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Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2009 –
U.S. military members are affected by the global economic downturn, and the Defense Department is providing information and services to help troops and their families develop “good financial stewardship,” a senior Pentagon official said today.
The Defense Department recognizes Feb. 22 through March 1 as ‘Military Saves Week.’ It’s an opportunity for military members to learn about initiatives and resources to prevent or overcome financial obstacles, said Arthur Myers, acting deputy defense undersecretary for military community and family policy.
Fun runs, contests, financial fairs and other activities are scheduled at most military installations to promote the campaign. Keynote financial speakers are scheduled at several installations, as well.
The military campaign is in its third year and is part of a nationwide effort to raise savings awareness and reduce the stressors related to poor financial habits. Military Saves promotes building savings and protecting credit to attain financial stability, Myers said.
“A person in the military may not make a lot of money, but they can try to save $25 a month,” Myers said, noting that even that amount saved can make a positive difference. “We want to build wealth, not debt.”
Although the campaign occurs once a year, financial assistance, services and information are available to military members year-round. Financial workshops through the local family support centers are available for one-on-one discussions, he said.
Also, Myers and his team offer ‘road shows’ that send financial experts to military installations. Financial experts can be found online, as well, through Military OneSource.
“[Financial services] are really working out, and we really find that our military personnel and their families are starting to get in tune to saving,” he said. “I believe with the financial downturn, people are becoming more aware of the financial realities they face.”
Through the road shows and support centers, Myers said, the department has found more troops than ever are taking advantage of military services, such as the Thrift Savings Plan, education assistance, shopping at commissaries and using Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs for entertainment and recreation activities.
“Our military personnel and their families have suffered in this downturn,” Myers said. “But what we’re seeing is military personnel and their families are taking more advantages of the services we already have.”
In many cases, even with the various outlets the military offers for troops to save, servicemembers still face some of the same issues as the civilian community, he said. Military homeowners have found themselves going into debt or losing thousands of dollars on their homes when they change duty stations.
Servicemembers don’t have to worry about job security amidst the financial crisis, but avoiding foreclosure and dives in the housing market can be more difficult for the military. They “can’t wait out” the market like civilians can, Myers explained.
Mortgage experts are available to educate military families on homeowner issues and the impact mortgage disclosures have on credit ratings, he said.
Financial readiness equates to force readiness, Myers stressed. And with the armed forces engaged in two wars and various other interests throughout the world, the Pentagon can’t afford for its troops to lose their focus, he said.
The department recognized the importance of financial readiness of its military members long before the current economic crisis, Myers said. As more military personnel become aware of financial requirements and programs available to them, they’ll be better stewards of their money, he said.
“Hopefully, one day, we’ll be out of business, because everyone will be financially responsible,” he said.