By Bill Mossman, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsNovember 3, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Fresh off a 12-month deployment, a determined 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) Soldier walked into the Army Community Service (ACS) offices, here, and ventured into territory he had never been before - his credit rating.
Sgt. Rodrigo Agustin Jr., D Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd IBCT, along with his wife, Mary Rosette, had come to ACS to have their financial history analyzed for the very first time, during a "Free Credit Score" event, Oct. 21.
Together, they sat down at one of seven computer stations and began inputting information regarding their record of borrowing and repaying loans, utilizing the BrightScore program.
The service, which normally costs $24.99, was free during the event and provided a customized report and action plan for the couple's future.
After briefly conferring with an ACS financial readiness counselor, the couple emerged from the workstation with their report, wearing what looked like million-dollar smiles.
"Right now, our credit score is good enough," Agustin announced.
Armed with this data, the young husband will begin scouring Oahu's communities in the coming days, looking for a new abode for his family.
"We're trying to find a home, a small place," said Agustin, who currently rents a home in Ewa Beach. "(We want to) somewhere where there's less traffic, maybe Mililani."
Mary Rosette liked the idea of living in the central Oahu community, although she admitted to having no preference in locations.
"Anywhere he wants to go," she said, before nodding at her husband and chuckling. "He's going to pay for it!"
The Agustins were among 75 Soldiers and spouses who took advantage of the Free Credit Score event sponsored by the ACS Financial Readiness program.
During the three-hour event, participants received credit analyses, which included an overall score and an action plan that provided tips on improving their credit reputation.
"The credit report is often the critical piece of information that determines whether or not a consumer qualifies to obtain a credit card, take out a loan, purchase a house, get a job, rent an apartment, or complete other important financial transactions," explained Robin Rogers-Sherrod, financial readiness program manager, ACS.
"The credit score that accompanies the credit report is the financial barometer which measures the creditworthiness and risk potential of the individual consumer," she added.
While many of the Soldiers on hand claimed no particular motivation for learning their credit score, a few pointed specifically to wanting the report before making a major financial investment.
Like the Agustins, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sands, 536th Maintenance Company, 524th Combat Service Support Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade, indicated his principal reason for obtaining a report was to invest in a new home.
"It won't happen any time soon, maybe in about a year," clarified Sands, who also convinced about 10 others Soldiers from his battalion to take advantage of the service, "but I do plan on buying a house."
And while no one admitted to shopping for an automobile, attendees did learn about another financial readiness service that assists Soldiers in the purchase of a used car - a free vehicle history report. (See accompanying story inset.)
Whatever the Soldiers' individual reasons were for getting their credit history report and score, Rogers-Sherrod said it was a victory just getting them to think about their credit reputation that morning.
"What we really wanted to do was get them to that 'a-ha!' moment concerning their personal finances," she said. "That was our goal."
Rogers-Sherrod added that ACS might offer this service again in the near future, and possibly quarterly.
For more information on ACS's Financial Readiness programs or to discuss a personal action plan with a financial counselor, call 808-655-4227.
Financial Readiness Workshops
Financial Readiness offers a wide variety of classes in November to help Soldiers and families adopt a proactive approach to managing their money.
Aca,!AcMoney Management - Learn the basic tools for financial success, develop a spending plan, reduce expenses and make your paycheck work for you. Workshops are scheduled Nov. 4, 18 and 25, 10:30 a.m.-noon.
Aca,!AcCheckbook Maintenance - Discuss opening and maintaining a checking account, Nov. 4, 9-10:30 a.m.
Aca,!AcCredit Management - Learn how to use your credit wisely and how to improve your credit score, Nov. 18, 9-10:30 a.m.
Aca,!AcTSP and Retirement - Learn how retirement plans like the Thrift Savings Program (TSP) work in terms of contribution limitations and the different types of investment opportunities available, Nov. 25, 9-10:30 a.m.
Aca,!AcMandatory First-Term Financial Training - Learn basic financial skills at a mandatory eight-hour program of instruction for first-term Soldiers, Nov. 9 and 23, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
The training will help develop self-reliance and personal responsibility, encourage financial planning, improve money management skills and enhance personal financial literacy. A certificate will be awarded to each participant who completes the eight hours of instruction.
All workshops are conducted at ACS, Schofield Barracks. To register, call ACS at 808-655-4227, or visit www.acsclasses.com.