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Financial freedom within your reach

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Every day the news broadcasts the US consumer debt versus savings, the stock market performance, and commentary on stimulus program effectiveness. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Financial freedom can help alleviate this feeling. How do I attain financial freedom, you ask? You have to take charge of your financial life.

Here's how my family tackled the path to financial freedom.

Prior to my husband and I marrying, we sat down to discuss our financial background. Yes, we exposed our financial souls, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I had the ugly. I had a lot of credit card debt, I can't quite recall how much. Let's just say our total debt was significant. This was the first step to achieving financial freedom. Lesson 1 - admit you have a problem.

Once we identified the debt, we discussed several options to reducing the debt. Some options were to request lower interest rates from our credit card companies, transfer balances to the lower interest credit cards, pay the highest interest rate cards first, or research bank/credit union consolidation loan options. We chose to work with our local credit union to apply for a consolidation loan to pay off our debt. You will need "good" credit to qualify for an unsecured loan. Lesson 2 - research your options, you may need to seek outside assistance.

We made a commitment to pay the loan off early and not to incur any additional debt. The first couple months were challenging, we were so tempted to only pay half the payment, so we setup an allotment for the loan. We found that we did not miss what we did not see in our bank account. Lesson 3 - develop and commit to a plan.

We began living within our means, saved for big ticket items like furniture, paid off our credit cards at the end of each month. We realized we could afford many things we once thought were outside of our reach, like a six-month emergency fund, retirement and family vacations. We enjoyed seeing the fruits of our labor, our bank accounts growing each month. We applied the same philosophy, allotments, to save for retirement. Take advantage of the Thrift Savings Plan, it reduces your taxable income. Buy only what you can afford. Do you really need that big screen television when the current TV you have works and you're swimming in debt? Do you really need to eat out for lunch every day at $8+ per lunch? Lesson 4 - live within your means, this helps saving for the future. 

Anyone can take control of their finances, by taking advantage of the resources locally and online: your bank and/or credit unions, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, militaryonesource.com, MilitarySaves.org, SaveandInvest.org, SuzeOrman.com, CNNMoney.com, and many more. It just requires time and dedication. Lesson 5 - free resources are available.

Financial freedom does not occur overnight, it takes hard work, commitment, sacrifice and time. Nine years later my family and I are still benefiting from our earlier commitment to live debt free and be in control of our financial future. 

Everyone can contribute to the economic stability of our country. A better economic foundation is set for future Americans when more people save. Begin your journey to financial freedom today.