Since I was young, I have been frugal and purposeful with spending money, and I’ve always been great at placing money aside. In my adult and married life, I’ve learned the importance of saving with intention. But I’ve also discovered the importance and power of goal setting. It’s far more powerful to know what one has in mind for the future, especially when it comes to financial freedom.
We have been debt free for five years now. From this experience, it inspired me to join the personal finance field. As a military spouse Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Fellow, I overcame my first challenge as we moved from New Jersey to Arizona. I was beginning my fellowship towards becoming an Accredited Financial Counselor® during a permanent change of station (PCS). I knew that it would take a couple of months for our family to feel settled, so it was a challenge, at first, to find a program that would take me on as a fellow, knowing I was also managing a household after a cross-country PCS move.
I began by teaching the financial literacy curriculum to the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona troops of Cochise County. Then I got connected to a program within the 4-H Cooperative Extension at the University of Arizona-South, called Launch into Life. Through Launch into Life, I was able to teach high school students about the importance of financial planning, along with other skills, like career planning, interviewing, and resume skills.
It wasn’t until I was trained as a Virtual Client Services Representative for Operation Homefront that I began to accumulate the majority of the counseling hours required by the FINRA fellowship program. I was fortunate to find a Certified Personal Financial counselor, who helped me find a volunteer opportunity within the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program. I also had the opportunity to volunteer as a personal financial instructor, teaching National Guard and Reserve Soldiers how make informed decisions about employment using monthly budgets, and I volunteered my time during the tax season with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) for low income families in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The challenge of moving to a new duty station was overcome by getting connected and building a network. The more people I helped, the more these very same people helped me find other opportunities.
The best part of being a FINRA Fellow is getting to see someone understand that money is absolute – a dollar is still a dollar. Money can’t control you, but you can control money. I witnessed children as young as kindergarten learn about wants vs. needs, high school students understand a salary of a cashier does not allow for certain luxuries, like having cable television, and Soldiers having a better understanding of their income vs. expenses – a concept not known unless a monthly budget is made and followed. There are certain things that need to be kept in mind as one begins to accumulate wealth, whether it’s a few hundred dollars, or a thousand; you can either continue to save and spend the same amount of money you always have, or you can learn to adjust your spending habits and save a greater percentage of your income.
Three things to always think about while getting your financial ducks in a row:
- You don’t need to make more money to be able to save… simply spend less.
- If you don’t have the cash, do not buy it.
- Credit cards are not an emergency fund.
Becoming debt free has afforded my family the freedom to be able to give more to help others. It’s lessened the financial stress as we get closer to retirement. Now we can save more…and worry less.
Are you interested in changing your future? FINRA will be accepting applications for their Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor® Fellowship from March 2 – April 7, 2015!
Posted by Cynthia Giesecke, FINRA Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor® Fellow