Financial literacy: Keeping Airmen on target Published March 17, 2020 By Senior Airman Katelyn Sprott 132d Wing Public Affairs Des Moines, Iowa -- Clare Long, the 132d Wing Airmen and Family Readiness Program Manager and accredited financial counselor (AFC), has been instrumental in providing financial advice and briefings to the Airmen of the Cyber Operations Squadron (COS). Long and Maj. Charles Schumacher, the director of operations at the 168th COS, organized briefings in which Long delivered advice ranging from improving credit and how to avoid common financial mistakes to house or car buying. Schumacher and Long both stressed that these briefings are beneficial in expanding the financial literacy for Airmen who need to obtain, and maintain, top secret (TS) clearances. “Clare talked to the Airmen about how being financially responsible is being a good steward to our position with the Iowa Air National Guard and how not being responsible could potentially have a negative impact,” said Schumacher. With Airmen of all ages and points in life working in COS, from straight out of high school to members in their 40’s, Schumacher said these briefings also provided leadership with the skills necessary to communicate across those generations. Long shared with COS Airmen the best ways to improve their credit, including: knowing what’s on their credit reports, knowing their credit limits, making a budget, utilizing the debt snowball method, and to shop around on interest rates. Long also stressed the importance of staying within their budget, stating that an overextension of a budget is one of the biggest financial mistakes she sees people make. “When it comes to a budget you want 70% or less of your income going towards living expenses, that is everything from entertainment all the way to paying rent, 20% or less is going towards debts and 10% or more is going towards savings,” said Long. Staff Sgt. William Feltner, a COS cyber-operator, said the biggest benefit that he took from the briefings, was the knowledge of what impacts his credit score and how a negative credit score could affect his clearance. One skill Feltner utilizes now is having a strict budget, where he accounts for every dollar that goes in and out. Another practice that Feltner has changed is being more aware of how he’s using, and paying on, his credit cards. Long also educated Airmen that financial stress may cause a significant amount of emotional stress; however it is usually symptomatic of underlying issues. She said that a person’s finances aren’t going to improve if they aren’t willing to work on other issues. “You are telling your money what you want it to do, versus it telling you what you’re going to do,” said Long. In the end, Long advises Airmen to reach out during times of financial stress. She said the best people to go to for financial counseling will have the acronym ‘AFC’ (accredited financial counseling), these advisors can help by giving you an appropriate and unbiased financial education; or the acronym ‘CFP’ (certified financial planner), these people can help you plan out for things such as retirement.