Posted on Feb 15, 2015
LTC Jason Strickland
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Written by Joe Morrin, Senior Vice President, Financial Planning for First Command Financial Services, Inc..

Despite ongoing concerns related to sequestration and defense budget cuts, America’s career military is growing more confident in their overall family finances.

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals that several key measures of confidence have been improving. Newly-released fourth-quarter survey results show that 53 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) believe that their financial situation will improve in the next year (up 5 points from the first quarter). Career military families are also growing more confident in their ability to retire comfortably (49 percent, up 10 points) and less likely to feel financially stretched month to month (35 percent, down 21 points).

How do you feel about your family finances? Do you have a plan and are you sticking to it? How strong are your financial habits? Do you make saving money and cutting debt a priority? Or does money slip through your fingers in spite of all your good intentions? Here are a few helpful tips from First Command Financial Services for managing your money.

Tip No.1: Establish specific goals for things you really want. Saving as a matter of principle just doesn’t provide the necessary motivation for most people. You must have definite goals — things you really wish to have.

Tip No.2: Set definite deadlines for reaching your goals. Be realistic about how much will be required to reach your goals. How soon will you need it?

Tip No.3: Pay yourself first — fundamental to every financial plan. When you make out the checks to pay the bills, don’t put yourself last. You may never get there. Make that first check out to yourself.

Tip No.4: Get your money out of sight and out of mind. Automatic savings tools — such as bank drafts and the Thrift Savings Plan — are an excellent means to this end.

Tip No.5: Establish specific accounts for each separate goal. If you have two or more basic objectives, establish two or more accounts to achieve them.

Tip No.6: Stick with your plan. The best plan in the world is useless if it’s not activated or if it’s abandoned. If your goals are meaningful to you, you must stick with your original plan.

Tip No.7: Hire a financial coach. Planners serve the role of a coach, encouraging and inspiring their clients to embrace positive financial behaviors and stick with their long-term plans.

By saving more and cutting debt, you may find you feel less stressed and more optimistic about your financial future. And less stress is a good thing, right?

A version of this article was originally published on Military.com. It has been updated with current research for publication here and in various First Command publications.

©2015 First Command Financial Services, Inc., parent of First Command Financial Planning, Inc. (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Financial planning services and investment products, including securities, are offered by First Command Financial Planning, Inc. Insurance products and services are offered by First Command Insurance Services, Inc. in all states except Montana, where as required by law, insurance products and services are offered by First Command Financial Services, Inc. (a separate Montana domestic corporation). Banking products and services are offered by First Command Bank. Securities products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met.

Project Sanctuary and Military.com are not affiliated with First Command Financial Services, Inc. and its related entities.
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Responses: 3
COL Jason Smallfield, PMP, CFM, CM
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- Great tips that work in this article. I would add a few other tips:
- Have an overall financial strategy. One strategy is to use a three legged stool of savings, insurance, and investment. The purpose of investments (IRAs, mutual funds, etc) is to serve as the main driver of making money. The purpose of insurance (life, health, home) is to protect yourself against catastrophic loss. The purpose of savings is to ensure an individual does not have to dip into their investments.
- Start early. It takes far more money invested at age 40 to make up for the money that could have been made by investing at age 25. Even $50 a month can make a huge difference.
- Stick to your plan is another way of saying "be disciplined. The tip about "paying yourself first" is one way to have disciplined action and works.
- I started my financial plan before I got married. Once I got married, I walked my wife through my plan so that she could be a part of the plan and help to execute the plan.
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LTC Jason Strickland
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1SG Drill Sergeant
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A simple way of eliminating debt is called the snowball method. For those with multiple credit card balances, pay the minimum amount on the LOWEST balances first. Use the extra money to kill the higher credit card balances, then the next highest, and so on.

ONCE your credit card balances are down to ZERO, put them away. Basically, if you can't pay for it in cash or easily pay the balance the next month, do not engage. For major purchases (eg new floors being installed or major appliances), take advantage of the interest-free financing that is often available. Of course, that depends on your credit score, but with zero consumer debt, your score should go up.
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PV2 Senior Web Designer, Web Team Lead
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The debt snowball is what I'm using to pay off my debt. It's slowly but surely working thus far. I don't have credit card debt.
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1SG Drill Sergeant
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PV2 (Join to see) - In the case of consumer debt, steady wins the race. Being the brilliant brain you are, I'm sure you've already earmarked that tax refund for taking a big chunk out of your debt.
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PV2 Senior Web Designer, Web Team Lead
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That's my plan!
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PV2 Senior Web Designer, Web Team Lead
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Just keep away from the Lancôme and Estée Lauder counters at Macy's and I will be okay! Lol
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Lisa Marie DeWitt
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Are you in need of a Loan, for your housing and Businesses. Funding ranging from $20,000 -
$10,000,000 in equity at an interest rate of 3.5%.
http://www.fidelityloansplc.com. or contact now [login to see] for instant response
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