Advocate for financial health of service members visits Hawaii
September 14, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Sept. 12, 2012) -- Hollister "Holly" Petraeus spoke from experience as a military spouse of 37 years and as the wife of a retired four-star general when she talked to Soldiers and family members, Sept. 7, about personal financial health and mission readiness.
She also spoke plainly and candidly about the subject to senior leaders earlier that day as the director, Servicemember Affairs, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
She spoke first to senior leaders at the Nehelani, here, and then to a full ballroom of Soldiers and family members at a town hall forum where she fielded questions.
Her message was straightforward: Personal financial readiness is intertwined with mission readiness.
"Problems like suicide, spousal abuse … also have a financial element involved," Petraeus said.
The CFPB's mission is threefold, she said: to educate, to monitor and address complaints, and to work with other federal agencies on behalf of the American consumer.
The newest federal agency, created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, offers a 21st century recognition that "there are a lot of scams on the Internet," Petraeus said, "and no one to caution you, 'you're about to get ripped off.'"
Whether the issue is bogus Internet job offers that request fees for background checks, predatory lenders or outright fraud, the CFPB was designed as an enforcement arm of the Federal Reserve Board.
"Complain to us," is her advice.
The wife of the current CIA director, retired Gen. David Petraeus, she recognized the need for Soldier and family member financial education during her husband's first deployment as a first lieutenant at Fort Campbell, Ky. She has worked throughout her career supporting military family programs with an emphasis on consumer education.
Command Sgt. Maj. James Westover, senior enlisted leader, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, "Bronco Brigade," 25th Infantry Division, related a story at a round table discussion. He spoke of a Soldier owing double what his car was worth, and then, to compound the problem, the Soldier's being unable to have his car shipped to his next duty station, due to bank restrictions on cars leaving the islands with outstanding debt. Coordination with the bank and state agencies was offered as a means to address the second half of the problem. But fiscal education was also stressed.
"(The round table forum) was great," Westover said. "This is people talking about Soldiers and helping."
"(This is about) finding out what's working and what's not working," said Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, and host of the round table discussion. "The garrison, through our Financial Readiness programs at ACS (Army Community Service), is increasing our commitment to support fiscal awareness."
During the six years prior to her current position, Petraeus served the Councils of the Better Business Bureaus in a similar capacity. She provided consumer education and advocacy for service members and their families.
As the current CFPB director of Servicemember Affairs, her measured demeanor belies a passionate advocacy on behalf of the military community to teach fiscal responsibility to Soldiers and family members.
"(We) can't put a Band-Aid on the problem," Petraeus said. "We have to get to the root."
Her four-day stop in Hawaii featured similar round table discussions and town halls at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.