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FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Regardless of the type of year 2021 turns out to be, it is likely most people are going to be concerned with their financial situations now and in the future.

The good news for Soldiers and family members at Fort Rucker is that Army Community Service stands ready to help with its financial readiness program, according to Beth Gunter, a financial counselor with the program.

“The financial readiness program is a prime resource for information on personal financial management,” she said. “The program provides certified financial counselors at no cost to help with an array of services: investment information, credit analysis to provide insight for improving credit scores, facilitating the development of a debt management plan, providing strategies to monitor spending and create a spending plan, and tips to successfully navigate the path to buying a home.”

The program provides its services to active-duty and retired Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilian employees, Gunter added.

As if a pandemic and numerous other unfortunate events weren’t enough for people to navigate through in 2020, the aftereffects have also left many Americans’ financial status in disarray, but the ACS program’s staff can help those at Fort Rucker who may be experiencing difficulty.

“ACS financial counselors are objective certified counselors, with the goal of helping clients’ meet their financial targets,” Gunter said, adding that setting financial goals is vital to success.

“Setting financial goals helps provide the incentive to stick with an established plan,” she said. “Starting the year with not only a monthly plan, but also a plan for larger upcoming expenses, broken down into smaller increments across the year, establishes a game plan for financial success.”

One thing people need to plan for is the bill coming due for last year’s presidential memorandum that was issued in August, providing the opportunity to defer Social Security Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance and Social Security tax withholdings, Gunter said.

“The deferral was automatic for servicemembers and government civilian employees, providing increased funds in September through December 2020’s paychecks,” she said. “However, this was a deferral, meaning not only will those funds (6.2% of wages) resume being collected, but those deferred will have to be paid back.”

The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act extended the period of collection to throughout 2021, Gunter added. The repayments for government employees will be over 24 installments. For active-duty military, repayment will be from mid-month and end-of-month pay between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. For government civilian employees, it will be collected beginning with the pay-period ending Jan. 16 through the Dec. 4 pay period.

Visiting with a financial readiness program counselor can help Fort Rucker personnel navigate through these rough waters, she said.

“A written spending plan can calculate expenditures to help ensure your take home pay will be able to cover your monthly expenses, as financial changes occur,” Gunter added. “Why not make this year the year your money is working for you? Having the incentive to pay down debt provides funds from the interest you have been paying to others to invest and compound interest to your benefit.”

For those who find they are in need of more help than just financial counseling can provide, Gunter can also help them plug into the Army Emergency Relief program.

“Having an emergency savings account provides a safety net for unexpected hardships, but when it is not enough to cover the expense, Soldiers may be eligible for an AER no-interest loan or grant to assist with overcoming the situation,” she said, adding that vehicle repairs, emergency leave, home schooling expenses, and security deposits and initial rent are a just a few of the categories of assistance within the AER program.

The financial readiness program can also help people plan for the future, as well, she said, including helping people navigate the Thrift Savings Plan, which is not only a large component of the Blended Retirement System, but also a means for Soldiers and DA civilians to save for retirement.

“If you think someone is talking about alphabet soup when they mention the G, F, C, S, I, and L Fund, it may be beneficial to meet with an ACS financial counselor,” she said. “ACS counselors provide insight and tools that can assist you with your investment decisions.”

The Fort Rucker Financial Readiness Program is located in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 350. For more information on how the program or to schedule an appointment call 334-255-3765 or 334-255-9631.