Financial peace of mind strengthens Soldiers
August 16, 2012
Soldiers face many stresses and challenges.
There are the obvious pressures and stresses of serving in uniform, whether they are stateside, serving at an overseas post or deployed downrange in a combat zone. But there's one factor that can weigh heavily on a Soldier's mind no matter where they are stationedfinances. When a Soldier doesn't manage his finances well, situations will arise that can impact the Soldier, his family, his unit and even the overall performance of the Army.
One field artillery battery at Fort Sill decided to help its Soldiers deal with this issue by staging a three-day workshop Aug. 7-9 using the Financial Peace University curriculum developed by financial author and radio personality Dave Ramsey.
"The Financial Peace University is important because a lot of Soldiers experience financial difficulties and it leads to stress, which can cause high risk behaviors for Soldiers and the family," said Capt. Linwood Nelson, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery commander. "These stresses can lead to high-risk behaviors like alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, domestic violence and feeling that they have nothing to live for. In order for us to mitigate this behavior and to build resiliency in our formation, we decided that the Financial Peace University is the best course of action."
Nelson said there has been an increased number of Soldiers across the Army having financial troubles.
"A Soldier's financial stability becomes an issue with regards to their security clearance. If you are having financial difficulties, you could possibly be denied a clearance, and that could affect your job. Soldiers become vulnerable to being manipulated by outside forces when they are financially compromised," Nelson added.
Sgt. Juan Maldonado definitely agreed with Nelson. Maldonado serves as the battalion command financial adviser for the 2-2nd FA, the "Big Deuce."
"I've been in the Army for a while and I've deployed a lot. I know how a Soldier acts when he's downrange and not worried about his financial situation. He's focused and in control of what's going on," said Maldonado. "When a Soldier is not financially ready, he is distracted. There's lots of things on his mind and he's got a lot of stress at home. That doesn't make a Soldier as efficient as one who is financially set."
Maldonado gave an example of how financial stress can affect a Soldier.
"You're a Soldier and you're financially hurting. You're out in the field on a mission and you're talking to a fellow Soldier. He's concerned about you," he said. "And because he's concerned about you, he may not be thinking about everything that he has to do. He's now worried that you are distracted because your wife is getting on your case about money and she wants to know when you will get back home."
"Believe me, that's a lot of stress on a Soldier when they are half a world away and they can't do anything about it," Maldonado stated.
Financial problems often start early for Soldiers, whether they get deployed or not.
"It's a serious problem, because this is the first time away from home for most of them. All of a sudden they get this new-found freedom, and money," said Sgt 1st. Class Richard Greenjack, a member of A Battery and a participant in the workshop. "Soldiers know they can eat and they don't have to pay rent. So their money can be spent on whatever they want, and that gets a lot of them in trouble."
Maldonado agreed with Greenjack, adding that he has seen young Soldiers buy cars at 18 to 24 percent interest, with a $600 a month car payment. Then if something comes up and they get behind on their car payments, they go get a high-interest payday loan for some quick money, to keep from losing their car. Soon they can't pay back the loan payment for the payday loan and the car payment is due again. Eventually their whole financial world crashes in on them and they end up standing in front of their commander because they are in financial trouble.
Commanders of the 2-2nd FA took an active interest in the financial well-being of their Soldiers, so Nelson decided to provide the Financial Peace University workshop.
"I know our Soldiers are getting stressed out and I was looking for ways to minimize that. When Soldiers are able to deal with those stresses, it allows them to be better trained and contribute more to what the Army's interests are," he stated.
Spouses were invited to attend along with their Soldiers. Spc. Jason Davis and his wife, Diva, were actively involved in the classes.
"My wife was 50-50 about coming to the classes. But, after she got here and started to participate she has gotten into it, and now she likes it," Jason said.
They both were enthusiastic about their new knowledge.
"We are learning ways to get out of debt, how to save money and how to be smart with our finances -- what to do and what not to do with our money," Diva said. "It's been good for us to be in the class together because I have learned all of these things by being here with him."
"With two small children it doesn't make a lot of sense for Diva to work outside the home, because of the expense of child care. So we need to make our dollars go further. And with what we're learning in this class we can spend our dollars more wisely and budget better," said Jason.
"I think the training is very beneficial for our Soldiers and having their spouses here is a plus. They are engaged, paying attention and their eyes are being opened to certain behaviors they have had in the past that wasted money. The bottom line is when the Soldiers have financial peace of mind, it allows them to be more resilient and helps them overcome life's obstacles and challenges," Nelson said.