Story and photo by Mark Elrod, FLEACT Public Affairs
Fleet Activities, Yokosuka observed Military Saves Week Feb. 24-28.
Military Saves Week is a worldwide, week-long Department of Defense campaign in which service members and DoD employees are encouraged to save money for their financial futures.
Yokosuka Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) aims to do this via financial courses, given year-round, that focus on improving consumer spending habits and raising awareness of retirement funds, investment options and, in general planning for future financial security.
“More Americans have more debt than they have savings set aside, for their futures,” said FFSC Personal Financial Manager, Trisha Marino. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, with Social Security, what kind of jobs they are going to have, but at least they have set themselves up so that they will be taken care of.”
One of the courses offered was Million Dollar Sailor, which is given quarterly and encompasses all of the financial management courses, taught throughout the year.
During Million Dollar Sailor, personal financial managers cover the basics of building wealth while reducing debt, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), buying a car, buying a house, insurance needs saving, banking institutions, consumer protection awareness and investing in your retirement.
“We try to cover all aspects of what‘s going to affect your finances throughout your lifetime,” said Cat Whatley, volunteer personal financial manager who helped teach the course.
Information about the TSP program was especially helpful to some of the students of the course.
“It’s really helped me, because I had so many questions about the TSP. I didn’t really know anything about it, even though I am putting money into it. I didn’t even know how to access the website.”
“Now, they have given me enough information and I know what to do from now on; they have given me the basics,” said Hospitalman Kekrebesi Eyram who is a pharmacy technician at U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka.
Million Dollar Sailor was a preemptive strike, so to speak, because FFSC held the course the week prior to Military Saves Week.
During the actual observance of Military Saves Week, FFSC held various classes and events to promote financial security awareness.
One of the courses was The Art of Couponing, which encourages people to utilize coupons as a means to cut the cost of their grocery bills.
“Keep in mind that coupons are actually valid up to six months after the expiration date, here [on board FLEACT, Yokosuka],” said Murray.
Additional classes included a Tax Tips class and a Morningstar class.
“Morningstar, is an investment resource that specializes in funding investments,” said FFSC Personal Financial Manager, Vonnita Muray. “If you go through Morningstar you can look at the stock ratings over the last five-10 years.”
According to Murray, Morningstar is accessible through Navy Knowledge online.
“It’s actually a benefit, because if they weren’t affiliated with the military, they would have to pay to have access to the information. So, people should utilize it while it’s free [for them].”
In addition to the classes, FFSC also facilitated a Captain’s Cup 5k run, as part of the events of the week.
FFSC personal financial managers main goal is to ensure that people have access to knowledge that will help them in the future.
“We’re just trying to get the information out there, letting them know that the resources are available to them. What they do with it is entirely up to them,” said Murray. “People always say, ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you,’ but that’s not true. What you don’t know can hurt you, in the long run and that’s the message we try to get across to them.
“As an American society, we live on credit and I think that is a habit that we should focus on changing. We should be focused more on building wealth, as opposed to living on credit.”
According to Whatley, the most important thing for individuals who are seriously interested in preparing for a secure future is the desire to learn.
“The biggest step you take to becoming a million dollar sailor is you have to want to get that information; to actually contact the Fleet and Family Service Center to start moving in that direction,” said Whatley.
Once they gain knowledge of their options, people should be mindful of the fact that, though you can get loans for purchasing things, you cannot get loans for your retirement.
“You can’t finance your retirement, you can, pretty much, finance mostly everything else, but you can’t finance retirement,” said Marino. “So, where is extra money going to come from? So, look at it, now; Start saving for it, now.”
Though Military Saves Week is once a year, the mission of educating service menders, DoD employees and family members doesn’t stop. Resources are available year-round.
Visit www.militarysaves.org for more information and resources.
For information about, or to sign up for personal finance courses offered by FFSC, call DSN 243-9632.