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Success before Stress: Be Smart With Your Finances Now, Reduce Stress Later

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Dr. Frank Gonzales

Gonzales recently retired from the U.S. Public Health Service after 23 years of combined Army/USPHS uniformed service. During his service he provided and directed mental health services for military, tribal and civilian communities. As the current project lead and senior subject matter expert for he manages the development of resources to support service members, veterans and military families.

It’s hard to be effective or “mission ready” when your mind is preoccupied with money problems. While the old saying “money can’t buy you happiness” may have some truth to it, it’s also true that mismanaged finances can lead to debt, lowered credit status, periods of being “broke” and delinquent notices. All of these issues can cause stress, decrease your effectiveness and affect overall sense of well-being. On top of all that, severe financial problems can also damage military careers—financial issues are the main cause for losing a security clearance. So while money indeed can’t buy you happiness, financial trouble can lead to mountains of stress for service members and their families.

Did you know that financial health is a primary contributor to overall marital health? Disagreements about money are the number one cause of divorce in the military. If you’re single, learning to be smart with your finances early, no matter how much or little you make, will reduce stress and improve your quality of life.

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed financially, there are resources you can turn to for help in establishing healthy financial habits, like creating a spending plan, learning how to pay down debt, living within your means, and saving toward both long- and short-term goals. The best place to start for service members who have questions or concerns about financial readiness is to visit their service-specific financial specialist. These are military resources that provide financial education, training, counseling and information to help manage financial readiness:

Recently, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created the Office of Servicemember Affairs, to help strengthen military families with financial protection and education. There’s also the Better Business Bureau Military Line for military members, which offers classes, articles, consumer guides and alerts. You can also visit their website to file complaints or bring attention to unique issues affecting the military community.

We’ve learned that prolonged stress, whether it stems from financial worries or other life events affect us mentally and physically, so take steps now to strengthen your financial footing.

Are you familiar with some of the risk factors for suicide, which include financial problems? Find out more about suicide prevention information and resources on the DCoE website.

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