5 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned From the Military

Service members aren’t exactly renowned for their financial responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the lessons we learned in the military and apply them to our personal lives.

Managing your money is all about developing good financial habits. It requires hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Luckily, as military members, we’ve had plenty of practice.

Whether you’re looking to pay down your debt or shore up your credit score, the intangible skills acquired while serving can continue to benefit you throughout your life. They just need a chance to shine.

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1) Commitment

When you sign up for the military, quitting’s not an option. That same initiative can be applied to your decision to achieve your financial goals.

Creating a budget is the first step toward taking control of your money. From there, you can figure out what amounts are realistic for you to save, invest and still have enough left over to pay your bills at the end of the month.

If you are still in the military and plan to stay for a few years, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) provides several excellent options for investing your money. If you are already out or are planning on getting out in the near future, a traditional or Roth IRA might suit you better. And of course, the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.

2) Discipline

Serving in the military is about doing things the right way, not the easy way. Sticking to your budget is one of the most difficult aspects of managing your finances.

Resisting the temptation of compulsive spending can be tricky in today’s consumer-driven culture. It’s important to establish a maximum amount you can spend on “wants” each month.

That’s also why it’s so beneficial to pay yourself first when it comes to saving. Every time you get paid, sock that money away somewhere safe immediately.

3) Integrity

The military has always held its members to a higher standard, stressing integrity above all else. Keeping an honest account of your monthly spending is paramount to properly managing your finances.

All of us make financial mistakes from time to time, but owning up and correcting them is the hard part. If you don’t know how much you are spending, it’s tough to figure out where your problem areas lie. There are several tools you can use to help you track your budget. No matter which you choose, living in line with your long-term financial goals is the key.

4) Endurance

Military life teaches men and women to go without many of the amenities most people enjoy on a day to day basis. If you want to get your finances in order and pay down your debt, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Many people sabotage themselves by dining out too often, allocating too much of their budget for entertainment or just constantly carrying a balance on their credit card. Changing your habits and giving up some these money drains will help you direct your money towards what really matters in your life.

Saving more doesn’t always require big sacrifices. Small changes such as skipping that morning cup of coffee on the way to work, cancelling the cable or simply buying in bulk can dramatically increase your disposable income.

5) Teamwork

As a service member, you never accomplish anything alone. Getting your family on board is essential in order to reach your financial goals.

Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and author of the book, “Soldier of Finance,” recommends finding a financial battle buddy. He says this could be a spouse, close friend, co-worker or relative that will hold you accountable for all your financial matters.

“Your battle buddy would be the first one to chastise you if you were going to buy something you know you shouldn’t. They’re there for support as well as to speak the harsh truth when you need it (even though you might not want to hear it),” said Rose.

Leading by example is also a great way to teach your kids good financial habits. Not only that, but working toward a common goal provides an excellent opportunity to bring the family together and focus on what matters in life.

Did the military teach you any lessons that you can apply to personal finance? Leave us a comment below.