Yesterday, I attended part of the Financial Roadshow at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Due to family commitments and lousy weather, I wasn't able to participate in the entire event, but I'm going to let you know what I experienced to help you decide whether attending an upcoming event would be helpful for you.
I've heard a variety of names used to describe this event. Yesterday's folder was labelled "Thanks for taking the Financial Readiness Challenge!" and "Personal Finance and Transition." I've also heard it called Financial Roadshow and Finance Challenge Event. All these terms are talking about the same thing (as far as I can tell.)
When I registered for yesterday's event at Military HomeFront, the agenda said that it would run from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it there at 7:30 since my children don't leave for school until 8:15 and I live nearly an hour away. I was able to find a babysitter to stay with my kids after school so that I could stay until the end of the event. The schedule listed several speakers in the morning and early afternoon, then breakout sessions on individual topics in the later afternoon. There was also ample time to visit the exhibits and the opportunity to have personal financial counseling.
After much internal debate about the weather, and a slow drive through some snowfall, I arrived at the event around 9:30.
They were running a bit behind schedule and were beginning a break, so I the chance to sign in. The sign-in sheet was several pages long and it looks like they had a lot of people pre-register for the event. They were also allowing walk-in, which is good to know if your schedule is unpredictable. Once I entered the theater, I was surprised to see that there were only about 40 people attending, and it seemed (from the shiny name badges) that many of them were part of the presentation team.
I had missed the first speaker, John Sileo, speaking about identity theft. From his biography, it sounds like it was a really good session and I'm sorry that I missed it. The second speaker was Rod Griffin, Director of Public Education for Experian, whose talk was titled "Truths & Myths of Credit Reports." Mr. Griffin spoke for over an hour about all aspects of the credit reporting process and credit scores. He was an interesting speaker who engaged the audience and encouraged questions throughout. I took four pages of notes, which is pretty amazing since I already know a good bit about credit reporting due to one of my previous jobs. I'll be doing a post on his speech later this week.
The breaks are long so that participants will have time to visit the various exhibits. Unfortunately, the exhibits were set up in another building. It was walking distance but it was raining and I didn't know the distance before I started. Because the exhibits weren't readily available, the breaks were too long for a quick drink and not long enough to see the exhibits.
The third speaker was Susan Abentrod, who seems to work with the Military & Family Life Consultants program. Her topic was "Take Complete Control of Your Finances - Avoid Drowing in Debt." I found her presentation to be the most basic type of personal finance advice ("don't spend more than you make") and I had difficulty finding a sense of organization in her presentation. I did pick up a few good tips but she also presented a couple of pieces of misinformation (in my opinion.)
After the third speaker, there was a break for lunch and to visit the exhibitor hall. The lunch time was being shortened because the morning events had run over their allotted time. I wasn't sure where to eat lunch so I drove to the exhibitor hall. As I said, it could have been walked had I known that it was close, but it was several blocks and raining so it worked out okay. Fortunately, there was a sports club type place attached to the Community Center with the exhibits, so I could get lunch there too.
The exhibitor hall had about 15 tables set up with various exhibits about personal finance, as well as a well stocked table from MilitaryOneSource and a large area devoted to TurboTAP, the military.com administered Transition Assistance Program Website.
Exhibitors included the Andrews Airman and Family Readiness Center, Andrews Federal Credit Union, the Military & Family Life Consultant Program, Personal Finance & Transition, Military One Source, the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, SaveAndInvest.org, the Better Business Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission, Freddie Mac, the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, the Maryland Insurance Administration, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, and the GSA's Federal Citizen's Information Center. At first, I thought that many of these exhibits seemed a little odd - what was I going to learn from the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking? I was very surprised how much really useful and relevant information was provided at each of these tables. Much of the material was very military specific, which was great, and even the individual state representives had lots of good general wisdom. I picked up an entire backpack full of material which I will be sharing with you during the next week (or two.) Everyone was so helpful and pleasant but they were a little bored (and disappointed) because there wasn't much traffic through the exhibit hall.
The center of the exhibit hall was set up with Personal Financial Planners and other counselors who were demonstrating the online TurboTAP program. TurboTAP.org is the Department of Defense's official website providing information forservicemembers on transitioning from military service. TurboTAP.org is intended to supplement the servicesoffered by the Transition Assistance Offices and other groups. The DoD Transition Assistance Program was developed to assist in the transitioning of militarypersonnel and family members leaving the service. Returning to civilian life is an exciting time,but is also a complex undertaking. There are many steps to take, with questions to be answered. TheDoD Transition Assistance Program is here to help. TurboTAP is administered by Military.com and I have heard nothing but wonderful reviews about it.
I was having such a good time talking to all the exhibit representatives that I decided to forgo the Keynote Speaker, Larry Winget, "The Pitbull of Personal Development". I usually enjoy motivational speakers, but something about his biography put me off. Faced with the choice of remaining in the exhibit hall (and eating lunch) or driving back to the theater to listen to him, I chose to remain in the exhibit hall. Under different circumstances, I might have made a different choice, but the combination of grey weather, ambivilence about the speaker, and hunger prevailed.
The keynote speaker was scheduled for an hour and a half, with a half hour break after him before the concurrent breakout workshops were scheduled. There were five interesting topics:
- Panel on Foreclosure Prevention
- Home, Sweet HOme...Strategies for Home Buying
- Dream Big - Plan Now! Make Your Ideal Retirement a Reality
- Before You Take Off - Financial Planning for Deployment
- The Wheels You Want - Successful Car-Buying Strategies
They all sounded interesting but I had chosen to go to the Deployment workshop because it was the closest to fitting my current situation. The workshops were being held on different location around the base but they weren't listed on the agenda. I was able to find an employee who told me that the Deployment workshop was being held next to the exhibit hall - perfect!
What I found was that after 45 minutes of exhibit strolling, a quick sandwich, and another 45 minutes of exhibit strolling, I had completely exhausted my interest in the exhibits. It was still an hour until the breakout sessions were scheduled to begin and I was bored. I decided that I would head over to the Airman & Family Readiness Center to drop off some Military.com materials and chat with a few people. That only took about 15 minutes and I was debating what to do when the radio in my car had a traffic update. It reported several accidents on my way home and though I wanted to attend the deployment workshop, I decided that I should probably be responsible and head for home. (I'm glad I did because I couldn't find my way off of Andrews Air Force Base and wasted a lot of time driving around in circles. The good news is that the accidents had been cleared by the time I got to them.)
Overall, I'm glad that I attended this event and I've just signed up for the event at Fort Meade on March 10th. I picked up a ton of resources and learned a lot. I would encourage you to check the list and see if there are events being held in your area. Registration is now being accepted for events through March 10th, and additional events are in the planning stages.