Consumer Advocate Urges Troops, Families to Protect Their Finances

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amber R. Kelly-Herard
Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2016 - Holly Petraeus from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau today discussed how service members and their families can help protect their finances.

Petraeus briefed very-senior-level noncommissioned officers attending an annual conference at the Pentagon.

"Protecting your finances and the finances of your troops is important," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and host of the conference. "Having financial problems isn't just bad; it could lead to suicidal thoughts or cause a problem with security clearances."

*Consumer Protection for Military Families*

As the CFPB's chief of the Office of Service Member Affairs, Petraeus has three main goals: to provide financial education for military families; monitor complaints made by military families to the CFPB; and work with federal and state agencies to improve consumer protection for military families.

Petraeus advises service members to check their credit report annually and ensure it's accurate.

"If it's wrong, fix it. And if the [credit reporting bureaus] don't, file a complaint with us," she said.

The CFPB can also protect military members from predatory online universities, Petraeus said.

"One of the biggest consumer purchases for people is what they pay for college," she said. "Do your homework, and be careful about schools that try to put you into private loans."

Petraeus also explained the value of having good credit.

*Establishing Good Credit*

"Many millennials are conservative when it comes to money, having grown up in the financial crisis," she said. "This is good, but thin credit is almost the same as having bad credit."

Her advice is to "do a little something that is reported, but not something crazy."

"The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau opened its doors in July 2011," Petraeus said. "So far, $12 billion have been returned to 27 million Americans."

Petraeus explained that recent charges brought against Wells Fargo Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union that made headlines were carried out by the CFPB.

Another recent accomplishment was a new provision added to the Military Lending Act that went into effect Oct. 3, she said.

"The provision protects service members and dependents against high-cost credit, and caps the annual percentage rate at 36 percent," Petraeus said.

In the five years the CFPB has been in existence, more than 1 million complaints have been made, to include 70,000 from military members, she said.

"We've really moved the needle on customer service, because our complaint log is kept public and nobody wants to be on the top of that list," Petraeus said.