This year, I have the distinct honor of serving on the Scholarship Selection Committee for the first time. The committee’s work, which is voluntary, has only just begun, but already I am struck by the energy and drive that many of the applicants possess. Almost all of them are children or grandchildren of FRA Shipmates, so it’s a safe bet that those are family traits. The essay is the part of the application that showcases the applicant’s voice and vision and truly differentiates each entry. The best of them clearly reflect the writer’s character and values and are inspirational to read, and I hope that even more students will apply in the future.
This issue of FRA Today is focused on financial planning and building good credit. Some people would hesitate to include applying for a scholarship in the category of financial planning — after all, you often can’t count on them in advance. Scholarship funds are an important piece of the puzzle, however, and students need to consider every possible source of funds. Depending on the timeframe for awards, scholars may need to secure loans or other sources of tuition money before a scholarship is announced, but even a small scholarship earned after that date can make a difference in how much an applicant may need to work for income during the school year or in the length of time needed to pay off student loans after graduation.
For those who apply for multiple scholarships from different sources, chances of being awarded one (or more) will increase. It takes less time to fill out ten scholarship applications than it would to work at a summer job for a week, and the payoff from just one award is bound to be much higher than a week’s salary. Work during that week anyway, though — remember, every source of funds makes a difference and should be taken seriously.
It may surprise you to learn that FRA plans similarly to a student who is applying for a scholarship. Along with this month’s magazine, you received a letter asking for donations in conjunction with the annual mailing label campaign to support the important work we do on your behalf every day. Membership dues and returns on our investments are crucial components of our financial planning process. No less important, however, are gifts from our Shipmates in the form of donations and bequests to FRA, the FRA Education Foundation and other programs.
In awarding scholarships, FRA acknowledges the ability and character that the recipients display in their applications and transcripts. In much the same way, your donations to FRA demonstrate both your generosity and your affirmation of the ability and character of your Association and of the work that we do for you and your family.
Planning for your financial future, whether for college, family or retirement, is a daunting and demanding task. It represents a desire to create stability in an uncertain world. In these situations, the best course is to explore every option available — leave no stone or leaf unturned, no door unfound. No plan is perfect, but no outcome is more certain than that of failing to plan at all.
Will Kohudic is FRA’s Marketing and Communications Manager and serves as Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact him at email@example.com. Return to Table of Contents
FROM THE FANTAIL
Financial planning in anyone’s life, family or business is a series of difficult choices: Do I control it personally or pay someone else to manage it? Do I invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds (remember the recession of 2008)? A penny saved is a penny earned, but do I keep it under the mattress, at a bank or in a lock-box … who can I trust? We can put our funds into brokerages or invest in utilities or real estate, among many other possibilities — so where do we go? While life is not a Monopoly board, the game did offer some economic lessons for us to consider in our younger days. Now, we have a wide choice of retirement savings options such as Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs) and 401K plans, which lead us to ask again, what is the best for me and my family? Then you also have to consider life insurance — term or full-life family care, short and long term — what is the best direction to turn? All of these options are available, but we have no crystal ball to tell us which ones to use and when to use them.
I used to tell my students in school that their parents are only three pay checks from poverty spending; with no paycheck you start dipping into those well-earned savings. Buy or sell, keep my home or move into a senior center or just spend, spend and continue spending. (You can’t take it with you, after all.) Credit card debt can deplete spending power and even ruin a good credit rating.
We are faced with all of these choices, and who can we trust? Financial planning for the future has its risks in any market, regardless of where you invest your time and efforts. The crystal ball is clouded in most cases; a wrong decision can lead to turmoil, instability and even despair. It seems the only guarantees are car payments and taxes. Do you retire from your job, then hope for Social Security to keep the money flowing … what is a person to do?
My recommendation is to find someone you can trust who will give you the best bang for your buck, who can advise you on solid investment opportunities and who stays current with today’s rapidly changing market data. Investing is, by nature, unpredictable, and yet, you need to do it right. Financial planning is key in everyone’s life, from youth through retirement. Here at FRA, we can bear witness to our success in investments; as a non-profit association, we have had to put a great deal of effort into our financial planning. Steady planning, reviews, and recommendations continue to keep us well balanced over the years.
As FRA has done, find someone or some firm you can trust. Ensure that your desires are written down in the course of your estate planning, wills and, most importantly, discussed with family members. Many times family members are not aware of what your desires are — your family is left to guess “what mom and dad would have liked” and the unknown continues to haunt them. This confusion just increases insecurity between family members which, as a parent, is the last thing you want.
Financial planning is key. Assess what your property, assets and investments are worth and then plan intentionally how you will have those “creature comforts” available in your later years. Nobody wants to be a burden on family members, especially when trying to plan for their estate and their health care in the later years of their lives — and the caretaker liability that often comes with the territory. Know your spending habits so that, when you take those impulse shopping trips and yes, even take a vacation to get away, you remain comfortably within your limits. Spending your hard-earned wealth is a healthy, well-deserved prerogative, and it is one that you can exercise with confidence when you have a firm plan for your financial future. No one is a true expert, since our successes are unique to our own incomes and spending habits. Seek the advice of an expert. Even tax preparation professionals can sometimes lend assistance. In any event, make the time now — today — to take charge of your financial plans and make a difference for the future. I would say PRESS ON, but after all, we are talking about financial planning and lifestyles. In that light I can only say, take the time to plan now so that you can enjoy the moments as they come and make the future the best for you and your spouse and family. “Plan on, and stay on plan!”
Tom Snee is FRA’s National Executive Director and can be reached at NEDFRA@fra.org. Return to Table of Contents