Force Support Squadron personal financial manager. “Our responsibility is giving them the tools do that.”
The counselors are able to help draft budget plans and provide one-on-one counseling as often as needed.
“We teach everything from basic military money to spending plans,” Keith said. “We will help them contact creditors and outline repayment plans. We will very much get in the weeds with them.”
Those joining the military right after high school may be relatively new at being responsible for their expenses so paying attention to what they spend and how to save is key.
“Airmen who are living in dorms probably won’t have this much money again for the rest of their lives because they don’t have a great deal of other responsibilities," Keith added.
Some of the keys to financial success include making a financial plan, paying off any high-interest debts, and start saving and investing once they have paid off their debts, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
If someone is having a hard time figuring out where their money is going and they’re at the end of the month with little or no money left, it’s time to find out where all of the money went and put a plan in place to control the money flow for the future, Keith said.
For example, someone may have a problem spending too much money eating out. They can manage that by taking out a set amount for dining out at the beginning of the pay period and limit themselves to that amount, said Keith.
Along with managing a budget plan, it is also advisable to set aside money in savings at the onset and during wage-earning years.
“The key to savings is structure and automatic so that you never see it,” Keith said. “To have that money later, you have to put money away now.”
Tom Manganello, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, office of Education and Advocacy senior counsel, conducted financial readiness lectures here for military members and families and recommended a lifetime of saving and investing.
“Younger enlisted folks haven’t developed bad financial habits yet and haven’t saddled themselves with too much debt at this point,” Manganello said.
An example of a good habit would be being able to spot and avoid a scam as well as learn the red flags of fraud.
“When an investment sounds too good to be true it probably is,” Manganello said. “Typically the potential for higher returns comes with higher risk.”
Manganello also recommends that anyone planning to work with an investment professional conduct a background check at https://www.investor.gov/. This website has a compound interest calculator.
“It really does help people quickly and easily determine how much money they could invest and how that money could grow over time based on some assumed interest rates,” Manganello said.
The M&FRC offers various financial readiness classes include home or car buying; savings accounts; establishing credit and reducing debt; and managing student loans. For more information, call 210-671-3722.