It was a rainy, early Sunday morning. I was at the entrance to the Homestead Air Force Base, approximately 30 miles south of Miami, FL. “I’m meeting with Sergeant L_________” I tell the armed guard at the gate. He motions me to pull over to the side. I get in contact with the Sergeant. She tells me over the phone, “I’m in a blue car. I’ll come out to meet you; look out for my vehicle and follow me onto the base.” Within minutes I see her car and pull out to follow. The armed guard at the gate stares at me and shakes his finger. I hesitate. The next second he laughs to himself and waves me on to proceed onto the base, amused that I took his grave expression seriously.
Visiting Homestead Air Force Base
That is a taste of my first experience at the Homestead Air Force Base last month. I was invited to give three financial planning presentations to military members there, which was an incredible honor. It was an especially amazing experience for me since I grew up in the Redland area just a few miles west of the installation. I was asked to give three, 45-minute talks. The talks were on Developing a Spending Plan, Investing and Saving, and Taking Control of Your Finances. Everyone in the big room was in military fatigues, very polite, and very attentive. The average age in the room was 23. I had never been called “Sir” more times in one day than that day! I hope to be called back to the base again in a couple months.
Contracted to provide financial planning for the military
I am contracted with Zeiders Corporation as an On-Demand Personal Financial Counselor (PFC) to military members. Zeiders has a relationship with Military OneSource, which is essentially a one-stop-shop for all service members and their families. As a government contractor, Zeiders serves as an extension of Military OneSource by providing local credentialed professionals at military installations when there is a need. Zeiders looks for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals with practice experience to help military members with their finances. For contracted CFPs like me, they send out email blasts to see if someone is available and interested in a particular assignment. Consequently, these assignments can range from one day to 6 months and can be at various military sites around the world.
The importance of military benefits
For military members, there is always a high degree of stress involved in the job. This is especially true if they’ve been deployed one or more times to war. The intense training involved as a military member, and the pressure to perform, is high. While the generous financial benefits offered to military members are great, these benefits mean little if certain personal financial elements are not in place.
Here are the main points I made to the service members at the Homestead Air Force Base:
1. Create good money habits
This is a point I drove home repeatedly at the Homestead Air Force Base that day, and I also weaved this theme into all three of my presentations. We’ve all seen the statistic that money is a leading cause of divorce. Personal finances are already stressful to many people, and this is compounded when you’re in a job where the stakes are very high.
Also, the first step to creating good money habits as a military service member is simply recognizing that this stress is a strong undercurrent. There is no formula for this, so everyone has to form his or her own good habits. Consequently, the key is to be proactive. Just as you are trained to be disciplined in your military career, likewise you need to discipline yourself to make good financial decisions. Be strategic because the decisions you make now will determine future outcomes.
2. Seek qualified help when it comes to your money
There are more resources available to service members than you will ever need, so seek help when reviewing your options. Just like in combat, a battle is not won alone. Hence, you should treat your personal finances in this same way. Ask a lot of questions. Even if you think you have your finances under control, it doesn’t hurt to ask a qualified professional for a second opinion. Trust me – you don’t know what you don’t know. In other words, getting another perspective from a qualified professional is healthy and it’s one of the best habits you can form.
3. Make a financial plan
Finally, establishing good habits and seeking help is an ongoing process. The same is true with your financial plan. What does this mean? It means starting with the end in mind and working backwards. Therefore, ask yourself, “What’s my objective?” Is it buying a house? Retirement? Living below your means and giving away the rest? You have to make these decisions ahead of time and know what you want to accomplish to make them a reality. Write your goals down. Meet with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help you and mutually determine what steps to take to meet those goals.
To learn more about how military members can make a financial plan and become financially independent, visit the CameronDowning website and book an appointment to come see us. Questions? Email [email protected]