By Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie
Air Force Social Media
As part your initial training when you join the United States Air Force, you attend briefing after briefing and complete numerous computer-based training courses on topics like Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Air Force culture and standards. As a young Airman, I took these briefings for granted. You get flooded with information, but most of it goes in one ear and out the other. But, little did I know how valuable this information would become as I progressed in my Air Force career.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” One of the main topics discussed during briefings new Airmen attend covers financial management. Finance specialists discuss topics like building and improving your credit, creating a budget, buying a home and improving your personal finance skills.
But, after hours of briefings, what’s the Airman and Family Readiness financial readiness team trying to get across to you? It comes down to one simple answer – they are there for you.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) can assist you on many financial wellness issues.
Most Airmen have heard of Airman Snuffy who goes to a local shopping center on base to apply for his first credit card after joining the Air Force. When he gets there, he gets this pitch from the salesman, “Well, if you open a credit card with us you will receive 20 to 50% off your first purchase.” This is where the “Wise Use of Credit” section of the financial management briefing comes in handy.
Yes, there may be a time you will need to build your credit. But, make sure you read the fine print on those credit card applications. Most credit cards will give you the first couple months interest free or an annual interest-free rate. In my case, I started to accruing monthly charges for just having the card in my name, even though I wasn’t purchasing anything.
I will give you another scenario. Airman John Doe joins the military and just had his first paycheck deposited into his checking account. He instantly goes to buy a brand new car, which is financed through the car dealership. Before doing his homework, he signs a car loan with a 23% interest rate. This is a common mistake by first-time car buyers. The dealership will tell you this is the best you can do, and it’s the easiest and cheapest way for you to get a car.
Maybe your best option would be to save up for a down payment, decreasing the amount of your loan or research interest rates from your local credit union or bank. Also, make sure to do your research on used cars as those may be a better option and more affordable in your budget.
The financial management team can walk you through the car-buying process. You can make an appointment, and bring in the car loan or lease contract you are about to sign, and they will review it with you to make sure it’s going to be the best option for you.
I can give you over a hundred scenarios where financial management and planning could have helped new Airmen. But, this is the biggest thing to remember, “Be proactive instead of reactive!”
If family readiness on base is not able to assist you, they will recommend one of their Department of Defense-approved financial partners to locate the answer you need. A list of approved financial partners is available at the end of this article.
If you run into a financial issue or just want to get financial advice to build a budget for your family, visit an A&FRC, Military and Family Support Center, or any sister service family center.
Free Credit Reports
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Fin Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Reduce Junk Mail
Do Not Call Registry
Better Business Bureau
Saving and investing websites
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Investor Protection Trust (IPT)
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)