Finances - It's everyone's responsibility

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- In a world of uncertainty, with the war on terror blazing a trail through our newspapers, our Airmen are working harder than ever to maintain the freedoms we have grown to expect. It is our responsibility as senior leaders to ensure our Airmen, the most valuable asset in the Air Force inventory, are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. With that said, we, as leaders, must encourage fitness to enable our warfighter to work those countless hours in austere conditions for extended periods. Most people won't argue that we do that for both their benefit and the mission. As leaders, we also encourage education to our Airmen. Most folks won't argue that a smarter Airman is a more effective and disciplined Airman. Leaders encourage these disciplines to develop our warfighter. 

But what happens to that Airman when they've focused on their jobs, their fitness and their education but forgot to discuss their financial responsibilities? Financial irresponsibility can prove destructive to the effectiveness of our Airmen; thus, affecting their organization if left unattended for too long. For many of our Airmen, this is their first time living on their own and the first time they've had to budget. They simply haven't established good healthy spending habits yet. That's where leadership comes in.
AFI 36-2906, Personal Financial Responsibility, is specific in regards to the individual responsibilities all Airmen are held to. I'll go through some specifics, but keep in mind the true test comes down to leadership and how well leaders are taking care of their Airmen. 

Paragraph 7 states: 

- 7.1. Will pay their just financial obligations in a proper and timely manner. 

- 7.2. Will provide adequate financial support of a spouse or child or any other relative for which the member receives additional allowances for support. Members will also comply with the financial support provisions of a court order or written support agreement. 

- 7.3. Will comply with the requirements imposed by this instruction, including the requirement to respond to applications for involuntary allotments of pay within the suspense dates established by DFAS or the commander. 

- 7.4. Will comply with rules concerning the government travel charge card program. Reference AFI 65-104, Government Travel Charge Card Program. 

As leaders, these are the guidelines set forth. Debts and expenses must be paid; it's that simple. Members are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice with regard to financial responsibility and must be held accountable for their actions. So, how do we as leaders, ensure our Airmen are doing the right thing with their finances? 

First, let's talk prevention through education. Airmen require the tools to financial planning. The Airman & Family Readiness Center and Personal Financial Management Program managers provide military members and their families with financial management education and information as well as referral services. Leaders will recognize the needs of their Airmen and refer them to the experts when the need arises. Leadership simply starts here; recognizing the need. 

Leaders must be proactive in the lives of their subordinates. Asking the tough questions, observing behavior trends, recognizing that the new Airman First Class is driving the new BMW are some of the ways to identify red flags in financial irresponsibility. A supervisor can't go wrong in asking the question. 

Also consider developing healthy habits such as saving and investing. The Thrift Savings Plan is a great way to develop healthy financial habits while also saving for the future. Encourage your subordinates to start saving while they are young. The Airman & Family Readiness Center can assist in getting you started as early as today! 

The list goes on and on in regards to the responsibilities a supervisor has for their subordinates. Fitness, education and job performance are all vital pieces of the complete warfighter puzzle. Forgetting financial responsibility and not correcting negative behaviors can be detriment to the mission and put someone in debt for many years. Be a leader - know your troops and set them up for financial success.