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$120,000 … that's the number online estimators reveal I'd have in my 401K today, if I would have invested my first nuke bonus in 1991, given an average return of 7% with no additional investment. at number would be significantly higher if I had invested two more bonuses, which totaled close to $45,000. Unfortunately, I didn't, and that opportunity is lost. Now I must play catch-up. I'd like to share my story so that others might avoid missing opportunities to build wealth and financial indepen- dence. Considering the Depart- ment of Defense's recent move towards a 401K-styled Blended Retirement System, this discus- sion takes on even more rele- vance today. We are constantly bombarded with marketing messages. Some of these prod- ucts and services are needs like food, clothing, shelter, transpor- tation, and insurance. Unfortu- nately, much of what's coming into our mail boxes, e-mail inboxes, and social media feeds are things we don't need. When we aren't mindful of these risk decisions, we're quickly parted with our money which could serve better long- term uses for us. Here's my advice to you: 1. Consider your current spending habits. Be aware of the avenues out there that can make your money work for or against you. Ask "Why?" before you spend money on any product or service. Is it a need or a want? 2. Create a budget and stick to it. Online budget tools such as Excel or Quicken can help you plan and organize your finances. Direct deposits also provides an easy avenue to commit funds to investments and savings before those funds become a risk to "wants-based buying." 3. Financial problems are a leading cause of divorce. If you're planning to get married or blend finances, discuss finances before this happens. Make sure to discuss who pays for what and get a good sense of your part- ner's spending habits. Unhealthy spending habits can become a liability to your financial health. 4. Invest soon…it's all about the power of compounding interest. e Blended Retirement System will automat- ically help you do this, so get educated on this system, understand it, and make wise investment decisions. 5. Seek financial help early. ere are many organizations that can help with your fiscal management. While some perceive a stigma on seeking financial advice, don't let that make you avoid discussing the accountability for poor money management. As a young Sailor, I valued saving, establishing credit, and living within my means. Over time, I failed to put effective controls in place to help me stick to my plans and started living a lifestyle that was beyond my means. With self-discipline, sound financial advice, and frank discussions with my former spouse about money, I could have better set myself up for success rather than staging a game of "catch up." Learn from my mistakes and the knowledge and advice that is ample and available. Develop and strengthen your monetary management skills, and take ownership now of your financial future. Fleet Master Chief Paul Kingsbury assumed duties as Fleet Master Chief USFF in 2015 and has served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years on a variety of ships, squadrons, and shore tours. He has been published in several military journals including two award-winning essays in U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine. 7 Association of the United States Navy ENLISTED AFFAIRS Managing the Risks to Your Financial Health By Fleet Master Chief Paul Kingsbury MC3 MAT THE W R. FAIRCHILD U.S. Fleet Forces Command Fleet Master Chief Paul Kingsbury talks with Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first in class of the Ford nuclear aircraft carriers.

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