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And Finally - Money Resolution

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2018

The last year has been a trying one, to say the least.

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The last year has been a trying one, to say the least. As members of the veteran community, we experience a particular type of injury, one that comes with a full share of physical and emotional adjustments. The experience is nothing that can be anticipated, although those who’ve served in a war zone are constantly preparing for anything. Though there haven’t been enough studies on the subject, I wonder if there’s a connection between preparation and rehabilitation. If there’s a possibility of being mentally and physically prepared for a life-altering injury, why not speak about the benefits of financial preparation?

The Money Formula

Money tends to be somehow included among the usual New Year’s resolutions, whether it’s making more or saving more. My personal resolution around eight years ago was to no longer allow money to control my life. During the years prior to my accident, I worked much more than 40 hours a week. I didn’t take time to eat or sleep properly. All this while stating to myself that I had no choice; my bills had to be paid. A money management speaker once gave this example: If one person is earning $3,000 a month and barely making it, how is another person earning $4,000 a month and also barely making it? You would think the second person should be saving $1,000 a month. The question is, “Why not?”

One answer may lie in the use of this formula: I – E = S. The “I” stands for income, “E” is for expenses and “S” represents savings. The idea being we all have our income, then subtract our expenses. The remaining money we put in our savings. Now, we can debate what counts as necessary and unnecessary expenses, but that’s another article. However, in terms of the previously mentioned formula, the issue is that 80% of the population lives by this formula. They spend more time focusing on affecting the “I” to improve their lives. They’re trying to find ways to earn more money by working overtime or finding a second job. However, the money management expert explained that we can discover another way to live by rearranging that formula. 

Controlled Expenses

The new formula is I – S = E, where “I” is still income, but “S” means desired savings, and “E” is your controlled expenses. The application of this in real life requires us to choose how much we desire to put away every month to save for the future, whether it’s for retirement or a disaster. This made me look at all my expenses, including social activities, and design my checking account to have the correct amount of money to cover all expenses. The rest is electronically transferred to a savings account my wife and I agree not to use without the other’s consent. My life is completely different from what it was prior to the accident. My apartment is smaller but furnished with things my wife and I chose, not just things we can afford. Our cars aren’t high-end models. However, they’re both paid off, each within three years, and are still in great shape.

I also know many Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) members who were able to recover their lives within a decent amount of time, and I know quite a few who are leaders in our community. I wish financial rehabilitation was part of the post-injury rehabilitation programs service members attend. The Navy had a few financial strategy classes while I was in boot camp and “A” school. Thanks to the Navy, the Navy Federal Credit Union and the government, I forged a life for myself after my accident. But most of the real assistance I received was from my PVA national service officer. It boggles my mind when I go to the hospital and speak to patients who draw a blank stare when I ask them if they have met with their PVA representative yet. That blank stare gets even bigger when I ask if they have their finances in order. So, this year I’m dedicating my time to teaching injured veterans about money management.

A Financial Cure?

Let’s face it, being disabled is expensive. Our medical needs can cost thousands of dollars a month. It’s easy to conclude that a person earning more than six figures a year would have a tough time staying above the poverty line following a spinal-cord injury or disease. We all recognize the value of life insurance, but what about those of us who experience those traumatic events and live? Sometimes, I think some of the issues plaguing us won’t be repaired with mental health counseling or antidepressants but rather some free financial advice.

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of  Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the position of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

 

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And Finally - Money Resolution

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