Finance matters!

Lt. Col. Michael Bernert
1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron


The United States of America possesses the most powerful military in
the world with the ability to support a full scale of operations
through flexible planning. Strategic financial planning is a critical
part of the flexible planning which enables our military of today and
tomorrow. Just as at work, strategic financial planning is also
critical in our daily lives.  

When I entered the Air Force 19 years ago, I had no idea that it would
become a long-term career. With this in mind I took steps to establish
a sound financial plan for my life that would serve me regardless of
the career path I chose. It is important to understand that having a
plan does not mean having all the answers! And it is never too late to
build a plan. A well thought out plan can handle life’s changes (job
transitions, marriage, children, new home, retirement) and will keep
working for you throughout your life. Think of it as insurance that
follows you wherever you go! Don’t wait! Sit down and draft your plan,
then stick to it. The only drastic mistake you can make is not having
one. The family support center offers a variety of classes to help in
financial planning.  I encourage you to explore these
opportunities. There is no excuse for not taking advantage of every
financial planning source available to you. A financial action plan
provides you the tools to scrutinize where your money goes each month.
You need to remember you are setting the patterns now that can affect
the rest of your financial future (your life). Here are a few thoughts
as you develop your plan.

Get rid of your debt! Making the minimum payments on a credit card only
makes sense for the credit card company. Resist the urge to buy
yourself anything expensive until the debt is paid off. Then pay cash;
don’t charge your next purchase.

Build yourself an emergency fund! Most financial planners will
recommend establishing an interest earning emergency fund that can
cover three to six months of your monthly “must pay” expenses. Once
established, you will rest better at night knowing that you are better
prepared for life’s unexpected challenges.

Establish a retirement fund!  Whether you choose an IRA and/or the
Air Force Thrift Savings Plan, establishing a retirement fund early is
the most important step. Your retirement fund should be working for you
over the course of your entire career … so start early!

Once your debts are paid, you can “pay yourself” first and then
“reward” yourself when faced with extra money whether a gift, tax
refund or raise.  Pay yourself by contributing to your savings and
retirement accounts first. Decide in advance what percentage of extra
money will go to your savings versus rewarding yourself. The amount you
get to splurge on fun items should be determined by how well you have
padded your savings accounts.
We are the most powerful military in the world because of every
Airman’s constant dedication to duty. I encourage you to apply the same
dedication to your personal life by planning for and securing your
financial future.