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Financial Awarene$$ Day: Where’s your Money?

22 August 2022

From MC1 Erika Kugler

Financial literacy is important so that Sailors stay on top of their personal finances from the beginning of their naval career.
When Sailors join the U.S. Navy, their career can take them all over the world. They are paid to deploy across every maritime environment and frequently move, and respond immediately to an unpredictable operational environment. Within the first few weeks of training, they give an oath, and the first direct deposit is made into their bank accounts. What Sailors do with that money is completely up to them, but their decisions can have long-lasting effects.

That’s where professionals like Curtis Gilland come in, he’s the Regional Work and Family Life Coordinator at Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT). His job is to make sure that all of the policies and procedures are implemented at the Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSC) throughout the EURAFCENT area of responsibility. Financial management is one of the biggest programs and Gilland believes it is essential to work and family life.

“Financial literacy is having a good knowledge of what money can do for you,” said Gilland. “We all know we have to have it, but you have to be smart about it.”

Financial literacy is important so that Sailors stay on top of their personal finances from the beginning of their naval career. Sailors deploy for months, often underway in tax-free environments, returning to port with money to spend. This inconsistency in bank accounts can lead to undisciplined and unsustainable spending habits.

“A lot of Sailors join right out of high school and college, they were never taught how to budget,” said Gilland. “They are told they need credit, and it’s being offered to them. They are going to get paid every 1st and 15th, so what’s the harm?”

According to reports, the average American has about $90,000 in consumer debt. Sailors are no exception, even with a steady paycheck. It is imperative that Sailors, along with their families, take some time to review the health of their personal finances and prepare for the future.

Financial Awareness day, August 14, offers a reminder for families to stop and take stock of their financial health.

“The [Fleet and Family] Service centers are so important. They have personal financial managers (PFMs) and command financial counselors (CFSs) to help instill and provide financial skills for our Sailors,” said Gilland.

He added it is a common misconception that poor financial planning only affects our junior or youngest Sailors. Without a plan, anyone can fall victim to having “more month left at the end of their money.”

Another misconception has to do with the word “budget.”

“They think it’s a restriction, that they can’t spend their money how they want,” said Gilland. “No, you can spend your money, but let’s look at where it’s going.”

In many cases Sailors enter the Navy with debt they accrued while in school or during other life circumstances. For those who feel like they will never get out from under it Gilland said the first step is recognizing there is a need for a PFM and ask for help.

“Debt can affect your personal life and career,” said Gilland. “And usually no one is notified until it is too late. But with a plan and discipline it is possible.”

A Sailor’s financial counselling is confidential, PFMs and CFSs only report debt to income ratios as required, but the commanding officer can request to read Sailors financial counselling if they are notified of delinquency in payments.

“Eventually your naval career will end and likely while you’re still young enough to work,” said Gilland. “You need to plan for your future.”

Planning includes managing debt, saving for retirement and investing. The FFSC provides courses on house and car buying skills, learning about credit, and spending plans. PFMs and CFSs cannot advise Sailors on what to do with their money, but they can give them the resources and base knowledge to make informed decisions.

To find out more about classes and when they are being held, Sailors and their families can look up the class schedules at their local FFSC.

Navy Region EURAFCENT oversees nine installations in seven countries, enabling U.S., allied and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed in order to ensure security and stability in the European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility.

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