By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (2/19/13) - The annual Military Saves Week kicked off at the Army National Guard Readiness Center here with an event that featured numerous educational opportunities to encourage Guard members to build savings and eliminate personal debt.
“It has a lot to do with taking baby steps,” said Jennifer Armstrong, Financial Readiness Programs Manager at the National Guard Bureau. “(It’s) trying to teach people that they have to take baby steps to look at retirement, to look at the future not only while they’re serving but after they serve as well.”
The event featured ways that Guard members could save with every paycheck, not only for retirement and big-ticket items, but also in case of emergency situations as well.
“It’s great to save for retirement as well and big ticket items, but, first and foremost, you have to have that cushion in case the unexpected happens,” said Holly Petraeus, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Service Member Affairs, who was the keynote speaker at the event.
The event stressed the importance of saving in general.
“It’s so much better if you can save up and pay yourself first and when an emergency does come up you have the money yourself and you don’t have to borrow it,” Petraeus said. “It costs so much more to go out and borrow it and pay interest than to pay yourself first by setting it aside in advance so that it’s there when you need it.”
And becoming a disciplined saver is one way to ensure that.
“It’s also important for individual Guard members, during the good times, to do everything possible to set some money aside so they have something to fall back on when times are tough or they face an unexpected expense,” said Petraeus.
Petraeus also stressed some of the issues faced by Guard members specifically.
“Guard members who own homes have struggled too,” she said. “Maybe a mortgage payment that seemed doable with two incomes coming in suddenly doesn’t work if one of the spouses loses a job or the Guard member takes a pay cut due to a deployment or has a small business that they can’t attend to properly while on active duty.”
In situations such as that, Petraeus also stressed other opportunities that Guard members can take advantage of, such as the Service Members Civil Relief Act, which, among other things, drops interest rates to 6 percent for Guard members during a deployment.
In the end, it comes back to making small changes with big results.
“There’s a lot of good information out there, you just have to look and you just have to start (saving),” Petraeus said. “Start small, think big.”
For more information about Military Saves and to learn additional ways to save money, visit http://www.militarysaves.org.