07/17/2012 01:46 pm ET | Updated Sep 16, 2012

5 Tips to Help You Achieve Financial Independence: Advice from Military Moms

For Women & Co., by Angie Henderson Moncada, VP, Communications, Citi Community Development

It's no secret that military families and the women at their helms face unique financial challenges. In addition to the strains of deployment -- their own or their partners' -- the prospect or reality of losing a loved one can place serious burdens on a family's finances. According to, more than 25 percent of military families that have credit card debt carry a balance of more than $10,000, and a third of military families report they have trouble paying monthly bills.

I recently spent some time in the homes of three amazing military women -- an Army mom, a Navy widow and a Persian Gulf veteran -- who shared with me their tips for managing life's transitions and achieving financial independence:

1. Take an active role in managing your family's money. Learn to balance your bank account and examine credit card interest rates and fees. Do this as a team and don't make one partner responsible for all the financial decisions.

2. Pay yourself first. Open a savings account and set aside money every month that you just do not touch. The deposits don't have to be large, but the regularity will help to make saving become a habit. And make your children aware of these good habits when they are young so they can learn also.

3. Use auto pay. Put monthly expenses on auto pay so you know how much money you will have to live on after you pay the bills.

4. If you can't afford it now, don't buy it now. Reserve credit for emergencies and keep your regular spending within your means so you can avoid creating debt that will only be painful to pay off later.

5. Don't get fooled into thinking that you have to have the newest and best of everything. Purchase items that you really love that will stand the test of time. When you choose to get off that "I gotta have the latest" merry-go-round, you can put that money you would have spent into savings instead.

Learn how the women behind these tips became the savvy savers they are today in this blog post. And, hear their families' financial stories on podcasts and video on the Citi Salutes website, where you can learn more about CredAbility ReConnect, a free online coaching and financial education program, sponsored by Citi Community Development, that was created especially for members of the armed forces, veterans, survivors, and their families.

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