Balance spending, saving, investing to build future nest egg

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Aubrey Buhr
  • 99th Air Base Wing Chapel

How many of you have gotten paid and, within a few days, have spent your entire paycheck?

I can remember being a young senior airman and having my flight chief ask me, “What are you doing with your money?” to which I replied, “Spending it!”  

The flight chief laughed and then asked me, “Do you want to be in the Air Force 20 years and realize you have nothing to show for it?” 

I think my reply is pretty obvious – the answer was “No!” 

He then told me when he was a senior airman, a wise ol’ master sergeant asked him the same questions.  Since that conversation, the flight chief had been moving 10 percent of each paycheck into a savings account. This act of self-discipline ensured he had money stored away for retirement and prevented him from becoming broke a few days after paydays.

Shortly after our conversation, I integrated his knowledge into additional money management practices. The first step to managing money was to build a budget – I needed to monitor how much money I had coming in and how much money I had going out.  As long as I had more money coming in than money going out, I stayed on track. 

If, however, I found my bank account in the negative, I had three options to increase my income.  The first option was to spend less money, but if expenses were set, this may not be an option.  The second option was to earn more money via a part-time job, a better paying job, or earning a promotion.  A third option was a combination of the aforementioned options.

A year after talking to my flight chief, I had established savings, money market and ROTH IRA accounts.  I was on my way to planning for my future.

I was very appreciative of the time my flight chief took to mentor me; he changed my life.  I made sure that along my career path I took time to time to share my knowledge with everyone who was willing to listen.  While serving as an Air Force recruiter, I provided my recruits with a small financial briefing and stressed the importance of budgeting, saving and investing. 

For a single person, a savings of about $700-$1,000 should be enough to cover small emergencies or extra expenses.  For a person with a family, the savings should increase to $1,500-$2,500. Once a savings is established, individuals should look for other places to invest the paycheck. Some examples include a Thrift Savings Plan, money market, 401K, Roth IRA or mutual funds. 

Investing money can be complex. If you need assistance with establishing money management practices, talk with your chain of command, a Wingman, or the Nellis Airmen and Family Readiness Center, which has a variety of financial management classes and investment counseling.