By Scott Prater
Maj. Stephen Gray, 50th Space Wing comptroller, took an informal survey of first-term Airmen recently and was shocked to find out that some are paying interest rates upwards of 17 percent on their car loans.
“A few were even paying as high as 24 percent,” Gray said. “From a financial stand point, those rates are outrageous and they go to show just how predatory the practices of some lenders and car salesmen are. I’ve been at bases where local banks set up more financially reasonable loans specifically for young Airmen so I know those types of arrangements exist. Education is the key to making smart money decisions.”
Financial education is the focus of the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s four-day series beginning Feb. 21. In honor of Military Saves Week, the A&FRC’s hosting a three-part lunch and learn lecture series and caps off the week with a financial fair.
Representatives from eight different organizations will be on hand to provide information and resources.
Military Saves Week is a DoD-wide financial readiness campaign to persuade military service and family members, as well as the wider military community, to reduce debt and save money, thereby ensuring personal financial readiness and positively impacting the nation’s personal/household savings rates.
“Twenty five percent of military families are over their head in debt,” said Christina Stump, financial counselor at the A&RFC. “Families are spending more than they bring home. That’s one reason the average family holds an average of $8,000 in credit card debt. So, with this campaign we’re focusing on teaching smart financial habits and helping people learn to save.”
Stump argues that it only makes sense for Airmen, DoD civilians and contractors to inform themselves so they can make wise financial decisions. Poor financial habits can lead to disastrous consequences for Airmen, which could include legal action or bankruptcy, not to mention the negative effects on a military career such as losing a security clearance.
The week begins with the financial planning class, offered in two sessions: 11 to 11:50 a.m. at the A&FRC or noon to 1 p.m. at the Satellite Dish Dining Facility. The classes are open to all who have access to Schriever, including veterans and family members.
“Financial Planning covers the very basics,” Stump said. “We’ll explain proper budgeting, learning to save, goal setting, preparing for the future and paying down debt.”
The lunch-and-learn format allows attendees to bring their lunch and learn during the hour. Stump set up the series in such a way that participants can build on their knowledge from one day to the next.
On day two, Wednesday, the series switches gears and features keys to investing, offered at the same times and locations as the previous days events.
“We’re bringing in an investment planner from a local credit union who will be talking about how people can get started with investing,” Stump said. “She’ll be going into detail on how to invest, where to go to find professionals and she’ll explain the different levels of active investing.”
People have many choices when comes to deciding how active they want to be with their investment actions. If someone would like more control they may choose to pick their own stocks or mutual funds. Or, they have the option of going with a season professional who can manage their investment account.
The final lunch-and-learn class concerns retirement planning and takes place Feb. 23 with the same hours and locations.
“I get a lot of questions from people about retirement planning so this should be a popular class,” Stump said. “Facilitator Elena Gresham will address the options available for people wanting to plan for the retirement future. She’ll help people understand how retirement planning changes according to age. Someone who is 45 should have a much more conservative plan than someone who is 25.”
Investment distributions also come into play during the retirement planning process.
“There’s just a lot of recommended percentages of what people should have in stocks, bonds and mutual funds based on their age and when they plan on accessing their saved funds,” Stump said. “These classes will all be lecture style, but they’ll be interactive as well.”
Military Saves Week wraps up with a Financial Fair Feb. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dish.
“We hosted this fair in past years, but this will be the biggest one we have put on yet,” Stump said. “We’re partnering with several vendors so people can get a lot of information and financial resources in one place.”
Stump reminds Team Schriever that certified financial counselors are available for consultations at the A&FRC. Visit or call at 567-3920.