Financial literacy is essential to reintegrating military members into society. After many years away from civilian life, you might miss the opportunity to put your finances in order. According to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), veterans are almost twice as likely to have recurring debt (58%) than civilians (34%), and 55% of veterans believe they are unprepared for a financial emergency.
To combat debt, it is important to establish an emergency fund. An emergency fund is an account set aside to gather money for emergency use. Emergency funds take time to build—little by little over months or years.
Here are some best practices for how to set up an emergency fund and pay down debt:
Track your expenses. Familiarize yourself with your spending and earning habits well enough to decide how large of an emergency fund you’re going to need. First, set aside a small amount, but be consistent with it. With the help of budgeting and automatic savings plans, you can begin saving a small amount.
Select an account for your emergency fund. Many banks and credit unions offer discounts and other perks to service members. Some of them are tailored specifically for this group. Opening an account specifically for an emergency fund can be a psychological boost that motivates saving.
Find money for your fund. Are there any expenses you could cut back on? Are you expecting a big tax refund soon?
Treat your fund as a bill. Add your emergency fund to your regular bills; this will give it a sense of priority. If you need to start small, such as $10 per month, that’s still a good start.
Adjust your income tax withholding. If your yearly tax refund is typically quite large, you can adjust your tax withholding so that less is withheld each month; put that difference into your fund so it builds up earnings.
An automatic savings account. You can set up automatic transfers of money on a periodic basis from one account to another. An advantage of this is that it can save you the time and energy otherwise needed to locate money to save.
Investment earnings. If you’ve got stocks, bonds or mutual funds that pay regular income, you can divert that income into your emergency stash for a while.
Let’s bring awareness to improve the quality of life for those who have served our nation. For more financial resources, check out the Veterans Administration here