By Bill Mossman, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsSeptember 11, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Whether the questions involve investing in stocks or bonds, managing a budget or buying a new home, the Financial Readiness team at Army Community Service (ACS), here, stands ready and willing to assist all Soldiers - even those currently downrange - in their money matters.
One such Soldier currently maintaining communication with the Financial Readiness team via e-mail, Skype and telephone while deployed, is Staff Sgt. "Carson," whose name has been changed to protect his privacy.
"Carson" says that while ACS has always offered a wide range of services to those in rear detachment, he's been particularly impressed that it would go just about as far as it could - to another part of the world, in fact - to offer him the same type of assistance.
That commitment, he added, has been instrumental in convincing other deployed Soldiers to get their financial house in order through appointments with ACS counselors.
"One of the biggest problems we have with incoming Soldiers out here is finance issues. A lot of them buy new cars, or they're recently married, or they're getting into their first mortgage, and they haven't really budgeted before," the staff sergeant said. "So I tend to refer them over to ACS."
For "Carson," a newlywed and soon-to-be adoptive father, questions regarding his growing family and their financial future once weighed heavily on his mind. Just prior to his deployment in May, the staff sergeant made an appointment with Steve Harris, personal financial readiness specialist and one of four counselors with the Financial Readiness team at ACS, Schofield Barracks.
With Harris' help, the staff sergeant had a new family budget plan to work with within days, as well as a new adjustment strategy to his wife's 401K plan, which had lost money during the stock market crash of 2008.
"I had budgeted before," the Soldier admitted, "but I never had an opportunity to speak to someone who had a finance background like Steve, who was there to answer my questions and provide me with information so that I could learn on my own. What Steve did was empower both my wife and I with confidence in planning for our future."
As for his wife's 401K plan, the Soldier confesses that everything has been going swimmingly well with it since his wife made the necessary changes to her investments.
"Very fortunately, we've been able to recoup the money my wife lost in her 401K plan late last year," he said.
Since procuring the services of ACS, "Carson" admits his knowledge of money matters has increased "from a 3 on a scale of 1 through 10, to about an 8 or 9."
"I now understand how to work a household budget and how to project into the future," he said proudly. "I also have a very good understanding of the Army's Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and know how to pull my credit checks and analyze them. And I also have an understanding of the short-term and long-term investments that are out there, and whether or not they are a fit for my wife and I."
Now better equipped to handle his family's finances, the staff sergeant is encouraging other Soldiers to follow suit.
"The most important thing is to set up an appointment with ACS," he said. "The ACS people are very professional, and Soldiers will soon realize that the advice they receive will benefit them and their families."
No matter what concerns a Soldier may have, whether it is poor credit ratings or soaring debts, ACS counselors are always available to lend a hand.
"Most people are afraid to let others see their financials," said Harris, whose background includes 18 years as a financial adviser and banker. "They're worried about some past mistake they've made with their money. What we tell them is it's not about the past; it's what you plan to do from here forward."
The Financial Readiness team offers several "Money Matters" courses throughout the year for Soldiers and their spouses at ACS, Schofield Barracks.
This month, interested parties can take advantage of a variety of opportunities to learn about basic financial skills.
Aca,!AcFirst Term Financial Training - Learn basic financial skills, develop self-reliance and personal responsibility, encourage financial planning, improve money management skills and enhance personal financial literacy, Sept. 14 and 28, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Aca,!AcMoney Management - Learn basic tools for financial success, develop a spending plan, reduce expenses and make your paycheck work for you, Sept. 16, 23 and 30, 10:30 a.m.-noon.
Aca,!AcMoney Talk - This course is a one-of-a-kind financial brief that addresses couples communication before reintegration. Spouses are given valuable tools to conduct the "money talk" conversation so expectations of financial issues are addressed prior to a Soldier's return. Couples can address budgets, the household money manager role, the basics of "I" language, the psychology behind spending behaviors, and practical exercises to guide them through reintegration. The next workshop is scheduled Sept. 16, 9-10:30 a.m.
For more information on these and other courses, or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, call ACS at 808-655-4227 or visit the Web site, www.acsclasses.com.