Camp Arifjan, Kuwait -- A colonel in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command has money on his mind.
Army Col. George Fields, the Chief of Intelligence, or G2, has been teaching a free "Managing Your Money" class here in his spare time. More than 400 students have attended his six week-long class to learn more about increasing their own finances.
"All I did was sit down and listen to a guy one day who showed me what he was doing" said the colonel as he explained how he became interested in what he calls, "becoming financially free."
Interested in looking at life after his Army career, Fields signed up for a business seminar and wanted to know more about the speakera former Army cook who had $10 million in the bank by age 43.
"He talked about using common sense principles, so I started applying them to my own finances," Fields said. But Fields didn,t stop there. He wanted to share the knowledge he learned with other military members.
"Most Soldiers don't learn about money until they get into trouble. There's no class on how to grow your money," he said. At Camp Arifjan, Fields created a class that taught Soldiers how to do just that.
The tall, financially savvy colonel from Brooklyn, N.Y. said some of his pupils are overwhelmed when they begin. But he said he uses a fun and casual approach to teach practical applications. "I show them what they didn't see before. No one should care more about your money than you," he stated.
Using plain-speak language, he talks to attendees about IRAs, 401Ks, mutual funds, stock market investments and how to develop strategies that will help students meet their financial goals. He said one of his goals is to teach military members to start developing discipline that will help them make life-financial decisions.
"We talk about stocks. There are lots of people weary of the market. But look at the things you buy. What do you eat or use for your laundry detergent? What do your parents buy? Where do you go?" Fields asked. Then he walks the class through what everything means. But he's quick to note that he won't tell them what to invest in. He focuses the class on doing the research and making their own decisions.
"It's like putting a puzzle together and your finished product is your financial freedom," said Fields, who described researching investments as fun.
By the time the class is complete his students embrace a paradigm shift believing they don't have to have a lot of money to invest and number two, that they can be their own financial broker.
One student, who attended the class in April and returned for more during the June/July course, said he gained insight on investments during the first course but wanted to go back for more to apply what he learned.
"I've been deployed so many times but havent been able to save. I needed to learn more about how to save then how to spend "said Army Sgt. Reginald Wright, 4th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, who's on his fourth deployment. "I learned a lot from the classes and liked how he fused humor into them."
"You just have to get comfortable with the terms and develop the mindset of 'I can,'" said Fields, whose undergraduate degree is in political science and masters is in human resources. "It's taking all the PhD level wording out and bringing it down to the PFC level of understanding, and get everyone excited on how to grow money. They can embrace a whole different lifestyle."
After teaching two hour classes nearly every Sunday since last August, Fields has a number of financial followers who run ideas past him for sanity checks or tell him about their investment results, an article they've read or a new financial book recommendation. He's had e-mails from as far away as Djibouti.
And participation is encouraged from the all-ranks, all-branch classes that were only advertised by word-of-mouth. From employees of investment companies to "closet investors," military members get excited about sharing their insights and their new level of understanding, Fields said. His classes grew each week with individuals taking what they learned in class then returning the following week with investment results.
But as he moves up to his new position as Army Central Command's intelligence director, Fields said it's time for him to step down from teaching and let some of the people who started out as students take over the class.
Maj. Carol McClelland
1st Theater Sustainment Command, Public Affairs
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