Setting myself up for financial success

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Finances, one of those topics we tend to avoid in public situations. We cringe at the thought of someone ever seeing what we spend our money on. It’s a subject that brings about various fervid complications.

Why? Why does money have to be a subject seen as taboo? From a young age we are taught it is rude to ask someone how much money they earn.

It is the type of thing that separates us in comparison to someone else. When we do decide to discuss money, we tend to only talk about it in a round-about way; how to make more of it, getting more from our taxes and investing to name a few.

When the subject changes to personal finances, we are more prone to stay quiet or even go as far as avoiding eye contact.

Society has placed this stigma on money that if we have more of it we will be happier. This way of thinking has in turn resorted to “get rich quick” schemes.

When we begin to understand the value of money, then we can address the issues we have in our lives that affect it.

I decided I really wanted to start understanding my money. My husband and I plan to have kids at some point in our lives, buy a house and eventually plan a life outside the military.

I took the next step and attended a financial workshop offered at the base, called “Command Your Cash.”

During the presentation, I learned the importance of short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals.

My husband and I set financial goals all the time; one of which is that we plan on paying off about $9,000 in debt by 2017.

An old saying is, “if you plan to fail, you fail to plan.” The one thing we always failed to realize when setting financial goals was the glue. What I learned is that to be successful financially you must establish a goal, plan out a time you want to accomplish it, decide on the amount needed to make it happen and remember the importance of why you are accomplishing it.

Sticking to a financial goal takes discipline and self-control. Creating a monthly spending plan can help you be aware of what is coming in and going out.

My husband and I use an electronic spending plan to easily help with changes in our income.

Growing up, I have always heard that credit cards were bad. I didn’t get my first credit card until I was 21. This was of course after consulting with my parents and becoming wiser about the value of a credit score.

My parents told me if I wanted to get a credit card, it would be wise to buy something that was not overly expensive, so that I was able to build my credit and pay it off in about five to six months. Following this practice, today my credit score sits at 716.

During the presentation, the briefer explained how to build a good credit reputation by paying all of your bills on time, avoiding opening new accounts too rapidly, limit your debt by avoiding maxing out your credit cards and do not co-sign for anyone.

He also spoke on the importance of having insurance. Whether it is car, homeowners or renters, make sure you are covered. Case in point - having car insurance does not protect your personal belongings if they are stolen out of your vehicle, renters insurance does, so it is important to know specific coverage of each policy as well.

He went on to discuss the vitality of protecting your identity against fraud. Identity theft happens if someone gets ahold of your personal identifiable information to include, social security numbers, birthdates, bank account information and even names. For example, while in the military I received an email notification of possible fraud with my information being shared to another unsecure email address. After I reviewed my credit report, no suspicious activity had occurred.

If you think you could be a victim of identity theft, be sure to contact your financial institution and the three consumer reporting agencies and place a fraud alert for your credit reports. The active duty alert remains on your credit report for one year, unless it is requested to be removed.

The presentation also touched on being smart about making major purchases, saving and investing, planning for retirement and estate planning to make sure your family is taken care of when you are gone.

The financial readiness presentation taught me a lot about myself and my personal finances. My final takeaway is to set myself up for success now so my family will not have to worry later.

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