Hope Is Not a Method When It Comes to Managing Your Finances and Career

by Hank Coleman

Hope is not a method.  This is a routine saying throughout the United States military.  Painstaking preparation and detailed planning goes into all major military operations to try and plan for every possible contingency.  Hope cannot be relied upon to secure a win in battle.  Only through prior planning, rehearsals, discipline, ingenuity, and courage can the military succeed in any mission it is given.  The same should be true for our personal lives.  Even the famous General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, shattered the myth of hope in his autobiography, “Jack: Straight from the Gut” , when he said, “In a business plan, there is little percentage in betting on hope.”

Hope is not a method.  You cannot hope that the government is going to bail you out personally.  You cannot hope that social security will be available to us when we retire.  Heaven knows that it will not be enough money anyway even if it is around in forty years.  We cannot hope that your job is secure no matter what industry we working in or what our bosses tell us about the strength of our company.  We know that we unfortunately can no longer trust our employers to tell us the truth about just how bad the company is doing.  Job security is a myth.  We have quickly learned that we can no longer hope that our homes will continue to rise in value.  You cannot hope that a once firm corporation will continue to issue or raise its quarterly dividend year in and year out.

So, what should we do now?

Take care of yourself first. No one else cares more about your financial well being than you do.  There are a few steps that you can take to plan for your financial future like the United States Army’s takes when planning a combat mission to ensure that you are as protected as you can be.  Trust no one.  It is sad that it has come to that, but it has.  Don’t believe what your employer says.  Be skeptical of things that are too good to be true.

Protect your credit score.  Never before has so much weight and importance been given to this little score than right now.  A good credit score is a “must have” in the tight consumer credit market we face today if you want to have any chance at all of borrowing money from a traditional source in the near future.  Not only is it used by banks to lend you money, but your credit score is also looked at when you are renting an apartment, in determining your insurance rates, and in determining your risk as a potential new employee.  There are even many jobs in the US military that you cannot have without a security clearance (like Secret or Top Secret), and you can’t get them with credit troubles and high debt levels.  It will pay off in more than just new low interest car loans if you keep your credit as clean and as high a score as possible.

Keep your resume ready.  Keep updating your resume as you move along with your career, earn promotions, or receive new educational degrees and certifications.  It may pay for you to spend a few hundred dollars to professionally polish your resume with a resume or a job placement company.  You might want to consider having several different drafts of your resume depending on the type of job and industry you are looking for employment in.

Go easy on future debt.  We cannot do much about the past.  What’s done is done, but we can definitely learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.  Go easy with future debt.  Be more conservative with the obligations that you commit your family into.  Stick to fixed rate mortgages on homes that you can afford.  We need to get back to a time in our lives when it was okay to rent.

Some other ideas….

  • Ensure that your health and life insurance policies are up-to-date
  • Continue investing for your retirement (It’s never too late to start!)

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