Deployed Soldiers Get Course in Financial Readiness

By Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Dec. 11, 2008 - Soldiers here are getting an education in personal finance that commanders say goes a long way in promoting battle readiness.

The 10th Mountain Division is rolling out "Financial Peace University," a 13-week program developed by Dave Ramsey, the best-selling author and commentator on personal finance, specifically for U.S. servicemembers. About 3,000 troops have taken the course each year since 2001, according to Ramsey.

"It is important to offer this course to servicemembers, because sound financial principles are readiness issues," said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Jones, a battalion chaplain for the 10th Mountain Division, who will co-lead the course.

Jones is among many military leaders who have voiced concerns about how personal finance problems may affect readiness. A former first sergeant here witnessed how badly some soldiers need financial help.

"I spoke to a soldier who was kind of new in the Army, who was way overdrawn, and his bank had called. He said, 'First sergeant, I can't be overdrawn, I still have checks,'" he said.

"What we're finding as we are interacting with the military ... is that this money issue is becoming a readiness issue," Ramsey said. "We can put on the military face, we can be battle ready. But when, back home, [credit] cards are racking at Mom or racking at Dad, or where the house is in foreclosure, it's a major problem. We're going to come alongside ... military families as best we can in a very unique, very targeted, very specific way."

A Military Family Research Institute survey found that 56 percent of enlisted servicemembers report difficulty with their finances, and 47 percent say they are in "over their head" with their expenses. In 2006, Seapower magazine reported that financial difficulties are the main reason sailors lose their security clearances. Financial difficulties can revoke or deny security clearances throughout all the services.

Many servicemembers don't know how to rectify their situations, and end up being exploited by businesses offering loans or quick-fix solutions. The program is designed to show them the right things to do to keep their finances in order.

Ramsey's program helps military members remove debt and save for their futures by providing them with a financial plan during activation, deployment, temporary duty or permanent change of station. The program covers areas such as budgeting, paying off debt, saving for emergencies and retirement, and giving to worthy causes. It also discusses cash-flow planning, real estate and school loans.

The 13-week course typically costs $150 per person, but is free to military members. Those who enroll receive a kit that includes the DVD sessions led by Ramsey, his Financial Peace book, a workbook and a financial snapshot worksheet that monitors progress quarterly.

(Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez serves in the Multinational Division Center public affairs office.)

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