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NEWS | Feb. 22, 2008

DoD campaign focuses on building wealth: Officials hope to create culture of financial readiness

By Robert Goetz Wingspread staff writer

A week-long Department of Defense campaign to promote personal financial readiness among Airmen starts Sunday. 

The campaign, Military Saves Week, is a partnership between the DoD and the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America to involve all levels of leadership in a sustained effort to "create a culture that encourages our members to save and build wealth and avoid the downward spiral of debt," said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu. 

Like other military installations, Randolph will offer programs and events to educate servicemembers and civilians on the importance of building wealth, not debt, and offer incentives to begin a path to financial readiness. 

"We want young Airmen and others to save money for emergencies or to pay off a high-cost debt they might have," said Steve Mayfield, Airman and Family Readiness Flight certified financial counselor. "We want to get them on solid financial footing so they might be able to do things like buy a house or begin a long-term savings and investment plan."
Financial readiness is especially important in the armed services because of deployment's impact on families. Deployed servicemembers are better able to perform their mission if their families have the financial resources they need for emergency situations. 

"Focusing on finances when at home allows our Airmen to focus on the mission when deployed," said Arthur Myers, Manpower, Personnel and Services director of services at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. 

The centerpiece of the campaign is an initiative that will allow Team Randolph members to sign a document pledging to help themselves "by saving money, reducing debt and building wealth over time" and their family and country "by encouraging other Americans to build wealth, not debt." 

"Every unit will have a Military Saves representative," Mr. Mayfield said. "They will talk to people and make sure everybody has an opportunity to commit to being a saver." 

The Saver Pledge requires information such as name, e-mail address, installation, branch of service and duty status. Entering the pledge information at www.Military enrolls the servicemember or civilian employee as a Military Saver. 

Mr. Mayfield said the base's two financial institutions, Eisenhower Bank and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, will participate in the campaign by helping Team Randolph members open savings accounts and offering giveaways. 

At Eisenhower Bank, those who take a pledge card and open a savings account will be able to enter drawings for two tickets to a Spurs game and two tickets to a Rampage hockey game; Randolph-Brooks will give away a $100 savings bond each day and a grand prize of a $500 savings bond on March 3. 

He said the giveaways provide an incentive to take the Saver Pledge. 

"It's also an opportunity to follow through on their commitment," Mr. Mayfield said. "Hopefully it will get folks into the habit of saving." 

Mr. Mayfield said he hopes the campaign will motivate people to save money. He said a good savings goal is three to six months of gross earnings. 

The Airman and Family Readiness Flight will offer education programs during Military Saves Week. 

The A&FRF and the Better Business Bureau will co-sponsor the program "Are You a Smart Consumer?" Tuesday from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Building 693. The program will address topics such as saving money, credit scores, getting the best deal on a new car, ID theft and Internet auction sites. Participants will have an opportunity to win an iPod and other items. 

The program "Investigate Before You Invest!" will be offered Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. A representative of the Texas State Securities Board will present a video titled "What Con Artists Don't Want You to Know" and provide information on Texas' top 10 list of investor traps, 10 tips to avoid investment fraud and the Texas Family Guide to Personal Money Management. 

Credit scores will be the focus of a program Thursday, Mr. Mayfield said. 

"We will have eight computers set up in the ballroom," he said. "For people who have committed to be savers, we will assist them with getting a free credit report and will get them a credit score, which usually costs $20, for free." 

Mr. Mayfield said Team Randolph members who already have a savings account must present proof they have an automatic deposit for that account if they want to obtain a free credit score. 

The campaign, now in its second year, comes at a time when the nation's savings rate is minus-0.5 percent, he said.