WASHINGTON, March 7, 2008 – Troops with sound personal finances are better able to focus on mission accomplishment, a Defense Department official said yesterday.

“While you are deployed in harm’s way, your focus has to be on the mission at hand; it shouldn’t be on the financial situation at home and whether or not it’s sound,” Navy Cmdr. Dave Julian, associate director of the department’s Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth, said in an America Supports You Live Blog Talk Radio segment.

The effort to educate servicemembers and ease the burden of financial worry was the focus of DoD’s Feb.24-March 4 “Military Saves Week” observance that was dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of individual financial readiness.

During the week, financial service managers around the globe put on financial fairs and contests to educate family members and help them come up with the best ways to prepare for the future and ease financial worry.

“The things that are affecting the greater society as a whole also affect our servicemembers,” Julian said. “The cost of gasoline drives everything up, (and there are) issues with subprime mortgage rates, but then for military members, there is the added stress of: ‘Will my family be financially fit while I am deployed?” he said.

This year’s focus for the campaign, “Military Youth Saves,” was to educate military family members under age 18 about the importance of starting early on a sound financial path. Events ranged from essay contests with savings bonds for prizes to competitions to see who could save the most with coupons at the commissary.

But promoting financial awareness isn’t just a week-long effort in DoD, Julian said. Programs are in place year-round to help servicemembers manage their money.

“We encourage members on an installation to go to their financial-readiness specialist at the financial-readiness center to get an assessment and find out where they are financially and what their level of financial literacy is,” Julian said. The push is to encourage servicemembers to establish financial goals ranging from building wealth to recovering from debt and making a plan.

Julian noted the Better Business Bureau has a program called “Military Line,” a resource cautioning servicemembers to avoid “too-good-to-be-true” offers. “We had one case outside Charleston Air Force Base (in South Carolina) where the organization was set up outside as a military information center and, in fact, it was selling insurance,” he said. “Once you get through the paperwork and the fluff, it might be some sort of insurance or lending deal,” he cautioned.

The Better Business Bureau isn’t the only outside organization participating in the Defense Department effort. “DoD has also partnered with about 23 financially related nonprofits that all offer some sort of financial resource for military families to take advantage of,” Julian said.

The Defense Department’s Military Homefront Web site,, is a good resource that links to all these partners providing official information about DoD policies and procedures, he said. He also encouraged servicemembers to use Military OneSource’s “Money Matters” feature, which has personal-finance calculators, DVDs, CDs and podcasts.

Financial readiness equates to mission readiness, and that couldn’t be truer than it is today, Julian noted. He explained that creating this awareness and connecting people to the resources available is an important part of the mission.

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