Military Consumer Month Highlights Financial Literacy

JULY 29, 2022 – With inflation soaring in the United States and elsewhere, many members of the military community, including reservists and veterans, are struggling to make ends meet and need a good battle plan to beat their budget foes.

Anyone in such a situation would do well to use the Department of Defense’s weapon system at their disposal, namely the Financial Readiness Program, or FRP, which is part of the Department of Defense’s Troop and Family Support Network. army community service.

RECEPTION OF THE MISSION
“I’m directing them to be financially successful in the future,” said Wanda Butler, personal financial preparedness specialist for Fort Lee FRP, describing the initial guidance she provides to clients.

Locked and loaded at every installation, FRP specialists like her are the battle captains with the ability to strategize to eliminate debt, balance budgets, understand the pitfalls of credit, move forward with a savings plan and investment, and more.

“The financial readiness program is about financial education and financial literacy,” Butler said. “My job is to teach as much as possible and achieve as much as possible as a financial advisor.”

MISSION ANALYSIS
It would be a failure to compare FRP specialists to off-the-job financial advisers. They don’t deal with setting up equity investment strategies or individual retirement accounts. Instead, FRP achieves its goal of increasing financial literacy within the U.S. military community through classroom training, one-on-one counseling sessions, and collaborative planning with nonprofits like Army Emergency Relief. (www.armyemergencyrelief.org). Many tools and resources are also provided online.

It’s “all about the information,” Butler stressed. “Even if our clients don’t take in everything we give them in a course or in a counseling session, they still have access to the online resources we provide. They can always go there and search for whatever they need; whatever applies to them at the time. The Financial Readiness Office is our “resource” because it has so much basic information about literacy training.

COURSE OF ACTION DEVELOPMENT
The DOD Office of Financial Readiness website – finred.usalearning.gov – provides support with a variety of resources created specifically for the military community. The goal is to foster a financially secure and mission-ready force.

“I also direct people to militaryconsumer.gov, which is another good website because it offers advice on things as simple as setting up a lot,” Butler said. “So if the service member decides, ‘I want to start an emergency fund,’ one of the ways they can do that successfully is to pay

themselves first with the military allowance and have that money in an emergency fund coming directly from their paycheck into their savings account.

People often don’t know what they need until there’s an emergency, Butler pointed out.

“If I can get them to start with the basics of an emergency fund, that would be a great place,” she said.

BATTLEFIELD ANALYSIS
To help members of the military community identify risks when executing their personal finance plans, the Federal Trade Commission created Military Consumer Month. The July celebration aims to raise awareness of consumer controls (safeguards) and financial preparedness for military members, veterans, and military families.

According to the FTC, some scams are more likely to target the military community, in part because it’s a population that moves frequently and includes many service members living alone and earning a salary for the first time. Fraud against military consumers can undermine military readiness and troop morale. Thus, the commission works to eliminate scams through aggressive enforcement and ongoing awareness campaigns.

For example, the FTC and a group of 18 states recently sued a national jewelry retail chain to stop them from misleading military families with illegal fundraising and sales practices. The deceptive practices of “payday lenders” are also a major concern and further underscore the need to build financial literacy across the force.

COMPARISON OF THREATS
According to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker’s 2021 Risk Report, the number of active duty military members exposed to a scam was almost the same as the general population reporting monetary loss, but the sensitivity of active duty military members was 42. % higher than the whole. population.

Additionally, according to the 2021 Online Shopping Scams Report, more than 10% of online shopping scams reported to the BBB Scam Tracker were from the military community. Active duty military (78.3%) and military spouses (75.2%) were more likely to report losing money to these types of scams than non-military consumers. Additionally, the median dollar loss for all military consumers—active duty ($178), military spouses ($119), and veterans ($139)—is higher than for non-military consumers ($100).

APPROVAL OF THE ACTION PLAN
The Office of Financial Readiness aims each July to increase service members’ knowledge of how to recognize and avoid scams, as well as an understanding of consumer protection, insurance and warranties, and smart purchasing strategies.

“What I love about Military Consumer Month is that it applies to everyone — military members, their families, and veterans,” Butler said. “I would like it to be something every month to be able to maintain that focus, but I’ll take what I can get. The timing is also ideal because it’s when a lot of people are changing stations ( PCS-ing) and their finances are affected if they don’t have enough savings for the move. This can be a huge red flag, ‘Oh wait a minute; maybe I should move on. forward and start saving.

MANUFACTURING ORDERS
The best chance a member of the military community has of succeeding financially in an economic environment characterized by runaway inflation is to be educated, financially conscious, and prepared to take fiscal action.

The DOD tools provided by the Financial Readiness Program and the Office of Financial Readiness and Military Consumers will help assess an individual’s unique financial situation and execute the appropriate action at the appropriate time.

“Inflation is an important consideration when we’re talking about a spending plan,” Butler said. “For example, certain variable expenses such as gas prices can have a significant impact, so we are discussing ways to adjust.”

Those who want help developing a well thought out and intentional spending and saving plan should contact the ACS office at 804-734-6381. The list of financial readiness classes can be found on the Family and MWR website, lee.armymwr.com. Online resources at finred.usalearning.gov or www.militaryconsumer.gov can also help people start or continue their decision-making process.

Story of Chad Menegay
Public Affairs of the United States Army Garrison at Fort Lee

Sarah J. Greer