Category Archives: Financial Fitness

How a $20 Bar Tab can Turn into a Million Dollars-Worth of Financial Stress

Alcohol Awareness Month Financial Stress Blog Image

Imagine you went to close out your bar tab before heading home on a Saturday night and the bartender said, “That’ll be $10,000.” You stare at the bartender, stunned. As he starts to correct his statement, you let out a sigh of relief, assured that there is no way that’s your tab. The bartender continues: “I meant $1 million.”

Research shows that the initial cost of driving under the influence (DUI) can average $10,000 – and that’s just within six months of the incident. That money may be spent on initial fees which include bail, car towing, DUI classes, court-imposed fines, attorney fees, ignition interlock devices and more. But the financial stress doesn’t stop there.

When the fictitious bartender corrects himself to say $1 million, he’s referring to the bigger picture. After receiving a DUI, depending on the state, annual auto insurance rates increase significantly. In California, for example, the average Good Driver insurance discount is $1,307. After receiving a DUI, the same driver might pay up to $4,001 more. That is an annual increase of $2,694, which would likely total tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Say you’re planning to retire from the Navy as an E-7 at age 39. Your military retirement pension of one-half of your base pay will amount to $996,000 over 40 years. Your commissary and exchange privileges will save you an estimated $52,000 and medical insurance savings will equate to about $61,000 over that time period. That totals a real loss of $1 million over your lifetime if you are separated from the Navy for a DUI.

Knowing the financial burdens – in addition to the health, career and safety risks – would you still drink and drive? Or would you remember how hard you’ve worked to earn your living and your rank? Plan for a safe ride home before you go out for the night—and stick to it. The Keep What You’ve Earned campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile application has the tools you need to drink responsibly, including a blood alcohol content estimator, calorie calculator (which tells you how many pushups it will take to burn off those beers) and one-click access to Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps. Pier Pressure is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Drink responsibly and keep what you’ve earned. Don’t let a $20 tab turn into a $10,000 (or $1,000,000) budget-buster. Even driving minimally buzzed can increase your risk for a car accident by 46 percent. Know your limit before you get there, don’t try to “keep up” with others and plan in advance for a safe ride home.  You’ve earned it, don’t waste it.

April is both Alcohol Awareness Month and Stress Awareness Month. For more tips on responsible drinking brought to you by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign, click here. If you think you may be struggling with alcohol, contact your local Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA).

References:

Cost of a DUI. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/stopteendui/parents/cost/how-much-does-a-dui-cost.cfm

Devine, R. & Garske, M. (2014, January 16). Study: “Minimally Buzzed” Drivers Often Cause Fatal Crashes. Retrieved from http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/UCSD-Study-Minimally-Buzzed-Drivers-and-Car-Crashes-240673261.html
Marquand, B. (2016, February 3). How Much Does a DUI Cost. Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/cost-of-a-dui/

Resolve to Reframe your Money-Mindset for 2017

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2017 is officially underway, as are millions of New Year’s resolutions. According to the University of Scranton, more than one third of resolutions made are money-related[1]. Despite the good intentions, motivation and ambition, 25 percent of all resolutions fail to make it past week one. What’s the deal?

The process of setting goals for the New Year can be a time to reflect on successes and opportunities, motivating positive and meaningful change. But it’s easy to get caught up in feeling obligated to solve all of the issues in our lives in 365 days through a few unrealistic resolutions, which can ultimately contribute to feelings of failure, decreased self-worth and added stress. Coincidentally, these are not things that we typically associate with financial prosperity. When it comes to your financial goals for 2017, focus on making money your ally rather than your adversary. Sure, you may want to double your nest-egg, triple your wealth and eliminate all debt by December 31, 2017 – but are these realistic moves for you? And at what costs do these achievements come with?

Rather than resolving to solve it all, commit to reframing your money-mindset this year through a few small acts to guide your decisions, offered by our financial expert Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte.

  • Regain a sense of control. Perhaps your money-resolution is motivated by the unexpected lack of green in your wallet or accounts post-holidays, which can leave anyone feeling a little blue. Rather than resigning yourself to a hopeless financial outlook, tackle holiday spending with a level-head. Gather up your receipts (paper or emails from online transactions) so that you can not only get an accurate assessment of what you spent, but so that you can ensure that your bank and credit card statements are accurate when they start to populate your inbox. Once you’ve taken this step (and forgiven yourself for any overspending), create or modify your budget for the New Year so that you can reasonably reduce your debt or revive your savings without creating a cycle of debt for the future. Military OneSource, your local Fleet and Family Support Center and militarysaves.org offer budgeting tools to help you balance payments, savings, investments and spending with peace of mind.
  • Define what financial well-being actually means to you. It’s not all about paying the bills and saving for the future. Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau includes being “able to make choices that allow for enjoyment of life” in their definition of financial well-being. Achieving all three requires some balance and a long-term perspective, rather than solely focusing your sights on short-term achievements. As you refresh your budget for the New Year, include a discretionary spending allowance for each month accounting for daily necessities such as groceries and gas, as well as a reasonable amount for entertainment (a night out, a family outing, exploring your next overseas port-of-call, etc.). Doing so will help you plan for blind-spots that may throw your budget off track. You deserve to enjoy all that your career has earned you – just be honest with yourself in examining how you do so and
  • Apply some of your holiday spending tricks throughout the year. During the year you’ll likely find yourself scrambling to buy a few gifts for anniversaries, birthdays or celebrations. Set reminders in your phone 30 days in advance of each event so that you have enough time to search and budget for a gift. When determining your gift, keep your focus on the meaning behind your relationship with the person rather than giving them the most expensive thing your remaining discretionary funds will allow. Non-material gifts—perhaps giving a memento from a memorable duty station to a shipmate celebrating advancement—can be more valuable than anything you can swipe a card to purchase. Outside of gift-giving, you can apply a few familiar tips to get your everyday shopping in check as well. Do your research to compare prices, read online reviews and search coupon deals. Don’t forget to make a list and check it twice whenever you head to the store so that you’re not going in for a roll of paper towel and leaving with a new flat screen television!

If you’ve found that by the end of years passed you’re measuring success by how closely you’ve achieved your financial resolutions, it’s time to take a new approach. Start this year with a little gratitude and a positive outlook by committing to “progress rather than perfection” as your 2017 mantra.

[1] New Year’s Resolution Statistics. (n.d.). University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Money Goals for Your 30s: Wise Up!

USS John C. Stennis activity

Money woes can lead to stress in other areas of life, not just your wallet. In the second installment of a three-part series on financial fitness during various ages and stages of one’s Navy career, guest blogger Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC, provides Sailors in their 30s with a few self-care tips to get a head start on achieving financial freedom. –NavyNavStress Note

With each passing decade of our lives comes the realization that the future will happen, our older and wiser selves become more of a reality, naiveté is shed (to some degree) and we are more acquainted with life’s responsibilities, obstacles and opportunities ahead. As you developed a sense of financial freedom in your twenties, you may have done things to secure your future such as setting up an emergency fund, automating deposits for your monthly savings and thinking twice before making purchases. Your thirties are a prime time to build upon that foundation now that you’re more established in your career and have a better sense of your personal, professional and family goals. Like in your twenties, keeping an eye on the future is vital so that you’re not jumping into life-changing financial commitments, living outside of your means or piddling away the progress you’ve achieved so far.

Here are a few tips to help on the road to financial wellness:

  1. Stick to your savings. Whether you built a cushion in your twenties or are just now getting around to it, consistent saving is one of your biggest wealth-building allies. Allocate and do your best to stick to saving ten to fifteen percent of your earnings for both short and long term goals such as retirement and/or transition from military to civilian life, major purchases, emergency savings, moving expenses, etc. Rather than saving whatever you have left over at the end of the month, pay yourself first to stay on track. P.S. – if you haven’t yet developed a budget so that you have a better roadmap for spending, debt reduction and saving, it’s time to get on it! Check out budgeting resources from Military OneSource here.
  2. Avoid the wealth effect. Making more money from bonuses, tenure or advancement does not mean that you should spend more. Challenge yourself to live on your previous take-home pay to reap the benefits of additional savings in order to meet your goals. Be wary of the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses” by impulsively using new money to reward yourself with luxuries. Having a financial plan for any new money can help you fund your next steps wisely rather than blowing through your gains without anything to show for them (besides a new tech gadget). If purchasing a bigger or newer car or home, or funding a vacation is a goal that you’re working toward, include savings for these milestones into your new money plan. You may also opt for using new money to increase your emergency fund, long-term savings or pay down debt.
  3. Prepare for transition. Many military members start a second career in their thirties—or are preparing to in their early forties—and must face new financial realities in terms of pay and benefits. Familiarize yourself with the new Blended Retirement System, which takes effect in 2018 and offers the option of a monthly annuity or lump sum plus reduced monthly annuity pay. Check out these infographics for a quick overview of the new system for active component and reserve component Keeping your transition from service in mind when making money decisions can help you stay ahead of stress down the line. Even making modest adjustments to your lifestyle—such as cutting back on buying lunch or making more meaningful strides to quit smoking (to benefit your health and wallet)—can help you pad your savings in the event that you don’t immediately re-enter the workforce.

While you may have been more of a risk-taker in the past, now that you’re a little wiser with a few more years under your belt, take a close look at your assets to ensure that your security isn’t on the line. Checking your credit report regularly through annualcreditreport.com (the only authorized website for free credit reports), reviewing your insurance coverage so that you can adjust based on your needs and find the best rates, and exploring ways to diversify your investments are wise money moves for this chapter in life. As always, continue to consult with your local Fleet and Family Support Center, Command Financial Specialist, Military OneSource personal financial counselors and local installation resources for specific guidance when you need it. For more tips, check out the resources below:

Money Goals for your 20s: Having Fun While Funding the Future

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Money woes can lead to stress in other areas of life, not just your wallet. In the first installment of a three-part series on financial fitness during various ages and stages of one’s Navy career, guest blogger Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC, provides Sailors in their 20s with a few self-care tips to get a head start on achieving financial freedom. –NavyNavStress Note

Being in the Navy in your twenties can be an adventure. You may feel a growing sense of personal freedom as you gain traction in your career, learn new skills and see new parts of the world. And then there’s the growing sense of financial freedom thanks to consistent income, specialty pay, inexpensive quality healthcare, discounts, allowances, quality of life resources and more. These are all important benefits that can help you achieve a solid financial foundation early-on in your military career—but can easily be squandered if not approached with the right mindset and actions.

So what is the “right mindset” when handling finances as an independent twenty-something-year-old Sailor? The first step is to learn how to live within your means and enjoy the present, while keeping an eye on the future. Take a moment to imagine yourself in five to ten years and visualize some milestones you’d like to achieve, such as purchasing your first car or home, career advancement or starting a family. Write down specific traits of your mental image of these milestones—perhaps describing what your first home may look like in your mind’s eye—noting what’s most important to you, what’s most satisfying about each milestone and why they’re worth working towards. Then post your notes in a place where you can easily see them. By visualizing, capturing and revisiting these mental images, you can practice keeping your goals in sight when making every day and long-term decisions that may impact your financial present and future.

Here are a few additional tips to give yourself a solid financial foundation in your twenties:

  1. Set Up an Emergency Fund. It’s easy to feel invincible when you’re earning your own money and have achieved some independence—until something unexpected comes along that you weren’t prepared for, like expensive car repairs. That’s why it’s important to build an emergency fund. Even if your income is limited and saving the ideal three-to-six-months’ worth of living expenses seems daunting, you can still approach this step with positivity and optimism. The key is to get started and allocate a percentage of your pay that you can reasonably contribute, working toward an initial goal that you believe is attainable (such as $500 or $1,000). Boost your savings any time you receive bonus pay, salary increases or unexpected financial gifts.
  2. Make it a Habit. Determine a set monthly budget based on your recurring expenses (rent, auto-insurance, utilities, etc.), savings goals (including emergency fund and retirement), and discretionary income (remaining funds that you may spend on groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.). Automate deposits to meet these savings goals to reduce the likelihood of overspending and under-saving. Then consider going cash or debit-only for your discretionary spending, determining a reasonable fixed dollar amount for the month and dividing it into weekly or bi-weekly allowances. You may find that when you work toward sticking to a set number, you’re able to adjust your “wants and needs” accordingly and stay within a budget that allows you to have fun while funding the future.
  3. Think it Through! Whether you’re shopping for your first big purchase such as a new or newer car, or are struck by an impulsive urge to treat yourself to some new tech at the NEX, take a moment to consider your future goals. Ask yourself how the purchase you’re presently exploring will impact achieving those milestones. Maybe you opt for a pre-owned car in good condition and under warranty, offering a lower monthly payment and allowing you to save toward your goals. Check out these calculators to help you get a grip on your financial picture before making a money decision.

Enjoy your twenties, recognizing that progress and setbacks are all a part of the journey. Open yourself to the stories and experiences of others to help you stay on track and maintain a positive outlook, seeking sound advice from mentors and professional resources when you’re in unfamiliar territory. For additional tips, check out the resources below:

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC is an experienced financial counselor and regular contributor to the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. Read more of her tips and tricks to spend and stress less on the NavyNavStress blog.

Rekindling your Relationship with Money

Working out the financial skills

Money isn’t just a tangible or intangible object. It is one of life’s most powerful partners; a highly-coveted companion that fills many roles, from comforter and friend to a reflection of our impulsiveness and uncertainties. These roles contribute to our lifelong relationship with money, which evolves similar to any worthwhile relationship. First, we identify what we’re seeking—our relationship goals—and set forth to pursue them. Then, we nurture our relationship’s well-being with dedication and care. And finally, we must be committed for the long-haul, through good and bad times, pleasant surprises and unforeseen obstacles.

The Pursuit. Our personal relationships often begin with a spark or common interest, much like our financial ones. When we relate this observation to money, it may not be that different. We have needs (shelter, food, etc.) and wants (such as an island vacation or a new car)—and pursue paths to increase our cash flow as a means to achieve them. We’ve now entered into a relationship with money. Like any relationship, our image of success can be influenced by positive experiences—such using a bonus to pay off debt early—and negative ones, like unplanned expenses and “budget-busters.” It’s also common for blind spots to exist in our relationships that we may not recognize or acknowledge. These blind spots can include emotional overspending, failure to plan and not setting goals. Understanding our underlying reasons for the pursuit of money and having a balanced perspective of its tangible and intangible value can thwart us from a relentless chase. Military OneSource has resources to help you get a better handle on your money relationship, like this article on living within your means.

Satisfaction and Well-Being. Healthy relationships are not just defined by current mutual feelings of satisfaction, but also by a positive outlook on the future—a long-term perspective. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, having financial well-being means that “a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow enjoyment of life.”  Achieving well-being in your financial relationship is possible by applying the Principles of Resilience:

  • Exercise Predictability by building an emergency financial plan tailored to your lifestyle;
  • Build Trust in yourself through exploration of long-term savings and investment opportunities that can secure your financial future; and
  • Find Meaning by liberating yourself to make money decisions that will help you enjoy what life has to offer—all in good balance and reason of course (Controllability)!

Overcoming Obstacles. Challenges and hurdles will occur, but how we handle these “What Ifs” can shape our relationship with money. Medical catastrophes, job losses, poor decision-making and lack of communication can all play a part in creating new financial realities for us. When these occur, obtaining guidance and advice from objective sources can light a path where we can see a hopeful end. Asking for help is the first step toward progress! Keep in mind that accepting a new reality and making personal progress require that we do not dwell on the past, but rather set in motion small steps aimed at a better future.  Unwillingness to forgive, blame and retaliation will not produce the life changing results needed to overcome financial challenges. Your local Fleet and Family Support Center can refer you to a Military Financial Counselor to minimize stress and get you back on track.

Nurturing your relationship with money takes commitment, and recognizing the profound impact it can have in your life can be a powerful motivator for behavioral change. Sometimes we need nudges to jumpstart new habits and kick old ones, such as an accountability plan with rewards and consequences or calendar reminders to revisit our budgets and goals to assess progress. Spend time with your partner—money—and constantly seek ways to improve your communication with one another. Be a good listener when your accounts tell you that now may not be the right time to splurge, and find other ways to connect!

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC is an experienced financial counselor and regular contributor to the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. Read more of her tips and tricks to spend and stress less on the NavyNavStress blog.