The Army has enlisted the help of personal finance expert Suze Orman to educate Soldiers and their families on money matters so they don’t fall victim to predatory loans, mounting credit card debt or other financial issues.
Orman, a best-selling author and television personality, plans to offer her services free of charge to Soldiers, including a seven-step online course, normally $54, and an upcoming video detailing the military’s new retirement system.
“There comes a time in life when everybody has to serve their country, and they have to serve those that are giving us our freedom,” she said at a news conference Wednesday at the Pentagon. “If anybody deserves the best financial advice in the world, which I am more than capable of giving, it’s the men and women who are serving all of us.”
Orman also discussed her desire to visit military bases to speak to troops in person during seminars.
“Nothing would make me happier than to personally go to every single base in the entire world,” she said.
Having such a star in the finance world come on board for free has some Army leaders thrilled about the implications for the future readiness of Soldiers.
“When our Soldiers don’t have their hearts and minds on their job, it is not good for their security and for the team. And that’s why we’re so excited to partner with Suze,” said Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, who announced the partnership.
According to Orman, she tries to simplify personal finance tips to make them easier to understand.
For instance, she noted that if a 25-year-old Soldier began placing $100 a month into a Roth Thrift Savings Plan, the account would grow to roughly $1 million by the time the Soldier reaches the age of 65. But if the Soldier waited until 35 years old to invest the same amount, he or she would get only $300,000.
“Those 10 years cost them $700,000,” she said. “If you teach that to a 25-year-old, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re going to start putting money away.”
Besides retirement planning, her free online course available to all U.S. troops covers a variety of topics, from learning how to live debt-free, tackling financial obstacles, to purchasing big-ticket items like a home or car. Any military member can enroll in the course at SuzeU.com, using gift code “USA.”
With Orman’s help, a video explaining the blended retirement system, which is set to be rolled out Army-wide in 2018, is also in the works as part of the partnership.
As one of the biggest changes to military pay and benefits in 70 years, the blended retirement system is expected to provide a sort of portable retirement benefit to about 85 percent of the force, compared to only 19 percent today.
“We love our troops and their families. They are the corps of who we are as a team,” Murphy said. “We want to make sure that they get the best advice as possible.”
Murphy also hopes Orman’s advice will steer cash-strapped Soldiers away from payday loan businesses that try to exploit them with high interest rates.
“We’ve cracked down on some of that, but really that’s being reactive,” he said. “What we’re trying to do with Suze is to be proactive and let [Soldiers] know the tools that are out there.”
This isn’t the first time Orman has partnered with the Army. In May, she signed a four-year gratuitous services agreement with the Army Reserve to improve the financial readiness of reservists with informational videos, written material, town hall discussions and base visits.
She said she plans to devote herself to these partnerships full time since she ended The Suze Orman Show on CNBC in 2015. One of her goals now is to serve as an impartial financial advisor to Soldiers who are unable to find one elsewhere.
“It’s very difficult, in my opinion, to get true, honest, unbiased financial advice,” she said. “It’s almost as if everybody who gives you financial advice who’s in the financial arena has something to gain from it. We need an unbiased source, which I will serve as.”