A new Defense Department program encourages servicemembers to become better money managers by paying off or avoiding credit card debt and starting savings accounts, a senior official said here today.
"Military Saves" is an ongoing, DoD-wide program that also sponsors money management seminars titled, "Moneywise in the Military," held at military installations across the country, Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said today during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
"We want financial planning and financial strategies to become a part of everyday life" for servicemembers and their families, Arsht said.
Each seminar features the insights of money management expert Kelvin Boston, host of the PBS television series, "Moneywise," as well as other sessions that discuss the proper use of credit, savings and investment strategies, home ownership and other topics.
The first "Moneywise in the Military" seminar, held in September at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, attracted more than 200 servicemembers and military spouses, Arsht said.
Participants "listened to experts give them tips and strategies to use to start this kind of (financial) planning that would put them on this positive path to managing their money in a proactive way," Arsht said. "Many servicemembers went away saying they learned a lot of things they didn't know."
The second "Moneywise in the Military" seminar was held Jan. 31 on Fort Dix, N.J., and it drew more than 400 servicemembers and military spouses. The Navy will kick off its "Military Saves Week" activities by holding a "Moneywise in the Military" event in San Diego on Feb. 24.
The Defense Department's "Military Saves" program also offers a Web site, www.militarysaves.org, where servicemembers can access financial management information and register for a money management plan, Arsht said.
When servicemembers are distracted by financial problems, it negatively affects military readiness, Arsht pointed out. The state of a servicemember's personal finances also affects security clearances, she added.
However, servicemembers with money problems shouldn't feel embarrassed or afraid to step forward to obtain help that's free and readily available through military channels, Arsht said.
"All the command wants is for everyone who is in the service to be successful, and having debt and worry keeps you from that," Arsht said. "Everyone along the command chain recognizes that this is a problem. (But) people make mistakes and make bad choices.
"You can work to fix it. And then, once you work to fix it, you can put yourself on a path to financial success that will keep you from doing that again," Arsht said.
The "Military Saves" program officially kicks off during "Military Saves Week," Feb. 25 through March 4, Arsht said. "Military Saves" is part of a national initiative called "America Saves," she said, that urges Americans to become better stewards of their personal finances.
David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, initiated planning for the "Military Saves" program more than a year ago, Arsht said.
The program's goal is for servicemembers to become better managers of their personal finances, and in doing so avoid money-related problems and worries that can distract them from performing important national security missions, Arsht said.
"We want financial planning and financial strategies to be part of everyday life," she said. "You start now and keep doing it and it becomes a habit."