Find the path to financial peace
Mei Shan (Jo) Kammer, right, a personal financial readiness specialist with Army Community Service in Mannheim, discusses insurance options with Rebecca McElhaney and Sgt. 1st Class Tyson McElhaney and other members of their breakaway group Oct. 18 at the Mark Twain Village chapel in Heidelberg. Kammer, an Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education accredited financial counselor, is helping to teach Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University through Nov. 29.

HEIDELBERG, Germany - Financial planning sounds like a great idea in theory, but between buying groceries, another coat for your child and juggling other expenses, sometimes the best you can do is put a few dollars in the piggy bank and call it a day.

Army Community Service has partnered with the Religious Support Office to present Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to U.S. Army Garrison Baden-W├╝rttemberg community members through Nov. 29.

The 13-week training program held 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays in Heidelberg's Mark Twain Village chapel is taught with DVDs and break-away groups spearheaded by Mei Shan (Jo) Kammer, the facilitator of the program and a personal financial readiness specialist with ACS in Mannheim.
"Participants will be empowered with the practical skills and confidence needed to achieve financial goals and experience true financial peace," Kammer, an Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education accredited financial counselor, said. "The mission of this financial readiness project is to empower and give hope to the total Army family at USAG BW, from the financially secure to the financially distressed."

According to his website, Ramsey, a syndicated talk radio host who is heard on 450 stations throughout the U.S., Canada and satellite radio, earned $1 million by the age of 26, yet worked his way to near-ruin after incurring massive debt. Armed with the resolve to dig himself out of the hole and stay out, Ramsey found his true calling helping others achieve gimmick-free financial stability.

Ramsey calls it the seven baby steps of achieving financial peace, which includes maintaining an emergency fund, paying off all debt, investing and more.
"Through this training, couples learn how to communicate effectively [about money] and start managing their family finances on the same sheet of music. Singles will learn how to establish self-discipline and self-accountability on personal financials, whereas parents will learn how to develop fun and practical strategy to teach their teenagers and younger kids to start forming good saving habits at a young age," Kammer said.

The RSO donated beverages and cooking ingredients, while ACS prepares the meals, focusing on a different theme each week.

On Nov. 22, the team will serve turkey and ham in honor of Thanksgiving and to mark the final stretch before graduation on Nov. 29.

Babysitting is available and older children quietly do homework or other activities while their parents tune into the lecture.

This term's class was so popular there was a wait list, said Yeritza Nocera, ACS outreach coordinator, who leads one of the breakaway groups and has followed Ramsey's modules for years. She acknowledged the road is not easy but has proven worthwhile for her and her family.
"I am confident that in 10 years, I will be able to retire a millionaire. This program is very strict, but if you follow the steps, it doesn't matter what your income is; you'll be OK."

The Oct. 18 class focused on the seven types of insurance, including what to skip and what consumers should begin paying into immediately.
"There is a cause and effect and you need to understand the role of insurance in your financial plan," Ramsey began in the DVD.

For example, Ramsey suggested consumers seek guaranteed replacement cost on homeowners insurance, that umbrella polices "are a very good idea," and that only 59 percent of American workers have insurance from their work place.

Using himself and his friends as examples, Ramsey also advised against health savings accounts and encouraged audience members to obtain identity theft protection to counter "the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the country."

Ramsey's technique is unique because he doesn't undermine his audience's intelligence, and he's not trying to sell anything, Kammer said. She would know: as a former insurance salesperson, she said she has seen it all.
"I sold life insurance for a time and when I handed over the check, I heard all the true stories, shared in all the tears in peoples' eyes. You should really know that life insurance is not for you. It's for your loved ones," she said.

Kammer also made suggestions, including the importance of not putting life insurance paperwork in a safety deposit box or another location where the beneficiaries may not have access.

She cautioned that while wills are automatically updated to reflect the new spouse upon marriage, life insurance policies are different.

Furthermore, Kammer suggested that when applying for life insurance, designate a beneficiary instead of the estate to lessen the chance of the policy being moved to probate upon death.
For single-income families shopping for life insurance, Kammer cautioned against overlooking the spouse who doesn't work outside the home.
"Realize marriage is a partnership. Don't undermine the value of the stay-at-home spouse. They are the chef, handle laundry, the childcare, act as nurse and much more. Don't underestimate how difficult it is to sustain a household, so consider that when choosing life insurance," Kammer finished.

This term's class is full, but auditing slots are available on a case-by-case basis, and Kammer hopes to teach a train-the-trainer class in January.

To learn more about Ramsey, visit www.daveramsey.com.

Page last updated Fri October 28th, 2011 at 00:00