Organization key to reaching financial success

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- It's the time of year when people think about getting their finances in shape. According to noted financial adviser Dave Ramsey, the average enlisted person will have $750,000 go through their hands in a 20- year career. It's important to know what is going on with that money.

When was the last time you looked at your leave and earning statement (LES)? It's almost impossible to be financially knowledgeable and organized if you don't know what is coming in and going out, said Linda Sapp, Community Readiness Consultant with Cannon's Airmen and Family Readiness Center. "I have had people have allotments going out for years and they don't know what it was for. A lot of our financial decisions are made with inertia -- a body at rest stays at rest."
While most people will never have the kind of money that gives them power, wage earners can gain power through having knowledge of their finances. "When you have information, you know what you need to do," Mrs. Sapp said.
She recommends increasing financial knowledge by writing down every expense -- no matter how small -- for two weeks. Mrs. Sapp said that she occasionally goes back to this step when she wants to get a better picture of her finances.
Airmen must know their financial status in order to do the best job possible with their money and also "You can do awesome things with your money," she said. This is done by knowing what's coming in, what's going out and how to lay your hands on important documents.
Many financial consultants insist that every adult should have an allowance. While the question of how much allowance is a very fluid one, Mrs. Sapp said, it should be based on the household's overall financial picture and can be decided by answering four questions:
-- Are you living what you think is an acceptable lifestyle?
-- Are your financial obligations being met?
-- Is your debt managed?
-- Have you considered your financial future?
One way to gain knowledge in making decision is through the use of the Family Financial Toolkit, a simple process that can keep a family on track financially. Mrs. Sapp designed this notebook-based toolkit for her own family, but now uses it to teach Airmen and their families how to simply and inexpensively keep track of their finances.
Beginning when you receive a bill in the mail, keep the return envelope and bill, but throw away the advertisements. Put the new bill in the cover pocket of the notebook. Anything that needs to be permanently filed should be placed in the back pocket and filed at a later time.
Notebook dividers keep track of paid bills and other critical papers. After paying bills, file them in a divider labeled with that creditor's name. Mrs. Sapp said that Airmen should keep LES statements behind a separate divider.
Look at all incoming paper with a critical eye. Ask, "What could I ever need this for in the future? What could be the critical impact if I don't have the paper?"
Personal credit histories are important and can be checked annually at no cost at www.annualcreditreport.com. Mrs. Sapp said that credit histories are not given enough importance. A poor credit rating can impact mission readiness if a security clearance is revoked. This may determine whether or not an Airman is deployable, can get on the flightline or even have computer access in some instances.