Fort Dix Hosts Servicemembers' Financial Planning Seminar

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

FORT DIX, N.J.,, Jan. 31, 2007 - More than 400 servicemembers learned how they can eliminate their debts and achieve financial security at a free Defense Department-sponsored seminar held here today.

The Defense Department has initiated a program called "Military Saves" to change the culture within the military so that servicemembers better manage their money, Brenda McDaniel, DoD project officer for financial management seminars, said at the day-long event at the Timmermann Conference Center.

Military readiness is greatly enhanced if servicemembers aren't distracted by financial problems, McDaniel explained. DoD is kicking off the new, ongoing program during "Military Saves Week," observed Feb. 25-March 4.

The Fort Dix event featured a seminar by financial management expert Kelvin Boston, host of the PBS television series, "Moneywise." Boston provided credit management and savings tips, as well as investment advice.

Boston said anyone concerned with achieving financial security should save something from each paycheck, eschew hefty credit card bills and avoid costly unnecessary purchases.

"You should save your credit for big-ticket items," Boston said, such as when purchasing a car or a home.

It was Boston's second such seminar conducted for the military out of a series of five planned at different installations. In September, Boston conducted his first seminar for servicemembers and their families at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

"Money Wise in the Military" and 'Military Saves' are vital parts of DoD's overall financial readiness campaign, McDaniel pointed out.

"Military Saves" is a component of "America Saves," a nationwide campaign in which nonprofit, corporate and government groups assist individuals and families save and build wealth.

"Military Saves" campaign director Sarah Shirley met with soldiers, sailors and airmen and provided planning worksheets for savings and debt-reduction. "Military Saves" is co-sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America, she explained, noting the initiative partners with about 30 other consumer-assistance organizations.

"Military Saves" recommends that servicemembers save between $500 and $1,000 monthly in an emergency savings account and pay off their credit card and other debt, Shirley said.

"We can change our environment so that it becomes totally cool to have money in the bank," Shirley declared.

The event also featured consumer information booths and additional seminars about credit reports, fraudulent and predatory lending practices, bankruptcy, personal financial planning, savings accounts, investments, home ownership and other topics.

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Denise James, 35, said she plans to buy a home in the future. Boston's presentation was very informative, James noted.

"It encouraged me to save more money than I am presently," she said. "Your credit (rating) is very important, so you have to stay on top of your spending."

Navy Seaman Craig Charbonneau, 21, from the Naval Air and Engineering Station at Lakehurst, N.J., also appreciated the seminar.

"It motivated me to save some money," Charbonneau said.

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