Is Financial Wellness part of the discussion at your department?

The emphasis on officer wellness has been all the buzz in law enforcement.  We are doing great work teaching our first responders how to eat better, get in shape, and work on their mental fitness.  One of the biggest aspects of wellness that is overlooked, though is a huge one. Money!!  That taboo subject you’re not supposed to talk about, right?  That’s how I was raised and that’s largely why I got in all kinds of the trouble with money as I came into law enforcement.

I did stupid with money with lots of zeros at the end of it as a young adult.  Who hasn’t right?  It’s almost a rite of passage to make money mistakes, but I had done it to the tune of building over $80,000 in debt, most of which was tied up in cars and a $21k car audio system (no $21k is not a typo).  What did I really have with all that stuff?  A whole bunch of exhaustion!!

As a young officer I was tired.  Tired of working overtime, and tired because I was working overtime, but I had to just to pay the bills.  I was living paycheck to paycheck, praying I wouldn’t get hurt and put on light duty so I could keep working crazy amounts of overtime.

I knew I had to figure out a way to dig myself out of debt.  I dedicated my time to not only learning the most effective way to pay off all my debt, but the proper way to live a debt free life style and how to implement all of this into my life.  Utilizing Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps from his book “The Total Money Makeover” we paid paid off all $80,000 in consumer debt over the next 24 months, and I gave my new beautiful bride the best gift I could, going into our marriage debt free.  It’s now been over 11 years since we owed a creditor anything (except the house)!!

Close your eyes and dream with me for a second.  Picture that in your life.  No credit card payments, car payments, student loans, or any consumer debt at all.  Follow that up with the safety blanket of having six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund so you potentially never have to worry about a financial emergency ever again!  Imagine overcoming all your financial woes and being able to build financial strength and prosperity!!  Trust me my friend, it’s a beautiful place to be!!

It’s time we as a profession start focusing on our own financial wellness and add that to the “officer wellness” discussion!

After achieving that pinnacle, I set out to spread what I had learned to any officer that would listen to me, and even some that wouldn’t. I became a Dave Ramsey certified master financial coach* and began working with officers in financial crisis, spreading what I had learned.  It became my ministry in a sense.

I was fortunate to work for a very progressive chief, Steve Dye of the Grand Prairie Texas police department.  He heard about the “financial” nerd downstairs and we set out to design a class for cops on how to handle their finances and start winning with money.  We had a vision of a department full of financially fit officers that were focused on doing their job while not worrying about how to pay the bills at home.

Let’s look at some scary numbers:

  • 75% of Americans are living pay check to pay check (I think cops are worse, especially those of us that are civil service or union agencies) according to a study by Careerbuilder
  • 62% of American’s have less than $1,000 in savings and 21% don’t have any savings (The Motley Fool)
  • Half of Americans spend all or more money than they earn (just look out in your employee parking lot and all those fancy cars out there) cnn.com
  • American’s owe over $13 Trillion in debt, with over $1 Trillion in credit card debt and $1.1 Trillion in auto loans (businessinsder)

Think about that and let it sink in.  How much more productive, and safer would you e if you weren’t worrying about money?

Now, what are you doing to change your financial situation?  There are a ton of resources out there that can help you change your financial course.

It starts with looking inwards at yourself.  You see if your struggling with money you’re the problem, but that is actually a good thing because you’re also the solution.  The first step is realizing that, the second is even harder though!  It’s time to start doing that dreaded “B” word none of us really like –  Budget.  Every dollar has a purpose and a place before the month begins.  Make your money work for you so it stops working against you!

More on budgeting in the next blog! I hope you will walk with me on this journey as we teach “grown adults” the lessons we never got in our earlier days and help those just starting out in their career set a foundation that will give them the ability to literally change their family tree and start winning with money.

*Completion of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Coach Master Training does not create an employment or agency relationship with Ramsey Solutions or its affiliates; it does not constitute an license or credentials to engage in legal, tax, accounting, investment, or other professional practice; nor does it constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the Coach by Dave Ramsey.

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