Across the country, around the world and at Naval District Washington, military personnel, family members and Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and civilians are pledging to be more financially responsible as part of Military Saves Week, an annual social marketing campaign that encourages people to save money and reduce debt.
Military Saves Week, running Feb. 24 through March 1, is part of the larger America Saves program operated by the Consumer Federation of America, and is a partner of the DoD Financial Readiness Campaign. Last year, more than 137,000 people in 471 organizations were reached as part of Military Saves, a 39% increase from 2012, according to the program’s website.
“It’s very important because we have members who are always out fighting the good fight,” Culinary Specialist 1st Class Craig Houston, Naval Support Activity Washington (NSAW) command financial specialist, said of the campaign. “If they’re worried about their families under financial stress, it puts more stress on them and they’re not focused on the job.”
Houston said the week provides personnel and their family members a chance to realistically assess their financial situations, go to seminars and find information about how to find cost savings efficiencies to help them throughout the year.
Washington Navy Yard is scheduled to host an information fair Feb. 27 in the Town Center building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where a variety of resources will be available. The Military Saves campaign only allows approved vendors to participate, Houston said, leaving out predatory loaners or other risky loan agencies.
Elsewhere in the region, installations are partnering with local banks and credit unions during Military Saves Week, as well as hosting guest speakers and financial classes, said David Rose, a personal financial manager for the Military and Family Support Center (MFSC) at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
Rose said a large part of the campaign is getting visitors to sign the Military Saves Week pledge online.
“When you make a goal to something like that, it makes a difference if you write it down,” said Rose.”If you write it down, you make yourself a pledge and hopefully that helps a person out.”
While the campaign may only be highlighted for a week, the goals of Military Saves are to keep personnel aware of their financial security and promote positive savings behavior on a consistent basis.
“Military Saves Week is not just a once in a lifetime thing,” Houston said. “It’s every day that you live your life that you should be making sure that you are financially stable.”
Across NDW, Fleet and Family Readiness (FFR), the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS), and individual command financial specialists offer year-round support on a variety of topics including credit counseling, budgeting, debt reduction and investing.
Houston said he advises everyone he sees to make a detailed budget for every pay period or every month, rather than an annual budget. Keeping a closer eye on your money on a more frequent basis allows savers to know where each dollar goes and invest smarter, he explained.
“Invest it in yourself, and if you have family, invest it in your family,” said Houston. “So that way when you get to the retirement age, you don’t have to stress about what your next job field is going to be. You have time and leeway to use your money wisely.”
For those struggling to save because of debt, Houston encouraged making steady payments to each of one’s debts while trying to pay off the smallest balances first, and then working up to getting rid of the highest-interest bills in a positive snowball effect. This practice builds credit ratings and may actually shorten repayment periods, he added.
“Life just happens,” said Rose. “We’ve got to be intentional when it comes to saving our money.”
To take the pledge or find out more information, visit www.militarysaves.org, or contact your local Fleet/Military and Family Support Center or command financial specialist.