By By Ron TolandMarch 10, 2009
ANSBACH, Germany -- Everyone is trying to stretch greenbacks lately and the Military Saves program at U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach showed 36 Soldiers and family members how to build wealth with a variety of classes.
From Feb. 22 to March 1, Army Community Service conducted five classes that impacted Soldiers' and families' financial lives.
"If you are in debt, that puts your future in jeopardy," said Staff Sgt. Mark Hatcher, B Company, 412th Aviation Support Battalion, who attended the classes.
He said that saving is important for a number of reasons.
"If you want to save for your kids' college, savings bonds, a home, a car--it limits you for the future if you are in debt."
Hatcher said that he wants to save for his son's college and remarry, but to do that, "I have to start by saving to get rid of the debt-get out of debt and manage my money better."
Hatcher said he learned about the major three credit reporting companies and how to obtain the reports.
"This class has given me more tips and insight on the importance of tracking my credit scores," he said.
He also learned in the class about identity theft and to look out for that aspect as well. But something just as crucial he learned about from a previous experience.
"The emergency fund-how you should have six to eight months saved up in case of an emergency-a lot of things can happen last minute," he said. "A couple of years ago I had an incident where I had to cash in some bonds for an emergency. If I had the emergency account set up, I could have used that money and replaced it later."
But another Soldier, a first time attendee, explained savings another way.
"For me, savings is about retirement-I do not want to be a certain age and know I still have to work," said Spc. Steve Jenkins, E Company, 3-158th Aviation Battalion. "I have to save for the day when I will not be able to work anymore."
Jenkins said that he plans on saving not only with his Individual Retirement Account, but with bonds, savings accounts, money market and an emergency account.
"These classes opened my eyes to the importance of saving-stuff I did not even know. I was really impressed," he said.
And the good news is that the classes are not just offered during Military Saves Week.
"These classes are very similar to the other ones offered regularly during the week for Soldiers and families at Army Community Service, but they are just longer and allow for more discussion," said Karen Bonheim, Military Saves coordinator.
In addition, she noted if a command wants to have one of the classes for the unit, it can be arranged.
The weekly classes are not all that's offered.
"Every month we offer an eight-hour class for enlisted Soldiers from E-1 to E-4," said Bonheim. "It's mandatory for all first-term Soldiers. We also offer one-on-one individual appointments."
"Knowledge is key," said Bonheim in regards to saving in the military environment. "It's a little different than in the civilian world. The more we can educate people, the better off the whole community will be about saving-to eliminate debt, save for their future and their retirement."