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Smart Financial Management Starts With Smart Choices: Making Ends Meet

Service member taking notes

Learn how certain milestones in your life can have financial benefits and consequences.

Making ends meet

Making ends meet is fundamental to financial stability and reaching long-term financial goals, like a comfortable retirement or sending children to college. But, in a survey of military service members and spouses by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, more than one-third of respondents reported having trouble keeping up with monthly bills and expenses.

Action plan: Start a spending plan
A spending plan gives you control. Your plan will clearly show how much money you have coming in, what you’re spending it on and where you can make trade-offs to come up with extra cash. It’s also your first step in meeting larger financial goals. With a spending plan in place you will be better able to find the money you’ll need to reach them. 

Action plan: Calculate your net worth
One of the best ways to assess where you stand financially is to calculate your net worth. When you add up all of your assets and subtract your debts at least once a year, you can clearly see if you’re progressing towards your goals or moving backwards. 

Action plan: Monitor your financial health
Applying for a loan is a common first step toward buying a home, buying a car or going back to school. This Action Plan will help you check and monitor your financial health so you can avoid surprises when you need a loan. 

Action plan: Track your spending
The first step to getting your finances on track is to know where your money is going. But that isn’t always obvious: You may have a good handle on your monthly bills, but what about your daily expenses? You may be surprised by how much money you spend on small items ? like food and transportation ? when you add up your out-of-pocket costs. 

Action plan: Manage your checking account
Balancing your checkbook isn’t what it used to be. Before online banking, debit cards and electronic payment systems, you wrote a check and entered the date and amount in your checkbook register. When you subtracted the difference, you knew exactly how much money you had. Not anymore. Direct deposit, ATM fees and surcharges, online payments, automatic transfers and debit charges make keeping your account in balance a real juggling act. 

Action Plan: Reading your Leave and Earnings Statement
Your Leave and Earnings Statement provides detailed information about your pay and benefits. But the document can look like it’s written in code. Here’s what you need to focus on.

Action Plan: Talk To your spouse about money
Talking about money issues under normal conditions can be stressful. Talking about them while a service member is deployed to a remote location can be more so. The best remedy is to communicate regularly about household finances. That way there are no surprises or added headaches when orders arrive. 


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