Visit focuses on financial education
Holly Petraeus, center, meets with senior noncommissioned officers Friday at the Family Life and Resiliency Center. The meeting was part of Petraeus' two-day visit to Fort Jackson to assess financial readiness training provided to Soldiers in Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training. Petraeus is the director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Holly Petraeus, director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, visited Fort Jackson Friday and Saturday to assess the financial readiness training provided to Soldiers in Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training.

During her visit, Petraeus, wife of retired Gen. David Petraeus, attended financial classes for BCT and AIT Soldiers and met with senior noncommissioned officers to discuss financial matters affecting Soldiers.

Petraeus said that one of the mandates of her office is to ensure that service members and their families get appropriate financial education.

"As part of trying to figure out how we can help with that ... we wanted to come and see what's being taught in the financial area at basic training," Petraeus said. "We've already looked at the basic training for the Navy and the Marine Corps. So this time we came to Fort Jackson."

The CFPB was established as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which went into effect in July 2010. Petraeus said her office has three major objectives.

"One is to see that military personnel get the education and the knowledge to make wise consumer decisions when they spend their money. And we have the authority to enter into agreements with DoD to accomplish that," she said. "The second is to monitor the consumer complaints that come into the CFPB. .... And the third is to work with other federal and state agencies on consumer financial protection measures for military personnel and their families."
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Culbertson, who attended Petraeus' meeting with senior NCOs, said he appreciated her willingness to listen to the NCOs' concerns.

"She is definitely a spokesman for the military and definitely an advocate who's in our corner," Culbertson said.

During that session, Petraeus and the NCOs discussed eight major financial issues affecting the military -- debt, spousal employment, selling homes at a loss during permanent change of station moves, overaggressive debt collectors, landlords withholding security deposits, financial education, insurance scams and for-profit colleges targeting the military.

Petraeus said among all of the financial issues identified, indebtedness is the biggest problem for service members.

"I think that's a national problem right now, and the military is not immune to that. A lot of service members are entering the military already in debt, and if they don't get the tools to work on that debt, the situation is not going to get better for them," she said. "Ultimately, our goal is for them to be financially fit, knowledgeable, able to make wise decisions and spend their money in a way that they're able to buy the things that are a priority to them and be successful financially."

She added that debt is the No. 1 reason for failure to obtain or maintain a security clearance, which, in turn, might cause Soldiers to miss out on promotions or force them to reclassify.
Culbertson said that debt not only puts a financial burden on Soldiers, but might also adversely affect their ability to lead others.

"Everybody has some debt, to a certain extent, but when your debt basically exceeds your limits and you're living way beyond your means, it kind of puts you in a light that you don't know how to manage your affairs," Culbertson said. "And if you don't know how to manage your affairs, it's pretty hard to tell (others) who are below you how to manage their affairs. It puts a negative light on you as a noncommissioned officer."

Culbertson said he would like to see financial readiness training become a part of professional development classes throughout a Soldier's career.

"Financial readiness is a lifelong learning process. Everybody may at one time or another go through some (bumps) in the road, but how you recover from them, how you become financially savvy to deal with these types of situations, is something I would like for all noncommissioned officers and Soldiers to know and understand," he said.

Page last updated Thu November 10th, 2011 at 00:00