Thursday, September 23, 2010

Financial responsibility worth its weight in gold

I’d like to talk a little this week about financial responsibility.

It seems just about every week a “news” story comes out saying the ailing economy is driving young men and women to join the military, and indeed, recruiters will talk to potential applicants about financial security (which is nothing new – they’ve been talking about that since before I joined in 1997).

The problem is these same young men and women are not taught anything about managing their new-found financial security. The vast majority of them don’t have a checking account, and of those who do, most don’t know how to balance it.

Various methods have been tried over the years to make young Marines smarter financially; there are correspondence courses as well as in-person training events by supposed experts.

But until parents start introducing their children to basic financial responsibility, we will continue to have young Marines in financial distress.

Often, Marine leaders only hear about financial difficulties when it’s too late to actually help. What we see is the Marine’s pride getting in the way combined with the Marine’s lack of financial savvy. When you add in quite a bit of “gotta-have-it syndrome”, you get Marines with tons of “stuff” and years of digging themselves out of debt.

Don’t think I’m talking from high atop a white horse either; I’m still paying for financial mistakes I made 10 years ago as a lance corporal and corporal. My credit rating is just now starting to rebound from some pretty bad errors in judgment, and now, as a leader, I am seeing young Marines make the same mistakes I made.

Parents, please teach your kids to responsibly manage their finances … at least teach them how to balance a check book.

Marines, while this won’t physically kill anyone, having huge amounts of debt will severely cripple a Marine’s quality of life which can lead to, among other things, poor performance, depression, and excessive alcohol consumption. Therefore, it needs to be one of those things on which we continue to train our Marines.

This is definitely one of life’s problems where an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

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