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. But the single biggest aspect of wellness that is overlooked is financial wellness. 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.
Overtime is Not A Longterm Solution
When it came to money as a young adult, I did stupid with lots of zeros at the end of it. 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 $21,000 car audio system (no, $21,000 is not a typo).
As a young officer I was tired. Tired of working overtime, and tired because I had to work 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.
A Way Out Of Debt
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 lifestyle and how to implement all of this into my life. Utilizing Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps method from his book ,“The Total Money Makeover,” I paid off all $80,000 in consumer debt over 24 months.
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. Imagine overcoming all your financial woes and being able to build financial strength. It’s possible and it’s never too late to start.
Financial Wellness for the Department
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, preaching what I had learned.
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 I was tasked 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:
- 79% of Americans are living paycheck to pay check according to a study by CareerBuilder (I think cops are worse, especially those of us that are civil service or union agencies).
- 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 at all those fancy cars and lifted trucks 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. (Business Insider)
Think about that and let it sink in. How much more productive, and safer could you be if you weren’t worrying about money?
Change Your Financial Situation
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. The hard truth is that if you’re struggling with money, you’re the problem. But this is actually a good thing because you’re also the solution. The next step is harder. 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!
If you’re ready to take control of your finances or want to bring the financial wellness training to your agency, schedule a 15-minute call today.
*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 a 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.