By Mr. Derek Gean (Leonard Wood)June 30, 2016
Fort Leonard Wood might be the home of some of the most financially secure troops in the Department of Defense if Soldiers' pocket books match up with the results of the 2016 Military Saves Campaign.
According to Jerry Patton, Army Community Service Financial Readiness manager, Fort Leonard Wood placed first in pledges for the campaign, besting 793 organizations with better results than even large installations such as Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Soldiers both stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and training here were given the opportunity to take part in the annual campaign that encourages service members to pledge to take charge of their finances and work to build a savings account. Military Saves falls under the umbrella of the larger America Saves Week.
Under the leadership of Tammy Fink, ACS personal financial readiness specialist, in 2016 Fort Leonard Wood saw 3,302 service members take the savings pledge. In 2015, there were only 1,155 local pledges. The 2016 campaign saw a 286 percent increase in pledges.
"These numbers display a greater awareness of the need to save, Fink said. "More savers mean a financially stronger community."
Fink said there were several factors that went into Fort Leonard Wood reaching this achievement.
"We at Financial Readiness pride ourselves on building strong partnerships within our community agencies. We received support from our financial institutions on post. Whether it was at a community outreach table display or at an AIT class briefing, they were there to support the effort. We also enjoyed working with the instructors of the SNAP, Inc. team. Their organization is contracted to teach AIT classes the Personal Financial Management Course. Lastly, it all came down to our team at ACS and the Financial Readiness staff who continually stress the importance of saving."
Shin-Ae Young, personal financial readiness specialist, said Fink's dedication and commitment to leading service members in being financially aware has paid off.
"(The) Army Community Service Financial Readiness Office, recognizes the need of our community's awareness of savings," Young said. "According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in April 2016, the United States Personal Savings Rate was only 5.4 percent. The United States does not even rank within 10 countries that save the most."
Fink said despite Fort Leonard Wood's achievement, savings and financial readiness should be a year-round thing -- not just limited to a campaign.
"Personally, I always try to raise the bar higher and higher each year," Fink said. "I learned not to get used to the next step up in pay. I know that if I increase my lifestyle by 50 percent of the increase and increase my savings by 50 percent of the pay raise, it really makes an impact over time. You could possibly see yourself start your savings at $25 and steadily increase to the $100's of dollars."
The Financial Readiness Program at ACS is one Dan Furlano, ACS director, sees as vital to helping Soldiers and their Families be successful.
"Saving in particular, and financial literacy specifically, is critically important to Soldiers, Families and to unit readiness," Furlano said.
Furlano said financial distress makes a variety of negative choices seem more reasonable.
"Often a leader may not be aware of the drivers of their subordinates bad choices and often these can be traced back to financial distress. Personal finance is a national-security issue. Too much debt, or debt that goes unpaid, doesn't just wreck a credit score -- it also reduces a person's security clearance."
Young said ACS stands ready to help Soldiers and their Families secure their financial futures.
"Our Financial Readiness team will continuously strive for financial education and awareness of financial independence," she said.
For more information on military saves or to learn more about financial classes and counseling, contact ACS at 573.596.0131, ext. 60212.