Maintenance initiative expands wing wide

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Luke leadership, along with participants of the Money Strong Financial Incentive Program, pose for a group photo June 24, 2019, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Money Strong is a volunteer-driven program dedicated to helping Airmen manage their finances, plan for their economic future and learn skills such as budgeting, investing, building credit and more. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zoie Cox)
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A team of volunteers turned a broad idea into a thriving financial management assistance program.

Dubbed the Money Strong Financial Incentive Program, volunteers dedicate time to helping Airmen control their finances and plan for their economic future, ultimately helping improve their financial quality of life.

“The Money Strong Financial Incentive Program will help bridge the gap between personnel, Air Force programs and financial freedom,” said Major Richard Wille, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander.

According to CNBC.com, the enlisted force is the most stressed occupation in the U.S., along with having the second lowest median salary of the top ten most stressed occupations. The mission of Money Strong is to increase readiness and enhance lethality which entails reducing vulnerability and distractions, building a culture of financially ready Airmen and establishing or increasing emergency and retirement savings.

The target audience for Money Strong is junior officers and junior enlisted members, but is open to anyone on base.

“There is a concerted effort in certain regions of the United States to put financial education in high schools so why not have that same type of education within our own force,” said Tech Sgt. Randy Sims Jr., 310th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief.

The Money Strong Program works hand-in-hand with the Airman and Family Readiness Center and a volunteer team of personal financial counselors. When Airmen express interest in the program, they will attend an orientation class where the program and expectations are laid out.  Once enrolled, they have the responsibility to meet at least five milestones.

Milestones can earn the participant up to a total of six days off work in the 12-month period or “Money Strong Dollars” which can be used as tickets for a quarterly raffle where cash is given away.

The mandatory milestones are the initial data pull and a progress check each quarter.  The initial data pull is a private meeting with a personal financial counselor where they look over the entirety of one’s financial records and work to develop a game plan on how to assist with their finances, whether that be improving credit or increasing emergency savings.

Additional aspects of the program include “Lunch and Learns” where Airmen can earn Money Strong Dollars. These are free lunches where participants are taught skills such as budgeting, investing, building credit and more.

“I decided to participate in the program because I knew I wasn’t saving or investing as much as I should’ve been,” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Simon, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment craftsman. “Everything is easier when your finances are in order. I would strongly recommend the program to others, they can help you advance your situation for sure.”

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