FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Forts Lewis and McChord Air Force Base hosted a conclave of personal finance readiness experts who addressed service members' financial concerns at the American Lake Community Center, Dec. 4.

The event was part of the Department of Defense-sponsored Installation Financial Readiness Challenge Roadshow and featured finance experts who spoke to service members on a variety of topics of concern in today's staggering economy. These topics included protection against ID theft, saving for retirement, creating a spending plan, preventing foreclosure and building credit. Service members and their families from Fort Lewis, McChord and Bremerton Navy Base were given the opportunity to meet with financial consultants privately.

"We don't look at it as a Department of Defense program, but as an installation program," said Frank Emry, a program analyst for the Military Community and Family Policy Office of Finance and Transition. "It's tailored for the installation. We worked very closely with the commander and the financial and family readiness centers. So far it's been very promising."

Event representatives said they were grateful for the NCOs who encouraged, and in some cases insisted, that their Soldiers attend the event.

"We want to thank the NCOs and leaders who encouraged their Soldiers to attend or released them from their duties," said Alison South, the contractor representative for the event.

The elements that went into making the event, including children's programs and workshops, celebrity speakers and radio personalities, were designed to create a lasting impact on the attendees, South said.

"Finance is a very stressful issue, and we augment that when we're needed," she added.

The highlight of the day's events was a speech given by Brooke Stephens on entitled "Getting Rich on $100 a Month," followed by a book-signing.

Stephens is a 20-year veteran of Wall Street and an experienced international trader, as well as a published author and recognizable voice on National Public Radio's Tavis Smiley Show.

"I didn't make this up," Stephens said. "Long-term investment over a broad basis really does work over time."

Stephens advised service members to diversify their investments and to work on building wealth slowly over time.

"Millionaires never got there by giving it away," Stephens said to an audience member who jokingly asked for a loan.

Stephens counseled service members and their spouses to invest where they spend, by paying attention to everything from their utilities company to their brand of paper towels or orange juice.

"The most important thing for you to understand is that your stockbroker does not work for you," Stephens said.

Private 1st Class Jacob Urban, a chemical operations specialist with 3rd Platoon, 61st Chemical Company, said he was glad his NCO told him to come to the event.

"It was good," he said. "I liked it. It was a lot of useful information."

Urban's supervisor said he hoped to see similar events hosted here in the future.

"It was good," said Staff Sgt. Thoen Sok, a chemical operations specialist with 3rd Platoon, 61st Chem. Co. "They should do it more often."

Sgt. D.A. Dickinson is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment. This article appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.