Maj. gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson Commanding General

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- "Anything that we can do to raise personal savings is very much in the interest of this country." -- Alan Greenspan, economist

Next week is Military Saves Week, which provides an appropriate backdrop for the Fort Jackson community and Army Community Services in preparing for the new fiscal realities within our economy. The way that you manage your finances is your own personal business, but Soldiers and civilians should make every opportunity to gain information on the best ways to prepare for their financial future.

It is in the best interests of the Army for Soldiers and civilians to achieve and maintain financial fitness. Soldiers with a clear understanding of their financial goals are far less likely to get derailed by debt problems, marital issues and depression, and are therefore better equipped to accomplish their mission and achieve their goals in life.

One of the main objectives in any plan is adequately preparing for retirement. It is never too early to start, and time is one of the most valuable assets. For example, a new Soldier who contributes $200 per month in the Thrift Savings Plan could build a nest egg of roughly $400,000 in a 40-year period. Saving that kind of money isn't easy; it requires discipline and sacrifice. Far too often, Soldiers make the mistake of living above their means when they are young and then end up trying to play catch-up with their savings when they are older.

This occurs more often than you think within our ranks. It's sad to say, but the Department of the Army has the lowest contribution rates in the TSP of all branches of the military. There is no question that we need some major improvement in this area.

What is your debt situation? Is your debt growing over time, shrinking, or in a constant flux with consumer spending? These are just some of the important questions that you need to be asking yourselves.

ACS Financial Readiness can assist with getting things in order through a campaign called Military Saves. Military Saves is a Department of Defense-wide Financial Readiness Campaign aimed at convincing service members and all those affiliated with the military to reduce debt and save money to build wealth.

The campaign was developed and tested by its nonprofit sponsor, Consumer Federation of America and the military services from 2003 to 2006 and launched throughout the Department of Defense in 2007. It is part of two larger campaigns, the DoD Financial Readiness Campaign and the national America Saves campaign.

This campaign is not a quick fix, a specific savings program, or a one-time promotional campaign. It takes a long-term, ongoing effort to make a real change in our nation's future. You can enroll as a military saver, if you have not already done so, through This campaign does not share financial information and a person's participation is not reported to anyone. The thrust of the campaign is to promote commitments among participants to build wealth over time and encourage others to do the same.

Start now, take the first step, make a commitment to save and build personal wealth. Start small and think big and remember that financial readiness translates to mission readiness. Maintaining good credit, financial stability, regular savings, a TSP account and sufficient life insurance coverage are all important to mission success.

And, again, living within your means is critical. We live in a "must have it now and I'll worry about paying for it later" culture, where cost is a secondary thought, and this attitude is what gets most people, particularly young Soldiers, in financial trouble. I see it every day around Fort Jackson -- people driving vehicles that, frankly, I couldn't afford to drive, maintain and insure, and at the same time maintain financial balance in my life. It takes introspection and a reality check, and this is where leaders can help guide and counsel young Soldiers. As someone I know well so eloquently put it early in my career -- there's no free chicken!

To commemorate Military Saves Week 2012, there will be a couple of training sessions during the morning of Feb. 21, which are being offered through ACS. One event deals with being retirement ready and the other focuses on investments. For more information on these sessions, contact ACS at 751-5256.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!

Page last updated Thu February 16th, 2012 at 10:08