When you’re in the military, it can feel like you’ve devoted all of yourself to service. It is a massive commitment and one that proves rewarding in so many ways. But, along with this sacrifice, you need to remember to work on your own personal goals as well. It will be hard for you — and your family — to really live your best life unless you make sure to focus on other key areas as well.
First and foremost, you want to get your money right. Some people are more predisposed to staying on top of their finances. But everyone should learn to embrace at least some of the lower-hanging fruit that will help them get ahead.
It isn’t even that complicated ultimately. You just need to pick up a few common-sense pointers and exercise a little discipline. Specifically, the following pieces of financial advice should be taken to heart by every military family.
1. Set Financial Goals
Everyone will tell you about setting a budget. That’s 101 — a must if you want to get ahead. But a more overlooked strategy is to set some financial goals. In a sense, getting your money into better shape is not that different from getting your body fit. You need milestones to achieve. Otherwise, you will just be moving forward with no plan and no real way to track progress.
Depending upon the day or month, you may feel more or less secure about your standing. But having specific numbers to target — whether for your savings, to invest into retirement each year, or in a mortgage down payment account — will allow you to have an objective look at where you are. You’ll never get anywhere without a destination.
2. Be Prepared for the Worst
It’s great to get to a place where you are a little bit ahead. You’re not waiting on the next paycheck to save the day. You can pay all your bills on time without much worry and even make some extra purchases here and there. But, on top of the day-to-day needs, you always need to be ready for the unexpected. Emergencies happen. Setbacks are inevitable.
Preparation starts with a healthy savings account that can cover you for anywhere from three to six months if things go bad. And you want to have at least one consumer-friendly credit card that offers both protection and excellent rewards in the form of perks, discounts, or cashback. Fortunately, all military members have a great resource available for this in the form of USAA, the financial institution that caters to those who serve. Take advantage and you will always have an extra layer or security.
3. Diversify Your Income
A career in the military is fantastic. While we all would like a bit more in our paychecks each month, you can earn a good living and the benefits and resources available provide even more advantages. But, in 2020, it’s hard to really thrive in a one-income family from a single source. The good news here is that life in the military is a lot more stable than the private sector. You won’t be laid off or downsized after a corporate takeover. So you have more peace of mind for the long term than many other Americans.
Still, it will usually be best in the long run for your family to have an extra source of income — or multiple more sources. For most, this means having you spouse work too. Whether full time or just part time while handling child care, any bit helps. If not actively working, they can also pursue a degree or certification, even online, that helps set them up for a solid job in the future. Or they can find a “side hustle.” Just by making some sales on the side, doing gig work, freelance writing, or taking photos your family might be able to bring in more than you think every month.
Your Recipe for Financial Success
The security and stability promised by a military career are great. They will help you greatly with longer-term planning and allow you to know where your next paycheck will come from.
But that alone won’t ensure you are set up for financial success. You need to do some work on your end to maximize your money. Start with some financial goals. Where are you now and where do you want to be? Prepare for the worst with savings and a backstop in the form of credit cards. And try to add additional sources of income for your family to really flourish.
You already know all about hard work and discipline, so that part of the equation is covered. Now you just need a bit of preparation and the right strategies. Combined, it will be the exact recipe for success that your family needs