Furlough seminars help people manage finances
April 22, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 22, 2013) -- With the upcoming furloughs looming, it's important for people on Fort Rucker to be certain about how they manage their finances in uncertain times, and the installation has a program in place to make sure that its civil service members are properly educated.
At the request of Fort Rucker's deputy garrison commander, Justin O. Mitchell, Army Community Service is offering free furlough seminars for federal civilian employees and their spouses April 19, 24 and 30 from noon to 1 p.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 284, according to Mike Burden, ACS financial readiness program manager and financial counselor.
The classes are on a first-come, first-served basis and people must register ahead of time to attend.
"We're trying to provide some financial education information to civil service employees that are interested in getting ahead on the financial end of the furlough," he said. "We decided to pool our financial resources here -- our experience and knowledge -- and come up with a presentation that was focused on ways that individuals could reduce expenses temporarily."
Although the seminars are meant to educate people about financial responsibility during the furlough, Burden said these are lessons that they should apply year round.
"This [training] isn't just about the furlough, it's something that people should always be looking at," he said. "It's not just about reducing expenses and looking at your financial goals, but it's to get people to look at their expenses year round."
The seminars will focus on temporary changes because the current furlough will only last through the end of the fiscal year, said Burden. They will start by doing a cash-flow analysis to get an overview of the individual's financial situation.
"In order for most people to get an idea of how much they need to reduce in their expenses, they need to know how much income they have coming in, and the cash-flow analysis will help see that," he said. "We find that a lot of people don't really know how much money they have coming in."
Burden said that although people know what their income may be, actually seeing all of their income on paper, along with their expenses, gives them a broader view of where their money is going and where they can cut.
People start by getting their leave and earnings statement, which is like a detailed pay stub that shows all income, deductions and allotments, said the financial counselor.
"We ask the participants to look at their LES and look at their cash-flow analysis because it's too much information to keep track of in their head," he said. "We also ask people to list all their monthly expenses, including fixed expenses like mortgages, rent and auto expenses; and flex expenses, which include things like food, groceries and gas."
Burden said that one place that a lot of people will be surprised that they spend is in their miscellaneous expenses, which include things like coffee, snacks or cigarettes, and offers advice to help keep track of how much they are spending on those miscellaneous expenses.
"When you buy things like that, keep your receipts, and whenever you make the purchase, store that receipt somewhere and at the end of the month, add it all up and you'll see how much it can add up to," he said.
The cash-flow analysis is just one of the topics that are discussed during the seminar. Another topic that is discussed is financial goals.
Burden said that if individuals are faced with furloughs, people might need to adjust their financial goals, but only temporarily. Along with putting their goals on hold, people will most likely be faced with having to cut expenses.
"That's something that we talk about and people can do it pretty easily if they really want to," he said. "It's a behavior modification -- more of a mindset than anything. It's like losing weight. You've really got to get your mind around it first and accept the fact that you want to reduce your expenses."
Burden also talked about the Thrift Savings Plan that many people might be invested in and said that people shouldn't stop contributing to their TSPs if they can help it.
"It's not really a good idea to stop contributing, but if necessary, reduce the amount that you're contributing," he said. "People need to realize that it's a significant thing to reduce a long-term savings plan."
People should think long and hard about making a decision that would affect them in the long-term, he said.
For more information or to register, call 255-9631, 255-2594, 255-2341 or 255-0679.