January is the month of possibility. It’s a time of new beginnings. It’s when we shrug off our mistakes from the past year and embrace a renewed hope for the next 12 months.
For many military couples, January is a good time to examine your financial well-being. Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Are you ready to take tackle that student loan debt? Are you able to start investing in your retirement?
I know I should be excited about the possibilities of the new year, but instead I’m avoiding my mailbox. I really don’t want to open my credit card statement. I thought I planned and followed my budget for holiday spending, but after we drove 2 days to my in-laws’ house and stayed in a hotel and I shopped with my sister-in-law and went to the movies with my sister and bought Christmas decorations on clearance…the list goes on and on about why I really don’t want to face this massive credit card bill.
Every January I find myself in this same situation. I overspend in December and vow to not repeat my mistakes in January. January is the month when I take a hard look at our budget with my husband and vow that this year is the year we will spend less, save more and put more money away for retirement.
Are you feeling the same way? Do you want to make 2016 the year that you get your finances squared away? Are you unsure about what steps to take to save more money and reduce your debt?
There are a lot of free financial resources available to military families. Here’s a list of 4 financial resources that you and your service member should check out in 2016.
1. Military Relief Organizations
If you don’t know about the military relief organizations, you need to. These organizations (Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Air Force Aid Society) are private, nonprofit organizations that help service members and their families with certain emergency financial needs. But you don’t need to wait until you’re in financial trouble to make an appointment with a volunteer at a military relief organization.
Be proactive and make an appointment to review your budget with a trained counselor today. Also, if you are expecting a baby in 2016, sign up for their Budget for Baby workshop. You won’t regret it.
2. On-Base Financial Readiness Programs
Service members and their spouses should never pay for a financial class. Nearly every month, military installations offer free financial education classes through Army Community Services, Fleet and Family Support; Airmen and Family Readiness Centers; and Marine Corps Community Services, depending on your branch.
These classes teach service members how to “save and invest their money, how to establish savings goals, debt elimination strategies and saving for emergencies.” When we were stationed on Okinawa, the Marine Corps Community Services offered a homebuyer’s workshop. This workshop explained VA loans, how much money to save for a down payment and how to calculate how much house your family can afford.
These classes are also available for individual counseling sessions.
3. Military Saves Campaign
The Military Saves campaign is a component of the nonprofit America Saves and a partner in the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign. Besides its annual savings campaign in February, Military Saves “seeks to motivate, support and encourage military families to save money, reduce debt and build wealth,” according to its website. The Military Saves website has information about credit reports, how to make financial goals and saver stories to inspire you to spend less and save more money.
4. FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Financial Readiness Program
Started in 2006, this program, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign, aims to help “military families manage their money with confidence.” Visit SaveandInvest.org/military for calculators and worksheets, along with educational videos and quizzes to test your financial knowledge.
No matter what your financial goals are for 2016, remember that service members and their spouses shouldn’t pay for financial classes. There are plenty of free resources available either on-base or online to give you the tools you need for financial success in the new year.