By Leanne Thomas, Tripler Army Medical CenterMarch 29, 2018
HONOLULU (March 29, 2018) - At Tripler Army Medical Center, also known as TAMC, the Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care and the Alakai Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club have partnered together to offer Financial Peace University to TAMC's most valuable asset: its dedicated professional staff.
TAMC offers training, development and promotion opportunities to support its staff to ensure the hospital is equipped with a "ready medical force" at all times and prepared to care for U.S. service members, their families, and retirees throughout the Pacific.
"As Soldiers, we must be at a moment's notice ready to fight and win the nation's wars; financial readiness is a key component to that readiness," said Chaplain Maj. Lenny Siems, a chaplain clinician at the TAMC Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care and lead facilitator of Financial Peace University training at TAMC.
In a 2013 news release by renowned financial expert and advisor, Dave Ramsey, the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps reviewed Financial Peace University (Military) and found the course appropriate for use in stewardship training since the lessons cover career building, investing, relationships and money, and eliminating debt.
The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club also supports stewardship training that furthers education, self development, mentorship, and organizational support. This undertaking led Master Sgt. William Short to become an advocate for financial literacy. Short is the president of the Alakai Chapter Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, a financial peace coordinator on a volunteer basis, and the non commissioned officer in charge of the TAMC Directorate of Academics, Research, and Training.
Short explained, "As leaders, we have seen financial issues have a negative impact on the overall readiness of organizations. One easy way to combat that is education. 'Give a man a fish; he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he can eat every day.'"
With this philosophy in mind, Short initiated a partnership with the TAMC Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care to assist with offering the course to all hospital employees and immediate family members. Commonalities strengthened this partnership and built a class rapport as both facilitators shared their journeys toward financial peace and experiences as leaders.
"Before becoming a financial peace coordinator, I was once a statistic of financial hardships," Short said. "I thought it was normal to finance everything and have payments. This program helped me turn my entire financial situation around over a period of time."
During the class, participants learned a number of alarming financial statistics for the military and nationwide. For example, 56 percent of enlisted military personnel report difficulty with family finances; $15,000 is the average credit card debt in the U.S., (not including all debt, just credit card debt); 68 percent of Americans do not save for retirement but live on social security; the average retirement age in the U.S. is 80 years; and the nation's average savings rate is 5.8 percent of all earned income, the lowest in the industrialized world.
"The fact is, if your people are struggling with their personal finances, they are not focused on the mission. As a leader, you see this problem all the time," Short explained. "Garnishments, loss of clearances, divorce, family violence, and suicides are common responses to financial stress, and these negatively impact readiness."
As a Chaplain, Siems has also observed financial issues across the force through his role as a counselor and a soldier's confidant in times of need. He explained, "I have seen many relationships crash due to a lack of communication. Lack of communication affects the financial, spiritual, and emotional components of a relationship. If ones finances are always a constant tension in a relationship, this will also affect every other area of life. It is the same if you are single, with no one to be a sounding board. That person will also struggle, and it will affect their job and other areas of life."
Financial Peace University is a nine-week program that started at TAMC in late January of this year and averages 40 attendees each week. Many other TAMC staff members have expressed an interest in attending future financial peace training events.
The training curriculum provides service members, civilians, and their family members with knowledge to develop a household or personal budget and techniques on how to save, invest, and overcome debt in preparation for the future.
"With the turnout we have had offering FPU, I have no doubt there will be another course offered. There is so much motivation amongst the people that attend," said Short.