Capt. Rob Eckhardt is the first to admit that he hasn’t always been responsible with money. But less than 10 years after a rocky start to saving, Eckhardt reports that he and his wife are free from credit card debt, have a down payment on a home, and are saving regularly for retirement. And, as the Military Saves representative for his Air Force squadron, he’s helping others make similar progress.

Eckhardt credits his personal success to working with his wife and "building up good habits that we were able to stick with even after we got out of debt."

"I started from a pretty bad place," he said. "I was a young single guy in Vegas, and it was not a lifestyle where you were thinking about your long term future." He listed some things he now considers financial mistakes: leasing a brand new car when his old car was sufficient, spending too much money on nights out, and racking up over $5,000 in credit card debt.

But when he met his future wife and got engaged, Eckhardt and his fiancé began to prioritize getting out of debt and becoming financially stable. Their combined credit card debt was nearly $25,000, so they started out by getting rid of their credit cards and setting a budget. Eckhardt also shipped to Iraq shortly after his engagement, and the tax-free combat pay he received made it easier to make ends meet.

The couple saves money by "eating at home 90 percent of the time," he said. They also began tracking their spending and analyzing their budget together and would "celebrate if we paid off a credit card or reduced some debt significantly." He also credits his wife for being "very responsible" about sticking to the budget while he was overseas.

In Eckhardt’s role as the Military Saves representative for his Air Force squadron, he works to find appropriate investment vehicles for other troops, get more troops signed up for the Thrift Savings Plan (a retirement savings program for government employees and member of the military), and helps spread the message about the benefits of saving.

During Military Saves Week, Eckhardt planned a briefing and held individual follow-up conversations for almost everyone in his squadron. "The message I’ve been trying to get out is to eliminate debt, as much as possible," he said.

In talking with younger troops, Eckhardt recounts an experience he had in a cell phone store in Italy, where he is now stationed. As he was waiting in line, he listened to the young airman in front of him debate about whether he should get a new iPhone, even though he’d recently bought a new Blackberry and opportunities to use cell phones on base are limited.

"He was saying he would just blow his whole paycheck on a phone that he would barely use and had no need for," Eckhardt said. "So I would tell that story, about how foolish it seemed to me that they would not be looking for ways to save money – after all, I’m not all that old and I’m trying to look for ways save."

"It was such a mental relief for me to know I had no credit card debt."

Capt. Rob Eckhardt
Military Saver

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Tell us about:

  • How you got the campaign going in your unit or other organization
  • What you've done to involve children and other family members
  • How much money your members have saved since getting involved in Military Saves
  • Particular individuals and families whose lives have improved because of saving money, or
  • Whatever you're especially proud of and want the rest of the military community to know about!

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Saver Stories View all »

Naval Battalion's Effort Yields Team Success

Construction Battalion Five, DETAIL CHINHAE would like to share our campaign success story with you!

Currently we have 23 members on our Det, (all of whom have registered with militarysaves) and out of them 16 are planning for retirement by saving and investing money in the Federal Thrift Savings Plan.


Regular Savings is the Key to Success

My name is Chris Strong. I joined the Air Force on 25 March, 1985. On that day, my financial life changed forever. I was introduced to saving bonds in Basic Training. Savings bonds were the big thing back then just like the Thrift Savings Plan is today. A Colonel gave us a briefing. I cannot remember his name but I can remember the 100 savings bonds he had posted to a piece of card board. He gave us a speech on the importance of saving money and how it can change your life. He inspired me to save.


On the Right Track to Build Wealth

My name is Robina Wahl, and I am a military wife and a veteran. Although I am fairly new to the Military Saves Campaign, the message to “Build Wealth, Not Debt” reassured me that my husband and I were on the right track and doing the right things.

I have always been pretty responsible when it comes to saving and living within my means, but I was not prepared for the unpredictable employment lifestyle of being a Reservist and military spouse.