By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterJanuary 17, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 17, 2013) -- Army Community Service offers many services to help manage unsteady monetary situations for Soldiers, civilians and Families who feel a little overwhelmed with a financial choice or burden.
People can have all sorts of financial concerns from major life changes to buying a car, and anyone who has access to ACS can take advantage of the financial readiness program, which helps people manage their finances, according to Mike Burden, financial readiness program manager.
"It is a new year, so it's the perfect time to start budgeting. Set aside money now for vacations, birthdays and Christmas. Look at your budget and make a spending plan," he said. "It can really help folks with managing where their money is going each month. People are surprised when they see how much money goes to lattes, gum and tobacco. A spending plan worksheet can really help with that."
Spending plan worksheets can be found online at www.ftruckermwr.com/acs/financial-readiness-program.
The more proactive people can be the better it will be for their financial situation, and talking to someone who is objective about their financial choices can help overall, said Burden.
"If people know they are going to have a baby or going to be getting married, or even divorced, they can come to us and we can help with those life changes. Being prepared is important when it comes to foreseeable issues for a number of reasons like credit scores and budgeting to avoid debt," he said.
Financial Readiness Training is offered every month and is mandatory for Soldiers E-1 through E-4 to participate at their first permanent duty station within the first 60 days of in-processing. But people do not have to register and can come to more than one class if they wish.
Classes are presented the first Friday of each month from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the Soldier Service Center.
It includes understanding pay entitlements; understanding the Leave and Earnings Statement; banking services and account management; spending plans; credit and debt management; consequences of indebtedness; saving and investing fundamentals; individual financial responsibility; and other important personal financial management topics.
The financial readiness program also offers other fiscal classes and presentations all year long.
"We do lots of training because we like to be proactive and one way we do that is with our Unit Financial Readiness Training where we go to a unit and talk about a variety of things that an entire unit can participate in, and the Financial Peace University," he said.
The Financial Peace University presentations help Soldiers, Families and Department of Defense civilians beat debt and build a more stable future, according to Beth Gunter, ACS Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor.
"We only offer it twice a year at Wings Chapel and it will begin January 22 and run through April 16 from 5:30-8 p.m., and people have to register ASAP," she said.
To register, call 255-9639.
"The course enables participants to tell their money where it is going to go and what it's going to do instead of their money constantly making them work for it," she said, adding that the 13-week program works on finances in baby steps.
There are also quarterly training sessions on thrift savings plans and investing.
"The thrift savings plan program is more narrow of a presentation and takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. Investing is a much broader subject because it can cover anything from gold to Chinese index funds; so it is lengthier," said Burden.
Individuals may also request individual financial counseling to discuss their financial concerns with a financial counselor.
"We can talk about credit history and credit scores or anything they have an issue with, like budgeting. We can assist Soldiers, Family members and others to obtain and understand their individual credit report even," said Burden.
Understanding credit is another class that is offered. The next class is March 20 at 4 p.m. in Rm. 371A in Bldg. 5700. Registration is required.
"We will talk about credit in general. Topics include mortgages, credit cards and automobile loans," he said.
Burden encourages everyone to attend the all of the programs, not just Soldiers.
"Spouses and contractors are very welcome. We want everyone to take advantage of what we offer," he said.
Burden said for Soldiers not to worry that their information will reach their units because everything is confidential.
"People don't like to talk about their finances or financial problems, but all of the services are confidential, so there is no need to keep it to yourself if you think you may need some advice. Nothing goes back to a Soldier's command when it comes to financial readiness programs," he said.
All of the materials and all of the programs offered through FRP are free for participants. Participants also do not need to bring anything-- just show up ready to soak in the information.
"All of these programs are offered by experienced, qualified financial counselors. You can't find these kinds of services off post, so take advantage of it. Just bring an open mind about your finances. If anything needs to be brought in, it is life experiences," he said.
The financial readiness program is located in Rm. 390 in Bldg. 5700. For more information concerning financial stability or FRP classes, call 255-9631 or 255-2594.