Mission-focused military life places a high priority on physical health. But for some, financial health may be an afterthought.
Navy veteran and fitness and lifestyle content creator, Austen Alexander, recognizes the benefits and challenges of both. When he went into the Navy, the military kept him fit. But during his first years of service, Alexander accumulated debts that impacted his financial wellbeing as well as his mental and physical health.
Alexander says he went “a little haywire” while at his first duty station. He admits there was a void he was trying to fill being away from home. He bought things he couldn’t afford…all on credit. The discipline he used in the gym didn’t translate to his finances.
“I was living the good life on money I didn’t really have,” says Alexander.
The military offered no training in finance to show him how to manage his money, how to open a savings account, or when to begin investing. At his low point, Alexander started to educate himself on financial fitness. He dove into books. He taught himself financial fitness and he decided to reduce his credit card debt.
He realized that many principles of physical fitness are similar to those of financial fitness. They both require patience, discipline and consistency to be successful.
By applying principles of physical fitness to his financial life, Alexander was able to pay down debt and start a business. Today, he is in the best shape of his life. The lessons Alexander learned along the way are an inspiration to others – both in and out of uniform.
His plan helped him to transfer the balance of his highest card to a new card with a 15-month, 0 percent interest rate. This allowed his payments to go directly toward principal, not interest. He also created a multi-tiered approach to quickly pay off debt. Here are some highlights:
1) Make an Attack Plan
Create a monthly budget to track expenses and designate amounts spent in various categories and channel extra income to start paying back what you owe.
2) Set Goals
Set financial goals that are practical, measurable and have a deadline.
3) Pay early
Automate your monthly payments to arrive a day (or even a week) early to help reduce the risk of late payments.
4) Pay more
Make more than just the minimum monthly payment on credit cards.
5) Pay with a plan
Use available resources to create a financial plan to pay down debt, establish investment accounts like the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and consult with the finance officer at your deployment location.
The path to military financial readiness is paved with steps to show you how to make interest work for – not against – you. For more information and useful financial tools visit vcm.com/resources.
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