By Scott Prater
Fort Carson Mountaineer
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Adopting solid financial behavior was the focus of the Military Saves Week kickoff event at The Hub Feb. 14. The event hosted by Fort Carson's Army Community Service (ACS) Financial Readiness Program centered around the theme of "saving automatically" and including Family members in financial decision making.
"Saving money improves your financial life and builds wealth," said Netty Eastlake, deputy director, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "We've invited several of our community partners here to discuss ways and means to do just that."
The event's keynote speaker, Jennifer Kim of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, spoke on a variety of financial topics, including the importance of personal financial literacy, avoiding scams, making logical choices concerning credit cards, dealing with identity theft, monitoring credit reports, saving for children's college expenses and planning for retirement.
"You want to be fully in control of your finances because it not only alleviates stress, but it helps you enjoy a better career," Kim said.
She also stressed that maintaining a solid financial footing is a lifelong process and that Soldiers and Families should never give up while attempting to avoid excessive debt.
"Whether you're deciding on a mortgage loan, refinancing a prior mortgage, buying a car or applying for credit, make sure you get a second opinion," she said. "Don't stick to one lender, shop around and try to get the best financial terms you can."
She gave attendees more than a few tips on improving their finances.
"Some may think it seems unrealistic, but consumers can get a better interest rate on their credit cards simply by calling and asking the bank that issued the card," she said.
ACS financial readiness program leaders also invited representatives from a couple of banks who relayed information about programs and campaigns they offer to help Soldiers and Families save money through their bank accounts and other tools available at financial institutions.
"Having the bank representatives talk about their different programs was really helpful for the Soldiers who attended the kickoff event," said Staff Sgt. Dennis Kennedy, a command financial NCO with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. "The Armed Forces Bank, for example, has a program that helps Soldiers build their credit. That's something that helps Soldiers become more financially stable."
Staff Sgt. Marcus Carter, command financial NCO with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Inf. Div., agreed that the kickoff event was helpful for Soldiers in many ways.
"They covered a bunch of important aspects regarding loans and terms," Carter said. "Many Soldiers are new to the car buying experience, for example. And, here, the presenters showed how important it is to really understand the annual percentage rate on a car loan. Plus, Soldiers learned that there are actual car buying services that can help them conduct their research."
Military Saves Week occurs each February and is conducted at Fort Carson as part of National Consumer Protection Week. The campaign creates an opportunity for financial readiness counselors to broadcast their message in a focused time frame.
The ACS Financial Readiness Program staff conducts classes throughout the year on numerous topics, including bank account management, budgeting, debt management and car buying. Financial readiness counselors are also available for individual counseling. Soldiers and Family members can contact 719-526-4590 for more information.