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Career Focus: Pay yourself first

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- I once heard that gas prices rise like a rocket and fall like a feather. Recent gas prices seem to confirm this. Like many, it hurts my wallet each time I fill up at the pumps. All drivers must deal with gasoline costs, but we also have many other bills like mortgages, rent, utilities, car payments, food, clothing and other miscellaneous expenses. Everybody pays bills. Unfortunately, some of us get trapped living paycheck-to-paycheck. We pay our debts on time. Unfortunately, we may forget to pay our most important bill - the money we owe ourselves.

I recently read David Bach's book, "The Automatic Millionaire." In his book, Mr. Bach claims the fastest and surest way to future financial security is to take 10 percent of our monthly pay and invest it, or pay ourselves. He recommends making the payment "automatic." We should set up an allotment or another automatic method that helps us avoid the temptation to use those funds for something less important. Mr. Bach's principle is commonly used by the wealthy. Many people have become millionaires using this simple principle, and we can invest like this too. The Air Force makes it easy by offering us the Thrift Savings Plan.

Contributions from our military pay to TSP can be started or stopped online using the myPay Web site at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx. There are multiple funds to choose from with variable risk and return. There are very safe funds like the G-Fund, which pays modest interest rates. With higher returns there are higher risks. Therefore, it's wise to research any investment prior to placing your hard-earned money into it.

TSP is a great benefit. It enables Air Force members to take part in two retirement programs at the same time. We have a fully-funded pension plan if we serve a minimum of twenty years and we have the TSP which is a voluntary contribution plan. We may be the only employees on the planet who have access to retirement benefits like these.

Unfortunately, I talk to many folks who don't pay themselves first. They live paycheck-to-paycheck, have no plan for their future and fall prey to instant gratification. Sadly, they may waste their most productive working years and have nothing to show for it. Doesn't early retirement with financial security sound better? It's never too late to start!

If you would like information regarding TSP or Air Force retirement plans check out http://www.defenselink.mil/militarypay/ or give me a ring at 846-6636 or e-mail me at joseph.mulcahy@kirtland.af.mil.

See you in the wings!
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