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The author, left, with her husband at an awards ceremony.

I got into debt and let my student loans go to collections before I joined the Air Force.
Joining a financial counseling program was life-changing, but fear also motivated me to change.
The military can discipline you for overdrawing your bank account or missing a bill payment.

I spent 20+ years in the Air Force. I’m incredibly proud of my service. It shaped the person I am in every way possible, but one of my biggest early challenges was staying one step ahead of getting in trouble for financial irresponsibility.

I joined the Air Force after two years of college and being nowhere close to a degree. I’d changed majors three times and accrued $20,000 in debt, mostly from student loans.

My student loans went to collections. Since my debt predated my military service, my creditors weren’t aware that I was now military. If they had known, those collection statements would have landed on my commander’s desk versus in my mom’s mailbox. I learned I could go to financial counseling at my local Family Support Center, so I made an appointment.

Financial counseling made a world of difference, but fear was a big motivating factor, too

I was assigned a financial counselor who helped me set up a budget. I contacted my creditors instead of ignoring them and came up with a plan to pay off my debts. My counselor also encouraged me to sign up for group classes on money management and establishing/using credit that were life-changing. I learned how to recognize and correct problem money habits and set goals.  

The things I learned in financial counseling were a strong influence, but so was fear. Unlike a civilian job where your boss doesn’t care if you pay your bills, the military exercises a greater influence over off-duty life. Overdrawing a bank account or being late on a bill can result in disciplinary action that can put advancement or continued service at risk.

I had to learn to stick to a budget

I had big debts and a small paycheck. An unplanned car repair or splurge …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

I was terrified of getting kicked out of the Air Force for my bad financial habits, and it helped me clean up my act in 3 major ways

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