Five Ways to Build a Winning Financial Playbook

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Army West Point football coach Jeff Monken leads the Army football team as they "Sing Second". (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Josephine Pride)
Army West Point football coach Jeff Monken leads the Army football team as they "Sing Second". (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Josephine Pride)

This article is sponsored by MoneyLion.

Military.com and MoneyLion celebrate the Army-Navy football game this week with these five keys for your financial playbook.

This week the Army and Navy renew their storied rivalry on the football field. Often, the winning team is the one with the better game plan: a strategy that uses their known strengths against the other team’s known weaknesses.

It’s the same with finances. Your strategy for making the most of your money depends on your needs and strengths — whether it’s setting up your checking account, handling your spending, maintaining your credit score, or investing your earnings.

Here the top five tips to create your own financial playbook:

1. Protect the Ball: Avoid Extra Fees on Your Checking Account

The first rule of football is to not getting sloppy with the ball. With finances, that means preventing your checking account from getting dinged with extra fees:

  • Monthly fees: Banks sometimes charge monthly maintenance fees. Make sure you know what the rules are when you sign up.
  • ATM fees: Get a list of ATMs from your bank that don’t charge fees, or establish an account at a credit union or bank that refunds you on ATM fees.
  • Overdraft fees: Sign up for overdraft protection with your bank, which will cost a fee, but less than what you would get charged otherwise, or set up a low-balance alert on your account.

To eliminate all checking fees, you can join financial membership organizations like MoneyLion, which charges zero monthly, ATM, and overdraft fees.

2. Get in Game Shape: Build Your Credit

The best-laid pigskin plans can go awry if you’re not physically fit. As the legendary NFL coach, (and former Air Force Academy) Bill Parcells said, “This is why you lift all them weights!” And your credit score is the foundation of your financial fitness.

A good credit history is crucial when tackling major financial moves — like taking out a VA home loan. If you need help building your credit, think about a credit builder loan, which will prove your ability to handle a loan, and boost your score. 

Five questions to ask yourself about potential credit-builder loans:

  • How much interest will you end up paying on the loan?
  • Will you need to put up collateral, and how much?
  • Will your on-time payments be reported to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)?
  • What are the monthly payment amounts?
  • How long will you make payments? Is there any flexibility in payment scheduling?

3. A Winning Offense: Grow Your Investments

After you master the basics in a football playbook, teams start their offensive game plan. Similarly, once your savings and credit score are in good shape, you can devise your plan of attack: a fully managed investing account that you can customize to your personal goals. For more investment tips, see this Military.com article.

4. Check Your Credit, Up Your Game

Just as teams review game tape to prepare for the next big game, you should keep constant track of your credit score. Through resources like MoneyLion you can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year.

5. Kick Up Those Extra Points with Rewards

Touchdowns make the highlight reels, but those extra field goal points can win games. Get your own extra points by gaining rewards when you spend money. Look for debit card rewards programs that give you cash back on your purchases, like the reward programs that MoneyLion offers.

Football may be a fall sport, but there’s no off-season when it comes to your finances. Make a financial playbook to continue your winning streak.

The Next Step: Create Your Financial Playbook for Free

MoneyLion helps people build positive, sustainable financial habits. Sign up for a MoneyLion membership to get a zero-fee checking account, debit card, free managed investing, and more.

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