Financially Responsible

March 2013 --      As I write my article this month, talk of Sequestration (across the board budget cuts) and Continuing Resolution (temporary budget) fill the airwaves and communication traffic. Regardless of whether Sequestration takes (took) effect on 1 March or if the current Continuing Resolution expires on 27 March, I believe spending cuts are inevitable. This will require, more than ever, everyone to be financially responsible.

     I'm not only talking about being responsible handling the military budget, but more importantly, handling our own budgets. Simply paying bills or meeting obligations by making minimum payments isn't the same as being financially responsible. Financing a lifestyle isn't the same as being able to afford it.

     Financial responsibility is about making hard choices; often curbing our wants and desires. Hard choices such as living within our means, even if that means changing the way we live. Creating a workable budget and sticking to that budget is a great start. In creating a budget, make sure you "pay yourself first" by contributing a little every month to a retirement account and an emergency "rainy day" fund. Starting and maintaining an automatic deduction or transfer plan in a separate account is a great way to accomplish this by helping to keep your savings out of sight and out of mind.

     Don't try to "keep up with the Joneses," that is your friends and neighbors. Just because they have something doesn't mean you have to have it too. Your friends and neighbors aren't paying your bills so their spending habits shouldn't dictate yours, or set the bar for your standard of living. Financial responsibility means doing what you have to do to take care of your own needs.

     If you do find yourself in financial straits, there's help out there for you. Senior NCOs may be a good resource as many of us have lived through financial challenges and difficulties. First Sergeants are a great source as well, and have access to resources and knowledge of programs that may be of help. One such program is Military Saves.

     Military Saves is a movement to encourage and support us in saving money, reducing debt and building wealth over time. Their website has posters and fliers, and other tools that can be used to bring the campaign to your unit, and links to good, unbiased financial advice. Take the Pledge - Build Wealth, Not Debt! Visit Military Saves at www.MilitarySaves.org. I took the Saver Pledge and hope you will too. It's a good step in becoming financially responsible.