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.
When I got to my first duty station, McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey in July, 1985, I setup an allotment for $25 dollars to purchase a $50 bond. From there I just continued to save month after month. I received the bond in the mail and I put it in an envelope. Every time I got a pay raise I increased my bond allotment.
I went from investing $25 to $250 dollars a month. I saved bonds year after year and never thought about seeing how much I had invested in them. People laughed at me when I told them I was saving savings bonds. They would say, “It’s the worst investment, they earn very little interest.” Little did they know eventually I would have the last laugh?
When I reached my 18 year mark in the Air Force with retirement in sight, I decided to pull all the bonds from my safe deposit box and start adding them up. I was very surprised when the total was over $80,000 dollars. People weren’t laughing anymore. All they would say was, “How did you do it?” I gave them my speech about the Colonel from Basic Training who inspired me. It wasn’t just the Colonel who inspired me. I also had another supervisor, Chief Master Sergeant Victor Cox, a man who cared a lot about his “Troops.” He came up to me one day in the Spring of 1992 and said, “Troop, I need to talk to you.” I went into his office and came out 4-hours later a changed Technical Sergeant. He explained to me in detail with charts and graphs the mutual fund market. I later invested in some mutual funds that did extremely well. From there, I bought a home and some other property. Saving became fun. In August of 2005, I retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant after 20 ½ years. The key was I wasn’t just a Master Sergeant. I was a debt free Master Sergeant. I owned everything, my home, my cars, and my property. And, yes, today I still save savings bonds.
Like the Colonel and the Chief, I hope I was a big influence on the Airman and NCOs who worked under me. I sat down many of them and explained the importance of saving for the future.
You just may never know the impact that you had on their lives.
Today I have the privilege of working for Arkansas Federal Credit Union. I am a Branch Manager on Little Rock Air Force Base. My job everyday is to help improve someone’s financial life. That’s what it‘s all about, sitting people down and educating them, and letting them make good sound financial decisions. Saving is not easy. It takes hard work and discipline. It’s worth it.
In February 2008, I was introduced to the Military Saves Campaign. I thought this is pretty neat. A few months went by and recently I went to a strategic planning meeting and our CEO, Larry Biernacki mentioned doing more next year with Military Saves. I came back from the meeting and started doing some homework. I realized that technically the campaign is all year long so we can really do a lot with Military Saves and the America Saves Campaign. We can play a huge part and change a whole bunch of lives. My goal now is learn as much as I can and get more people involved. I want people to be excited about saving and that is what I believe America Saves and Military Saves is all about. People helping people “Build Wealth, Not Debt.”
Retired Master Sergeant, USAF
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