Experts give advice to federal employees
Story by: Calun Reece
1ST INF. DIV. POST
As a possible furlough draws near, garrison employees may still be looking for ways to financially prepare for it.
"We have about a month, which isn't a lot of time, but it's enough time to start identifying those areas within their budget that they could start cutting back on," said Stacy Johnston, Financial Readiness Program manager, Army Community Service.
Civilians may want to re-examine household spending and see which expenses can be delayed or removed entirely.
Some examples are extensive cable or satellite packages or unnecessary charges in cell phone bills. These expenses could be modified to help make up that 20-percent difference, Johnston said.
"One of the under-utilized options is our library on post," Johnston said. "It actually has movies that you can sign out the same as … books."
Cell phone providers also may offer a military discount to government employees, she added.
Take advantage of these discounts and coupons as well, Johnston said.
Making certain the basic, necessary items, like rent and utilities, are getting paid is a priority, she said.
Seven financial steps to best prepare for a possible financial furlough can be found at milsuite.mil. They are:
• Reduce Thrift Savings Plan contributions now. Contributing even modest amounts to the TSP can recoup a loss caused by a furlough by temporarily reducing TSP contributions.
• Immediately refrain from unnecessary spending. This weekend is not the time to buy a new flat-screen TV or sign a contract to install an upgraded kitchen or bathroom. Put these expenses off for a while. Don't limit funds by spending on unnecessary items.
• Consider using some emergency savings before borrowing from a TSP, however, borrowing from the TSP may be a viable option for those who need to use the funds. For more information about TSP loans, visit www.tsp.gov/planparticipation/loans/loanBasics.shtml#LoanTypes.
• Federal credit unions and some banks will offer special programs to furloughed federal employees. These programs typically include:
– Short term (up to 60-day), interest-free loans.
– Overdraft forgiveness within 60 days of a furlough.
– Skip up to two months of payments on loans, including credit cards and car loans, but typically excludes mortgages.
– Ask banks now about special programs.
• Military Emergency Relief Agencies. Federal employees who are retired from active duty and from Reserve components – 60 years or older – are eligible for emergency loans and sometimes grants from Army Emergency Relief, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Assistance Fund and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. Contact the Army Community Service Office or equivalent Family Support Center Office.
• The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. All federal employees are eligible for emergency loans of up to $1,000 through the FEEA. One of the categories that FEEA provides assistance for is "loss of income." For more information, visit www.feea.org.
• Honesty is always the best policy when dealing with creditors.
– Be upfront with creditors about possibly being furloughed.
– Federal employees should tell creditors, utility companies, landlords and others if they may have trouble paying on time before actually missing a payment.
– Lenders are in the business of generating revenues over time and most will understand and work with a customer facing a temporary financial hardship.
Fort Riley's ACS also provides free financial advice to all active-duty service members, Family members, retirees and civilian employees. "If there is an organization on the installation that wants us to come and talk to their employees, we're willing to do that as well," Johnston said.
For financial assistance, call 785-239-9435.