By Mr. Mark Heeter (IMCOM)March 13, 2009
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - With stock markets and indices around the world flailing wildly from day to day, there might be no better time than the present to talk money with the experts.
Officials with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the largest private regulator of the financial industry in the United States, visited the USAG Schweinfurt Tuesday, their second stop at Army installations in Germany this week.
"FINRA is a financial industry regulatory authority, and we're the largest private regulator of the securities industry in the United States. Anybody who sells stocks, bonds, mutual funds in the United States is regulated by us," said Francis Dong, associate director of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
"We're partners in the DoD financial readiness campaign," Dong said and, as such, have traveled to dozens of military installations and reached more then 18,000 servicemembers and their families around the world in three-and-a-half years.
Until 2007, FINRA was the National Association of Securities Dealers, created along with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the wake of the 1929 crash of the stock market, according to Dong.
Empowered to fine companies who violate the rules and laws of dealing financial instruments, FINRA used part of a $12 million settlement to establish its military program, the largest in its education arsenal, according to Dong.
"Why the military' Well, the military is a population that has a steady income and, therefore, is interest to business" trying to make money, he said. "And we have done some research and found that the military does need some more sophistication in terms of finance."
Regarding finances, the military audience is not much different than its civilian counterpart, according to Darryl Jones, USAG Schweinfurt financial readiness program manager.
"In fact, it does pertain to them, because they end up with the same result as their average civilian does - lot of debt, high credit card interest rate, buying cars with high interest rates and things like that," Jones said. "So it's very important for us to be more concerned, because there are businesses that use the military for scams."
And the days of the gold watch and steady pension after a 30-year career with the same company are largely gone, according to Dong.
"Now people pretty much have to select their investments, through their 401(k)'s and so on," Dong said.
"We're trying to help educate the public so they can understand finance better and get involved in making better choices, asking the right questions and understanding the answers that are given," he said.
Jones was grateful for the opportunity to bring a Wall Street and Washington powerhouse like FINRA to the USAG Schweinfurt.
"They bring additional resources and education right to our doorstep that we don't normally see and deal with every day," Jones said.
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation has a website with objective and educational tools at its website www.saveandinvest.org