What military service taught me about money management
Bridgette Stine’s 20 years of military service taught her many valuable money lessons. Here, she shares her approach to budgeting and saving habits.
As a U.S. Bank wealth management banker, Bridgette Stine brings years of financial life-management expertise to her clients. She also thrives on providing one-on-one guidance and focuses on people’s individual needs.
In addition to working for U.S. Bank, she is currently a Master Sergeant OC/T who helps units get ready to deploy overseas. We asked Stine, who lives with her husband and two children in Racine, Wisconsin, to tell us how her military training has informed her approach to money management, and how that special expertise can be applied to everyone.
Q: How did you first learn about the importance of money management
A: By accident! Like many, I made some financial mistakes when I was younger and learned from them. I remember purchasing my first car when I had just joined the Army Reserves.
I didn’t understand the concept of interest rates and fell into a very common trap. I purchased a car from a dealership just outside of my military installation where the salesperson made the purchase sound super-affordable. In reality, the terms of the loan created a real financial burden for me.
Fortunately, there was a financially wise man in my Army Reserve company who sat me down and gave me a reality check. The advice he took the time to share with me was just the first of many important lessons I learned about money management from the military.
Q: What other money management tips did you learn in those early years of service?
A: Absolutely. The military is a culture of discipline. From day one, we’re taught that everything we do has a form of discipline associated with it. Everything is regimented – what you wear, what you eat, what you do every day.
In the military, if you don’t pay a bill on time, your commander gets notified and you get counseled to come up with a plan of action. The culture of discipline creates a no-tolerance zone for irresponsibility. You have to be responsible, because ultimately, someone’s life could be on the line. It’s all about what’s at stake, and that’s so easy to translate into personal finance.
That’s a lesson I try to teach my clients – to think through the effects of their decisions. For example, a client might say, “I’m going to buy this non-necessity, but it isn’t a big deal because it’s only ‘X’ amount of dollars.” I try to show them that the X amount of dollars they’re spending now could quickly become four times that amount if they were to wisely place it in a retirement account instead.
Q: Everyone has different goals and needs, but do you have a similar piece of advice for everyone you advise?
A: A lot of what I share with my clients is grounded in a few of those important tenets learned from serving in the military, primarily: discipline, responsibility and accountability. Those tenets apply to everyone, no matter where they are in their wealth management journey.
However, for my clients who are newer to thinking about their finances, my typical advice includes some important basics about saving:
You have to have a budget. You have to make it obtainable. If your budget is unattainable, you’re going to try, fail and then be more likely to give up. Small successes help you stay focused on achieving your bigger goals.
You have to make savings a part of your budget.
Start small and develop a habit of contributing to your savings every month. Build it up.
Take an honest look at your budget and what you spend your money on. Then decide if things are worth it.
When you get a raise or cost of-living-increase, put the extra money into savings.
Q: You’ve spent two decades in the Army Reserves, including serving tours of duty overseas, and you’ve also spent a decade with U.S. Bank. What’s it like to balance being a Master Sergeant with being a Wealth Management banker?
A: I joined the military when I was 20, so I’ve always worked and been in the military. This is my norm, so balancing it is what I’m used to.
U.S. Bank has done a fantastic job providing support to my family when it comes to my military service. Sometimes the military makes last-minute schedule changes, which can affect my ability to attend a meeting here or there, and everyone at U.S. Bank is always understanding – and grateful.
I’m always hearing, “Thank you for your service.” That’s just the culture here. It’s been ingrained in all levels of leadership that U.S. Bank serves those who serve. I think that’s a really powerful thing.
Want to learn more about managing your money while serving in the military? Here are some helpful resources.