Money

Turn Financial Defeat Into Victory

My employer, USAA, is headquartered in San Antonio, home to The Alamo, where roughly 200 Texan defenders waged their final battle on March 6, 1836, against the Mexican Army.

Their defeat led to the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo,” and ultimately Texas’s independence. I’m using the anniversary of that famous battle to look at four moves you can make to help turn a personal financial defeat into victory.

Here’s how:

1. Call for reinforcements.

Alamo commander William Travis’ call for help in his famous “Victory or Death” letter went unheeded. But I’m confident you can get help if you know where to find it. Visit your Military & Family Readiness Center for classes or counseling, use legal assistance to shore up or create important legal documents or call a National Foundation for Credit Counseling-affiliated counselor. Make the call and get the help you need to move your finances from the brink of disaster onto solid ground.

2. Expand your reserves beyond two weeks.

The siege of the Alamo lasted two weeks, long enough for the defenders to run short of critical supplies. Life can be uncertain and you may need to bridge a gap that lasts well beyond two weeks. Unexpected (or early) PCS moves, a transition out of the military or a job loss during a PCS are all parts of military life that demand a robust emergency fund. And that doesn’t even touch on everyday setbacks like car trouble or broken water heaters. Put yourself in a position to hunker down for the long haul by establishing and building an emergency fund.

3. Don’t let the numbers overwhelm you.

The Alamo’s defenders faced insurmountable odds. The numbers involved in putting together a comfortable financial future may look daunting. For example, the estimated cost for sending your newborn to a public college in 18 years exceeds $200,000. In the Alamo City, the median home price is $212,000, and no matter where you live, you would need a nest egg of over $700,000 just to create a modest supplemental stream of retirement income of $35,000 per year. While the Texans were overwhelmed at the Alamo, they regrouped and ultimately won their independence.

You can win your own financial independence by planning and saving. William Travis and his comrades didn’t have time on their side, but you may, so get started today.

4. Map out your exit plan.

Things might look a lot different had the Alamo’s defenders opted to silently slip away from the battle. As crazy as military life can be, the one certainty is that at some point you’ll leave the service. And you or your spouse may not have the luxury of deciding when.

So, start making preparations today, even if leaving the service is the last thing on your mind. That means building a transition fund, creating a professional network to help with your move and leveraging educational opportunities that make you more marketable. Leaving the military is a beginning, not an end. Making the necessary preparations will ensure that’s the case.

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