First Responder Financial Wellness: Too Important to Be Taboo! Guest Post by Nick Daugherty of Financial Cop, LLC
Date:Thursday October 13, 2022
Officer wellness is a major focal point in law enforcement these days, and rightly so. Teaching first responders how to eat better, get in shape, and work on their mental fitness is critical to helping them be their best selves both on and off the clock. But there is a major component to overall wellness that is often overlooked: 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 at the beginning of my career.
Using Overtime for Overspending: an Exhausting, Depressing Cycle
As a young adult, like so many other people have, I made plenty of mistakes with my money. 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).
I was a young officer but tired from working overtime and feeling a ton of pressure to work more 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.
Getting 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, “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 include finance in discussions we have about first responder wellness.
After working so hard to become debt free and financially stable, I set out to share what I had learned with 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, explaining what I had learned and how they could achieve the same thing.
I was fortunate to work for a very progressive chief, Steve Dye of the Grand Prairie 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
What steps can you take to change your financial situation, or that of the officers in your department? There are a ton financial resources available to first responders.
Sharing resources is critical, but it starts with looking inwards at yourself, and encouraging those around you to do the same. The hard truth is that if you’re struggling with money, you’re the problem… but 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!
Remember that as difficult as facing the truth about your finances can be, or as awkward as it might seem to have conversations about money within your department, financial wellness is crucial to overall wellbeing. Make small changes now. Over time those changes can grow to support a life of fulfillment and freedom.
For more information visit www.financialcop.com
The information given herein is taken from sources that IFP Advisors, LLC, dba Independent Financial Partners (IFP), IFP Securities LLC, dba Independent Financial Partners (IFP), and it advisors believe to be reliable, but it is not guaranteed by us as to accuracy or completeness. This is for informational purposes only and in no event should be construed as an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or products. Please consult your tax and/or legal advisor before implementing any tax and/or legal related strategies mentioned in this publication as IFP does not provide tax and/or legal advice. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and do not take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situation, or needs of individual investors. Investment advice offered through IFP Advisors, LLC, d/b/a Independent Financial Partners (IFP), a Registered Investment Adviser. IFP and Serve & Protect Financial Texas DBA FinancialCop are not affiliated.