What do you talk to your kids about? Homework, eating their vegetables, using their manners, a million different YouTube videos? (Or is that just my house?) Here's the real question, though: Do you talk to them about money?
Heck, do you even talk to your spouse about finances?
Many of us are raised with certain beliefs about money. I'm not sure about your childhood, but I can vouch for at least a few of these from this list:
- It's taboo
- It's "the root of all evil"
- Only greedy people want money
- It's a private topic and should not be discussed
- "A fool and his money are soon parted"
- It's best to keep it under the mattress
- You only need enough to get by; excess is bad
- Debt is shameful
- Money will make you happy
- Money's just not attainable, and you'll never be wealthy
Do any of these resonate? If so, where did this start? It started in the home. These were most likely ideas that were passed down and taught to you by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles -- you name it.
What if military families were intentional about teaching good money and savings habits to our kids from a young age?
At Military Saves, we encourage you to do something different and invite the topic of finances into your home from an early age. We believe it's healthy to normalize financial discussions, not to be afraid to ask about money and to explore options of planning for your future, together.
Involving Military Spouses in Finances
Military spouses face unique challenges when it comes to finances.
How much better would our military community be with money if we empowered not only our service members and veterans to save, but also our spouses? What if we, as military families, had a plan and developed our strategy together?
Before my husband joined the Army, I was the breadwinner. When he signed on the dotted line, our young family of four was whisked off to an OCONUS [Outside the Continental U.S.] duty station, and I no longer worked. Although I stopped earning my own wages, I still wanted to contribute to my IRA that I set up outside of my job. Unfortunately, because we were stationed in Germany, my account was flagged as attempting to make "international transfers," and I wasn't able to contribute to my personal retirement for three years.
When I told this story to other military spouse friends who weren't working at the time, they were surprised to hear that you could start your own personal retirement accounts outside of those offered by an employer. Many knew that their active-duty spouses had a TSP account set up through the military, but didn't have anything for themselves, or anything jointly outside of that one account.
My friends who worked faced challenges like gaps in employment, periods of not working, underemployment and the emotional stress of feeling dependent on their spouse while wanting to contribute financially.
No matter how you slice it, conversations need to happen. Military Saves wants to initiate those with you.
Military Saves Month -- Save as a Family
April is Military Saves Month, an annual free, virtual event where hundreds of organizations come together to encourage the military community to do a financial wellness check-in. It's hosted by Military Saves, a participant in the Defense Department's Financial Readiness Network. Our research-based program is coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Consumer Federation of America.
Over the course of a month, we'll cover money-related topics from a relatable, down-to-earth, positive perspective. Savers will end the month with tools, resources and clarity on their current financial situation, new savings goals and a realistic plan to achieve them.
We are dedicating an entire week, April 26-30, to the theme of Save as a Family. We'll focus on the tangible and intangible ways we can set ourselves up for success as military families and spouses, and positively influence and model for our children and teens when it comes to money, spending habits and saving.
In addition to this wealth of information, Military Saves Month participants have the chance to win $500 during our #ImSavingFor Sweepstakes. We think that's a perfect way to jump-start your military family's financial goals.
Start with the Pledge, then Join Us in April
As you count down to our event, we encourage you to take the Military Saves Pledge. Once you make a promise to yourself to embark on your financial journey, you'll join a community of #MilitarySavers and can look to Military Saves for accountability. We'll keep you on track with emails, text reminders, free resources, and tips to help you realize your financial goals.
Visit us at militarysaves.org for more information.
--Jackie Toops is the program coordinator for Military Saves. She's also a freelance writer, content creator, media personality and mom.
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