NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Financial resilience is something that cannot be understated, especially in the harsh economic times facing the men and women serving in the U.S. military.
Service members are asked to plan for a future that can constantly change with the climate of the economy.
The problem is, many Airmen are not adequately educated in ways to properly plan for their financial future. The U.S. Air Force Warfare Center’s leadership is attempting to correct this by holding a Financial Resilience Education Day May 31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Point Hotel and Casino.
Air Force senior leaders have instructed installation commanders to provide seminars, activities and education events to all Airmen and Department of Defense civilian contractors in order to emphasize the importance of financial resilience.
Below is an interview with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ellis, USAFWC command chief, to discuss the importance of having financial resilience and the events that are going to be offered to Airmen of Nellis AFB, Creech AFB and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
NELLIS PA: What concerns you the most about how the economic times are affecting our Airmen?
LOFGREN: I think the big thing for our Airmen to know is that there will always be cycles in our economy. It is key for our Airmen, no matter the rank, to have some type of plan that they are always executing when it comes to the financial wellness of themselves and their family. There will always be things that happen to affect your mental well-being and one of those things is your pocketbook.
ELLIS: As senior leaders, our focus is always on posturing our Airmen for success. You can’t do this without preparing for what the future holds. Unfortunately, none of us has a crystal ball that predicts what will happen in the future. However, what we do know is that preparing for the future financially will help you to be prepared for unforeseen events while keeping you less stressed and able to continue to accomplish the Air Force mission.
LOFGREN: One thing is historically predictable. It is that circumstances will eventually come up that affect your finances. That being said, it is important to have a well-balanced and thought out plan so that when you decide to get out of the military or circumstances dictate having to spend money you weren’t accounting for; you are prepared.
NELLIS PA: Why do you think Airmen find themselves in difficult situations financially?
LOFGREN: Largely, we are not doing enough as a whole to prepare our [children] to handle their finances responsibly. We don’t teach finances in our schools, and it’s not a required class for most degrees in college. For the most part, it is left up to the individual to learn proper financial management skills on his or her own. The complexity of our economy makes it even harder to do that.
The majority of our Airmen are 18 year olds, straight out of high school. This is the first time they have received a sizable check in most cases. Without the mentoring or financial classes, these Airmen are asked to make decisions that will affect them immensely later down the road. We, as an Air Force, need to help our Airmen to understand their options and guide them to make informed decisions that help them achieve that financial stability not just now but also in the future. That is what this Financial Resilience Day is all about.
ELLIS: Look at the amount of the financial responsibility education you received throughout your life and even into your Air Force career. We do a decent job at instilling the basics in financial responsibility at basic training and technical training but currently there is no follow through with mentorship or advanced education on financial responsibility once you are sent to your first duty station. We need to do a better job of instilling the importance of managing finances into our younger Airmen so they are prepared.
Recently, I attended a Nellis First Term Airmen Center class and a young Airman approached me to tell me about his experience purchasing his recently acquired car. He went on to tell me that he was a little disappointed because he purchased the car before his finance briefing at FTAC.
Had he waited until after the briefing, he would not have. After talking with the Airman a little further, I learned he purchased a 10-year-old car at 25 percent interest. We cannot wait to get that information into Airmen’s hands because it may be too late.
NELLIS PA: What type of training are we offering to the Airmen of Nellis, Creech and the NTTR on Financial Resilience Day to get this information to them?
LOFGREN: On this training day, Nellis is teaming with civilian financial counselors from USAA to hold a seminar at South Point Casino to educate our Airmen on proper finances. We are trying to educate whoever is interested, when it comes to purchasing a home, investing, savings and much more. We are attempting to give the Airmen [here] the tools to successfully plan for their financial future.
ELLIS: Due to size limits, only 750 Airmen will be given the opportunity to come downtown and receive information from finance specialists on anything they want to know about. The day does not end with just those members though. The general has designated the entire day a focus day for all military members on Nellis so that they can attend other classes that will be offered by the Airman and Family Readiness Center on base and unit representatives. Either way our goal is to provide financial education to all the service members on base.
NELLIS PA: Do you hope to provide more opportunities for financial education in the future?
LOFGREN: The Financial Resilience Day and the seminar are just phase one of our plans for the Airmen at Nellis, Creech and the NTTR. During this phase we want to engage our Airmen, inform them and get them questioning if they have the information needed to develop a well-balanced plan for their future finances.
Phase two involves follow through. During this phase we hope to provide continued education opportunities so that the information isn’t lost. We want to show Airmen we are serious about preparing them for the future.
NELLIS PA: Is there anything you would like to add?
ELLIS: More than 85 percent of the people who walk into the Nellis Airman and Family Readiness Center have finance related issues. That is double the average for the rest of the Air Force. We have invested this day to help our Airmen break the trend. We are hoping to expand upon this education with the financial seminar and provide a roadmap to get our Airmen out of debt and back on track for financial wellness.
LOFGREN: While attending a breakfast with Airmen at the Crosswinds Dining Facility, I asked all of the 20 Airmen who had invested in the Thrift Savings Plan to raise their hand. Only four Airmen did so. Perplexed, I asked every Airman who knew what the TSP was and what it entailed, to put their hand up next. The same four individuals put their hands up. We as an Air Force have to do a better job of educating our Airmen when it comes to their financial options. I hope that this seminar and the classes we will provide our Airman at Nellis, Creech and the NTTR begin this education process.
For more information on the financial seminar, call Tech. Sgt. Carrie Cain (USAFWC) at (902) 652-2915; Tech. Sgt. Anthony Grisafe (57th Wing) at (702) 652-2626; Tech. Sgt. Christopher Jachimiec (99th Air Base Wing) at (702) 652-9982: Staff Sgt. Villegas (432nd Wing) at (702) 404-0103 or (702) 404-0077; or Master Sgt. James Rouse (Nevada Test and Training Range) at (702) 348-4678.