When I think of financial peace, I think of personal peace. Unfortunately, so many of us hold on to a belief system that says financial freedom is only available to those who have large incomes.
When I was younger, I never imagined I would be able to live the life I wanted with the income I brought in. People don’t become police officers for the money, it’s more of a calling. The fact that we get paid for what we do is a bonus.
Over the years, I found myself looking at my friends in the private sector with envy. What were these mystical annual “bonuses” they received? In law enforcement, we do not receive bonuses. Despite popular myth, we don’t receive a fancy new toaster if we write a certain number of tickets.
I Wish I Chose a Different Career
With that being said, I would look at my friends and find myself wishing I had pursued a different career. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but my non-cop friends made so much more money than I did. There was no reason I couldn’t make that much money but unfortunately, I chose the “wrong career.”
At one point I seriously considered giving up my job in law enforcement when I found out one of my friends received a bonus that was equal to my yearly salary. Here I was working nights, weekends, and holidays and his bonus was what I made in a year. As the provider for my family, it was a very deflating feeling to know that my family made all these sacrifices and was not compensated the same.
More Money, More Problems
Years later, I started my personal finance mission. I educated myself as much as I could on every aspect of budgeting, investing, and money management. I quickly found out that while my friends made much more money than I did, they had much more debt. The closer I looked, the more I found that Wealth and Income Is Not the Same Thing.
Years ago, I started my personal finance journey and started budgeting my money and saving aggressively for retirement. I found that by being intentional with the salary I received from my job in law enforcement, I was still able to start building wealth. Investing in my 457 started to pay off and I have gained much more wealth than my friends, despite our income inequality.
Just because our private sector friends tend to make more than we do, it does not mean we still can’t accumulate a healthy retirement fund. We do not need to earn a high income to get out of debt and build wealth, although it would make it easier. I encourage all my brothers and sisters to start a budget and get control of your debt. Even with our salaries, it is still possible to get out of debt and live a healthy and wealthy lifestyle.
Create a Plan and Stick to It
By creating and sticking to a budget, I have been able to get out of debt and start building wealth. This is not something my friends in the private sector can say for themselves. They earn high incomes but they also spend much more than I do. So before you start looking at others with envy, realize that their life may not be better than yours just because they make more money. If this is a job you love, stick with it and take control of your money so your money does not control you.
Chasing the money will leave you feeling empty. I’m glad I didn’t leave to pursue money years ago because I now have my finances under control and a plan to retire comfortably. In addition, I still get to enjoy the job I love each and every day. Avoid the temptation to think the grass is greener on the other side.
I completely understand that it can be difficult to get out of debt and build wealth on our income, but I have personally seen many officers do it. It’s about being intentional with our money and saying NO to debt. If you need help with debt, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for guidance and encouragement. We work too hard to be this broke!
Stay safe my brothers and sisters, you can do this!
Ryan Junas has been in law enforcement for over 15 years and is a lieutenant for a large police agency in Arizona. He holds a Master of Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Northern Arizona University.
In his spare time, Ryan founded Arrest Your Debt LLC which is a financial education website geared to help people pay off debt and build wealth. You can find him over at https://arrestyourdebt.com to learn more about his side project!