As a military service member, your title says it all. Whether you’re in the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marines or Air Force, you’re quite literally serving your country and putting the preservation of its traditions and freedoms first and foremost.
But as you well know, your personal life doesn’t go on hold just because you’re in the armed forces. This is particularly true when it comes to money management and the accompanying stresses involved.
According to a recent poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, roughly 90% of active duty service members confess to feeling anxiety at times over money. The same goes for their family members. Indeed, roughly 84% of spouses in the survey said they too had worries about finances.
The fact is everyone could use some extra money. Here are a few ways of going about saving money while in the military.Even though the U.S. economy has been in pretty good shape lately – with the unemployment rate at more than a 50-year low, according to the most recent figures available from the Department of Labor – 40% of Americans say they’re getting by, but barely, based on Gallup polling.
1. Pay for your future first
Just as there’s no magic secret to losing weight besides eat less and exercise more, there is no big secret to savings: reduce how much you spend, gain more green. You can do just that by devoting a portion of each paycheck you receive to a savings account. For example, with a high-yield savings account – the interest rates of which traditionally pay more than the regular kind – your money can work for you just by sitting there. Generally speaking, the more money you have to start with, the greater the annual percentage yield. Some high-yield savings accounts, however, require no minimum balance.
2. Build an emergency fund
If you encountered an urgent situation – perhaps a medical one – and you needed to come up with money fast, would you be able to do it? According to a study from the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans say coming up with $400 immediately would be difficult, if not impossible.
That’s why virtually every financial counselor worth his or her salt recommends establishing an emergency fund. Whether you devote a certain percentage of it with each pay period – or a specific dollar amount – an emergency fund can quite literally be a life saver when circumstances throw you curve ball.
3. Make budgeting a priority
Military members like yourself or your family members are known for diligence, dedication and discipline, three things you need to budget effectively. Yet, surprisingly, the majority of active duty men and women – 54% – do not maintain a budget, according to NFCC polling. The same is true for 51% of their family members, specifically their spouses.
4. Learn more, earn more
Only you can determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend to get out of the red or stay in the black. Do some number crunching, then be as regimented as you can about not spending more than a specific dollar amount on groceries, utilities, dining out and other day-to-day costs of living.
You may think you know all there is to know about finances. Much like improvement, there’s always room for growth when it comes to learning about various principles and practices of money management. Omni Financial proudly supports a free online course called MoneySkill® by the AFSA Education Foundation. This internet-based program can provide you with a wide array of saving tips that may help you do more with your earnings and offer insight into how you can save money more effectively. You can register very simply whether you’re a new member or already signed up with the foundation.
5. Ask about military discounts
As you’re no doubt well aware, you’re held in very high esteem by much of the American public. In a 2018 Gallup poll, when respondents were asked to express their level of support in various institutions, nearly 75% said they had a “great deal” of confidence in the military, more so than small businesses, the police or the medical system.
When you’re enjoying a day off with some of your friends or family members – such as at a movie, restaurant or in the mall – consider inquiring about any discounts retailers offer to active duty service members and/or veterans. There’s an excellent chance that they do and will be more than happy to extend those benefits offered to you, your spouse and your kids. As noted by Business Insider, Champs Sports, Carhartt, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Apple, Home Depot, American Express, Geico and Overstock.com are just a handful of the businesses that have discount memberships and sales throughout the year for military personell.
6. Set up a retirement account
People are living longer, so they’re also working longer. According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of baby boomers between 54 and 72 years old remain in the labor force, compared to 44% of the Greatest Generation when they were of similar age.
If you’re like most people in the country, you’re probably looking to retire at some point down the line. You’ll need money to do that, of course. Aside from the benefits you’ll receive through the Veterans Administration, the Office of Personnel Management sponsored Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is very similar to the 401(k) offerings private-sector employers often make available to their staff. You can contribute a percentage of your earnings to your TSP with each pay period and watch the savings add up over time. You may be surprised by how quickly the funds build – thereby building you a more comfortable lifestyle upon reaching your post-career years.
The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with a financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. Omni Financial does not endorse, recommend or imply affiliation with the referenced companies or organizations.