FORT BENNING, Ga. — The 2011 Military Saves Campaign kicks off Sunday with Military Saves Week.
Ann Pratcher, Army Community Service’s financial readiness program manager, said no special activities are planned at Fort Benning but urged Soldiers and family members to take advantage of the organization’s regular classes on money matters. They include:
A Financial Counseling Intake and Refresher Checking Account Maintenance Workshop at 8:15 a.m. every Monday in the ACS Building at Patch Hall, Building 7, 7117 Baltzell Ave.
Pre-Move Financial Planning will be available to those preparing for a permanent-change-of-station move on Feb. 24 in conjunction with the PCS Brief. Reservations should be made with the Relocation Readiness Program at 706-545-7517 or 706-545-4043.
ACS presents a financial planning class Feb. 26 to CYSS HIRED! Program participants.
All attendees can become a “Military Saver” by setting a financial goal and writing it down, Pratcher said.
She said it’s vital for Soldiers and families — thrust into a constantly changing environment — to save money and commit themselves to fiscal discipline and a common-sense plan.
“Soldiers and their family members face unique financial challenges and have unique opportunities,” she said. “They relocate more often and at greater distances than the civilian population when the Army tells them to do so, not at their own discretion. There are always ‘un-reimbursed’ expenses, and one has to be prepared to make the move before reimbursement — you need to save for those expenses.”
Enlisted personnel and junior noncommissioned officers are more likely to fall into financial trouble, according to a recent study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a partner in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign. The Military Financial Capability Survey found that:
32 percent used at least one method of non-bank borrowing in the past five years, including taking out an auto title or payday loan, getting an advance on tax refunds, and using pawn shops or rent-to-own stores, compared to 21 percent of the general military population.
53 percent pay only the minimum monthly payment on a credit card in some months — increasing the likelihood of carrying a balance and shelling out interest charges — compared to 40 percent of the general military population.
Pratcher said changes in circumstances can cause variations in pay, so Soldiers and family members need savings to get through those times.
Service members who are dependent on a spouse’s income or part-time employment are at great risk for financial hardship or problems, especially during a PCS, she said. It’s best to use those added earnings for savings and special purchases, not long-term debt commitments.
“Deployment, with careful use of the additional income, provides an opportunity to increase emergency funds, retirement savings and savings for special purchases without going into debt,” she said.
Pratcher said the Army is one of the few employers with a “defined-benefit retirement plan.” Soldiers who stay in 20 years typically get 50 percent of average basic pay, based on their final three earning years. It offers the chance to forge another career at a relatively young age, she said.
“Having said that, 50 percent of base pay equates to approximately one-third of your pre-retirement standard of living, so having a post-Army job and transitional savings should be a high priority,” she said. “I believe Soldiers have a unique opportunity, especially in today’s economy, to do well, but it takes planning and learning to tell yourself ‘Later’ and ‘No.’”
For more information about ACS financial classes and becoming a “Military Saver,” call 706-545-7517.