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'Military Saves Week' Highlights Personal Finance Issues

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"Military Saves is an ongoing campaign in partnership with America Saves to really hone in on the habits for good savings for our military members," Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon's office of family policy and children and youth, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel. The personal finances of military families are important to the Defense Department, she said, because money problems can affect force readiness.

"When service members and their families can focus on the mission because they're not worried about their financial situation, we have a much better prepared force," she added.

Financial health also is key to force readiness because accumulating debt can jeopardize a service member's security clearance. DOD officials have found that junior enlisted service members and their families are more vulnerable to financial problems than other members of the force. Data obtained through surveys and supplied by Thompson's office suggests an increase last year among those who experienced one or more problems in paying bills, despite an overall drop in those who said they were not comfortable with their financial situation.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has encouraged each military branch to sponsor financial awareness events, with a particular focus on young people, including children of service members. In a memo to the chiefs of the military services and senior enlisted advisors, Dempsey emphasized that by "learning good financial habits early in life, our children will strengthen their financial fitness for the future."

Thompson said many services are available to members of the military who seek financial advice.

"Each of the services has contracted with people who have an expertise in financial readiness," she said. In addition to taking advantage of counseling available on military bases and taking part in upcoming financial awareness events, Thompson said, military families have other opportunities to learn more about personal finance.

For example, she said, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation has a website -- http://SaveAndInvest.org -- that includes a financial management readiness program designed for service members.

Thompson also recommended visiting http://www.militarysaves.org for more information about Military Saves and to read about success stories related by people who have used the program to achieve their financial goals. *Related Sites:*

Military Saves [ http://www.militarysaves.org/ ]

FINRA Investor Education Foundation Military Financial Management Readiness Program [ http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/ ]

Military OneSource [ http://www.militaryonesource.mil/ ]

Special Report: Military Family Support  [ http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2012/0212_familysupport/ ]