Financial considerations continue to be the number one cause of security clearance denial and revocation. In 2017, the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals heard nearly 1500 cases involving security clearance holders or applicants with financial issues.
Credit card debt is a particularly dangerous kind of debt for security clearance holders. With high interest rates and high limits, it’s far too easy to rack up significant debt you can’t readily repay. The good news is taking solid steps to get on the right financial footing will go a long way in improving your chances of mitigating financial issues. Here are three tips to take to get your finances back on track, and mitigate the credit card debt that’s sinking your chances of a positive clearance determination.
First, prioritize your debt. Not all debt is created equally. Financial planners say it, and so do security clearance adjudicators. Debt related to a poor housing market or medical issues is less significant than credit card debt caused by overspending. Pay down your higher-interest, higher issue debt, and make it a priority in the new year.
Second, stay organized. Ignorance when it comes to your finances isn’t bliss. Many security clearance holders have unsuccessfully tried to blame their financial issues on a spouse. If your spouse is tanking your finances, unfortunately, you will be held somewhat responsible. Have an honest conversation with your spouse about how their spending may affect your security clearance – and ability to pull in a paycheck.
Third, request a copy of your credit report. The government will review your credit in deciding whether to issue you a security clearance. They know your dirty little debt secrets, so it’s time you know them, as well. If you see anything inaccurate, take the time to fix it.
Fourth, create a budget. Budgets are a bummer to create and even harder to keep. But this is another area where ignorance is not a good defense. You need to know where you’re spending and make sure your priorities are right. If you leave enough margin in your budget, this doesn’t need to be a nightmare. There are also a number of online tools available that let you link your accounts, manage your assets, and truly see where that paycheck goes.
There’s never been a better time than now to get a great handle on your finances. The work you put in now will put you on a better financial footing, and your career on more solid ground.