Couple receiving financial counseling from an older woman with short white hair and glasses

The Military's Best Kept Secret

Written by Rachael DeLeon, Communications Director at the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE)

Regardless of your military branch, your rank, or even your age, personal financial issues will touch your life at some point in your military career. Which is why there is no better time than now to get to know your installation’s financial readiness professionals – often known as Personal Financial Counselors (PFCs) and Personal Financial Managers (PFMs).

There is a financial readiness professional on staff at every military installation throughout the world. We like to call it the military’s best kept secret - your secret weapon to financial health and security. “Our goal is to assist the military community so that they may achieve and maintain lifelong financial well-being,” says Clint Strut, AFC® Financial Readiness Program Manager, Fort Riley, KS.

Here are five of the many ways a financial readiness professional can support you:

  1. Setting SMART goals.
    Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Timely. “There are usually action steps required on the path to completing any goal,” says Corrinne McKenna, AFC®, PFC at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. “Some action steps might occur weeks or months in the future, but many action steps can be completed within 24-hours. Completing an action step within the first 24-hours of defining a goal significantly improves chances of success.” A PFC can help you determine your action steps and organize each step in a way that moves you closer to your goals. By working with an AFC professional, you can build momentum toward achieving your goals.
  2. Establish a Spending Plan.
    “Setting goals and establishing a spending plan is the cornerstone of all future financial success,” says Clint Strut, AFC®. Creating a spending plan gives you control of how you allocate your income toward wants and needs. It allows you to pay yourself first and ensures that you can focus your savings toward future goals or big purchases like a home, education or retirement.
  3. Managing Debt.
    The financial pain point that financial readiness professionals see most often is debt. “I commonly ask service members, ‘How much more money would be in your pocket every month if you didn't have to make a single debt payment?’, says Clint Strut, “The response that follows the audible exhale is, ‘a lot'.” When it comes to issues of debt, you are not alone, and your financial readiness professional can help you put together a plan to pay back your debt, leading to increased savings for retirement, education and personal goals.
  4. Saving for Retirement.
    “There is education about retirement during basic training, but service members are on information overload and don’t always process what is being taught,” says Susan Pascoe, AFC®, PFC in Greenville, SC. If you overlooked retirement during basic training, or need guidance on the pending changes of the blended retirement system, schedule a meeting with your PFC. Saving for retirement is one of the most important decisions you can make, and the military has several options to set you up for long-term financial security.
  5. Military Transition Planning.
    "Separating from the military, at any point in your career, is a life-changing event,” says Alecia Blair, AFC® Candidate, Military Saves. In addition to the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) program, financial readiness professionals on your installation can provide resources and free financial advice to help ease the transition.

Whether you are dealing with an immediate financial crisis, seeking guidance on saving for a major life expense, such as home or college, or just seeking ways to identify and modify ineffective money management behaviors, your financial readiness office can help.

As a fiduciary, a PFC or PFM puts your unique needs, wants and goals first and will not sell you products or services. Many are certified as Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) professionals, so they are backed by a nationally recognized accrediting body that holds them to the highest standard of education, experience, and ongoing continuing education and ethics.

So, what are you waiting for? Take that first step. Set up a one-on-one financial counseling appointment or attend a group financial education workshop. Take advantage of the incredible, free resources available to you as a service member.

Use this easy search tool to find Personal Financial Management Services on your installation.  #AskanAFC

Are you trying to save money? Let Military Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. Take the first step today and take the Military Saves pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. And it doesn’t stop there. Military Saves will keep you motivated with information, advice, tips, and reminders to help you reach your savings goal. Think of us as your own personal support system. 


Learn about the military’s best kept secret: your secret weapon to financial health and security >> #MilitarySaves

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