• Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
Whew! That was close. Now that it looks like we've escaped the threat of a government shutdown, it's time to take a hard look and make sure our own "house" is in order.

Just as we repeatedly emphasize the importance of prudent planning in the interest of safety, this week's near miss should have served as a wake-up call to all of us to review our own personal finance situations and how vulnerable we are to unexpected interruptions to our income. To borrow a famous phrase from the Boy Scouts, "Always Be Prepared" applies to this area of our lives as well.

Putting the politics aside, if anything, this week should have warned all of us that even the most secure income source is hardly guaranteed, and we need plans in place for all kinds of eventualities. I know personal finances can be exactly that - personal - so I would be way out of bounds if I tried to get too prescriptive on the topic, but I think there are some general principals worth emphasizing that we all can relate to.

This is particularly relevant to our military members ... financial issues are a leading cause in disciplinary actions, and most if not all of these issues are preventable if we just make the tough choices now, before they are made for us.

First and foremost, living within our means is a solid start. Since I've arrived, I've been amazed at how many radio shows cover family financial topics, and most of them share a common theme ... get and stay out of debt.

My favorite radio personality even goes as far as to celebrate the achievement of "debt-free" status with his listeners. Not owing anyone any money puts a huge safety net under your income needs, and the biggest culprit these days is credit card debt. Getting out from under that load should be high on your list of "emergency actions."

And even a temporary loss of income certainly qualifies as an "emergency." Most planners recommend an "emergency savings account" as the first step, maybe on the order of $1,000. Then the plans typically favor establishing a "living account" equal to a few months' salary. With those in place, you're well on your way to dealing with all kinds of unplanned events.

Building these up can be a tall order, but things really get personal when it comes to looking at a budget. There's something very illuminating about taking an afternoon and physically writing down all the "Ins" and "Outs" and looking for how important each "Out" is.

I love the line "If you will live like no one else, later you get to live like no one else." For most, that would mean eliminating a whole line of expenses that we have become accustomed to, but in reality, would not make the "critical" list. Freeing up those dollars and controlling your spending is the best path towards getting debt down and savings built.

Lifestyle changes can be challenging, but this week should serve as a warning to all of us. If we lose our income, even temporarily, it's a MUCH bigger challenge. Get out in front of that one, and if financial planning isn't your forte' then I highly recommend seeking some advice on this topic.

For our military and DOD civilian members, we have LOTS of options, and our very own Autumn Standley (454-4574) at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center knows how to hook us up. And locally, there are plenty of good sources for our ATA partners through the Employee Assistance Program.

So, if you haven't thought about this issue recently, now is the time. Don't let another week pass you by, and leave yourself at risk for the next time old "Murphy" jumps out of the closet.