Congrats on reaching the Career Starter Loan Decision—proof that your Academy career is progressing nicely. As you consider the decision to take the loan or not, I’d encourage you to also consider how that decision can impact your future example as a leader of sailors, marines, and soldiers.
Most people rarely think about leadership in financial terms. But for future officers, financial responsibility can be an important component of leadership.
The peace of mind that comes from having your financial life squared away allows you to focus more fully on your mission, and making sound, carefully considered financial decisions enables you to set a positive example for those you are asked to lead.
The Career Starter Loan is one of the first opportunities that most Cadets and Midshipmen have to make smart financial decisions. And the decisions you make about whether to take the loan and how to use the money if you do will set the tone for the beginning of your professional life. That’s why it’s so important to get them right.
Let’s be clear: The Career Starter Loan is not a gift; it’s an offer to borrow money and pay it back with interest. And you should only borrow money if you need it and if you have a comprehensive plan for how you will spend the money and how you will pay it back. Let’s look at a real world example.
For a $36,000 loan borrowed at .75% interest for 60 months, you’re monthly payment is $611.51. That’s a hefty drain on your cash flow. It’s tempting and exciting to have this windfall of cash, but be sure to:
- Determine how much you need to borrow to meet your essential needs
- Establish a payment schedule that fits within your budget
- Incorporate your career starter loan strategy into a comprehensive financial plan.
Being on firm financial footing will help you in every area of life and strengthen your leadership focus.
JT Thorp served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, entering the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1989 and retiring in 2014. During his time in the Navy, JT operated in the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and North Atlantic theaters, and logged more than 3,000 mishap-free flight hours piloting fleet and training command aircraft. He joined First Command Financial Services as a Financial Advisor in October 2001 and is currently First Command’s Vice President and Director, Client Services.