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Diamond Notes: Financial responsibility

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Mercer)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Mercer)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of commentaries by Cannon’s first sergeants and additional-duty first sergeants providing mentorship and leadership experience to Air Commandos, while highlighting Air Force standards.

Financial responsibility is often considered too taboo to discuss, but if it is such a huge part of our lives and the way the world operates, then why is talking about money considered taboo? The fact is, not everyone is good with money; which can make it hard to talk about.

People may not be good with money because of a lack in fiscal education or experience. It’s hard to know how to define “good with money” or who to trust with this intimate subject.

I did not learn how to manage my money until a little later in my life. My high school did not offer a course to teach me about basic money management, credit cards, saving for retirement or compound interest earnings. My financial education was limited to my parents teaching me how to reconcile their checkbook during a few bill paying nights at the dinner table.

Being responsible with money is important and the older or more experienced you become at life, recognize that fact.

I used to think that after I paid all my bills, rent, electric, gas, etc., the rest was mine to spend on whatever I wanted. Although that may be true, being responsible with your money is bigger than paying your rent or making your car loan; it is having a goal with your money and working toward reaching that goal.

Whether your goal is to travel the world, save for kids’ education, purchase a house, retire with dignity, or provide for survivors, it will require making decisions about the money you have.

Air Force Instruction 1-1: Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards, states that as an Air Force member, “fiscal fitness” is equally important to your overall well-being as physical fitness. It also states there are two key tools to achieve individual financial responsibility: development and maintenance of a personal budget and effective management of one’s debt.

The word budget is sometimes seen as negative because people think it is restrictive, but what does it really mean to have a budget? It means having a plan for the money you earn and keeping up with where that money goes. It also means spending and saving your money intentionally. Development and maintenance of a personal budget is essential for meeting your fiscal goals.

The second key tool is effective management of one’s debt. Air Force Instruction 1-1 states that members should be prudent in the use of credit cards and other forms of revolving credit. Be wise and practical when borrowing money and do not borrow more than you can handle.

Money management starts with those two simple concepts, having a budget and managing your debt. Just like anything else you have ever done, it is going to take some practice and knowledge. So read a book, listen to a podcast, ask a friend, or visit a financial counselor at the Airman & Family Readiness Center.

Bottom line, everyone needs to learn financial responsibility. Money is a huge part of our lives and when you manage it wisely, it really is quite freeing.