Tag Archives: budget

Airmen and the almighty dollar

By Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie
Air Force Social Media

These tips will help you succeed in avoiding some of the financial management pitfalls many Airmen experience when they join the Air Force. Work with your local Airman and Family Readiness Center to discuss other financial issues.  (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff. Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)
These tips will help you succeed in avoiding some of the financial management pitfalls many Airmen experience when they join the Air Force. Work with your local Airman and Family Readiness Center to discuss other financial issues. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff. Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)

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.

Continue reading Airmen and the almighty dollar

ICYMI: SecAF’s first town hall

By Tanya Schusler
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James held her first live town hall, Open Door, Dec. 16, in which she answered questions from social media and Airmen around the world and in the audience. She addressed the Air Force budget, the importance of family support and her first year as secretary, among other topics. She also announced that there would be no involuntary force shaping in fiscal year 2015.

If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it on our YouTube channel. Lucky for you, we also have our notable tweets from Open Door.

Are you ready to leave military service?

By Master Sgt. C.A. Tony Sargent
81st Medical Support Squadron

When Air Force leadership announced they would need to cut about 25,000 Airmen over the next five years, many people wondered if they would be affected.

A variety of programs were announced, including several allowing Airmen the option to retire early. The Air Force also allowed some Airmen the option to receive voluntary separation pay if they met certain requirements. Continue reading Are you ready to leave military service?

Managing debt, credit scores

By Jerry Jackson
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Military and Family Readiness

130508-F-TG467-016Managing bills and budgets are a daunting task for people and families who have multiple credit cards, student loans and home mortgages to pay every month. These types of expenses are used by credit reporting agencies to calculate your credit scores and determine if you are a risk for all types of credit from auto loans to store credit cards.

Having a proactive plan to manage debt will help mitigate long-term financial issues that could affect your credit scores. Developing a budget and working with creditors and debt collectors will help curb the damage created by poor financial management. Here are some tips to handle overall debt:

  • Pay your bills on time, especially your credit cards and loans. These expenses, along with other monthly expenses, will result in negative entries on your credit report if they are not paid in a timely manner.
  • Limit the amount of outstanding debt you have. The amount you owe is compared to your income and the limits you are given by creditors. When you owe a lot, creditors will lose confidence that you will be able to make the required payments on time.
  • Live within your means.
  • Every budget or spending plan should contain less total monthly expenses than income.
  • Limit the amount of loans and credit card accounts you have. The more you have to manage, the greater the potential for errors and mistakes.

Have you reviewed your current credit scores lately? The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Credit scoring models consider the following types of information in your credit report to help compute your credit score:

  • Payment history is a significant factor, and if your credit report indicates that you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collection, or declared bankruptcy, it is likely to affect your score negatively.
  • Many scoring systems evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, it’s likely to have a negative effect on your score.
  • How long have you had credit? An insufficient credit history may affect your score negatively, but factors like timely payments and low balances can offset that.
  • Have you applied for new credit recently? If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, it could have a negative effect on your score. However, every inquiry isn’t counted. For example, inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not considered liabilities.
  • It’s generally considered a plus to have established credit accounts, but too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your credit score. In addition, many scoring systems consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may have a negative effect on your overall credit score.

There are several government resources to assist people in managing their financial future. The Federal Trade Commission is the nation’s consumer protection agency that works to prevent fraudulent and unfair business practices. Service members and their families can also visit their local military and family readiness centers for individual financial counseling and basic budgeting and investment information.

PHOTO: According to Air Force Instruction 36-2906, Personal Financial Responsibility, consequences for financial irresponsibility may lead to involuntary allotments made on behalf of the creditor or garnished pay. With the help of resources such as classes and workshops held by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, counteracting and even preventing finances from becoming an issue is the first step to financial freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Monet Villacorte/Released)

Auto buying tips

By Jerry Jackson, Military and Family Readiness
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland

Editor’s note: Occasionally, we like to bring helpful articles to our Airmen and their families. This blog post is the first in a series about personal finance and is adapted from a class offered at Military and Family Readiness.

At some time for most Americans over the age of sixteen, we will make at least one auto purchase, and then we’ll probably make an occasional purchase about 10 -12 times more.

Whether it’s because you need a vehicle or just want one, there are some tips to help make the event enjoyable while saving money. First thing to remember is never go to a dealership alone especially if you’ve never made a prior auto purchase.

Before you go to buy a vehicle, you should consider these things at a minimum:

1. Doing due diligent research. There are many online sites that can aid in this endeavor. You will want to know what the dealership paid for the vehicle, what similar vehicles have sold for in your area, and what amount is paid for used vehicles you are considering purchasing. Some financial institutions have a car buying service that can give you this and other research info.

You can also go to an auto dealership to gather information or get brochures. Remember to go with someone who is knowledgeable in car buying. You are not signing any paperwork, letting your credit report be pulled or buying an auto. You are doing research only. You should leave the dealership after you’ve gotten your information. Go home or somewhere to review what you have.

2. Arrange preapproved financing. You should start with your current financial institution to see if you qualify for a loan. If you do, then you should shop around to other institutions to see if you can get better terms or a better Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of interest. You can also inquire with the dealership about financing. If they cannot give you better terms or APR then you will already have the preapproved loan as backup.

3. Shop around for items you will need and want after you own a vehicle such as Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance or extended warranty coverage. Just as you did for financing, you may be able to get these items from your financial institution if they financed a loan for your auto.

You should now be ready to go to the dealership intending to buy a car. Below are some minimum items you should consider prior to finalizing the deal and signing a contract:

1. Inspect the vehicle you’ve decided to buy. Compare it to similar vehicles– same make and model at different dealerships or different makes and models. Flip all switches, turn all knobs, look inside and out, check for spare tire and jacks. Review all items that should come with the auto and that you need or want to enjoy the vehicle. Sit in the vehicle to note how comfortable you feel behind the wheel and in the passenger seat.

2. Drive the vehicle like you would if you owned it! Don’t baby the vehicle. Get it up to the usual speed you will go when normally driving to observe how it handles. Get on the freeway. Note how it reacts when the brakes are applied.

3. When you are satisfied with the first two steps, you are ready to negotiate the purchase price you are willing to pay for the vehicle you want. Refer back to your research info. Stick to the amount you are willing to pay for a certain model vehicle. If the salesperson or dealership resists accepting a reasonable offer, you should be ready to leave the dealership. The dealership will probably contact you within a few hours or days with a counter offer that is closer to what you are willing to pay. If not, then be willing to go to another dealership in the same town or another city.

Once you and the dealership have come to an agreement on price, you want to get a purchase order in writing.

4. Negotiate for extras. Ask the salesperson or dealership what they are willing to add to the deal to entice you to do business with them. Ask for the big ticket items. You can do things or services like oil changes or car washes yourself. Ask for a second used auto, computers, tablets, window tinting, extended warranty, satellite radio service for a year or more, high quality floor mats and other expensive items. Again, if you want to get any extras added to the purchase order or document you should get a separate signed document.

5. If you’ve gotten this far, now will be a good time to discuss trade-in of your old vehicle. If the salesperson or dealership resists discussing trade-in at this point or giving you fair market value for your vehicle, then you can always sell it later yourself. Get this transaction in writing.

Tanyas old car

6. You are at the point of completing the deal. The dealer will have you talk with their finance office. Once again, you can discuss their financing, but you will already have pre-approved financing. Avoid pointless dealer services such as VIN etching, fabric protection or paint sealant.

Take a look at the fees. Compare them to what you found during your research. You will want to review all documents and figures. If anything is missing or any figures have been changed, then you want them corrected prior to signing a buyer contract.

7. Finally, you can take possession of the vehicle at the dealership or have it delivered to you. Either way, make sure there are no dents or scratches on the body or the wheels. Check that all the equipment is included, such as floor mats, owner’s manuals and rear-seat DVD headphones. Your new car should also come with a full tank of gas. If anything is missing or needs repair, ask for a “due bill” that puts this in writing.

Don’t forget that your entire leverage with the auto dealer lies in your ability to walk out the door. No car salesperson is going to take a loss on a sale, but even a few hundred dollars is better than a dead deal. You don’t need to be obnoxious about it, but be firm in what you’re willing to pay and accept in the negotiations. If the dealer is smart, it will come to terms that are acceptable, make the deal quickly and try to pull a fast one on the next person, but if a salesperson insists on trying to gouge you, then gather your things and politely say goodbye. Buying a car is a serious commitment. And remember, there is no cooling-off period. Once you sign the contract, the car is yours.