By Lance Cpl. Timothy Norris, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
MCAS BEAUFORT, S.C. - The average American household has $54,000 of debt, according to statisticbrain.com.
Twenty percent of 18 to 24 year old Americans say they have debt hardships.
Air Station Marines, spouses, and Department of Defense employees are taking control of their finances through the Financial Peace: Military Edition course sponsored by Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31.
The free 13-week course, created by syndicated radio show host Dave Ramsey, meets once a week in the MALS-31 conference room to learn new principles and lessons then follow up on their progress in an open forum setting.
“The course helps you make the right money decisions to achieve financial goals and experience a total money makeover,” said Capt. Bill Spink, MALS-31 operations officer and financial counselor. “It is a problem in our society that we don’t have good financial management skills.
“America has a culture of debt and we accept that as the norm. Our spending habits reflect that line of thinking,” he said.
The course begins with budgeting and creating and emergency fund of $1,000. Then students start a debt snowball rolling by paying payments on all debts. The concept works by paying the max amount toward the smallest debt to pay it off quickly. The more debts are paid off more money becomes available to pay larger debts.
“It’s easy to absorb because it’s a step by step [process] and there is consistency in the way the material is presented,” said Lt. Col. William Gray, MALS-31 commanding officer. “It’s a simple no debt philosophy and the results speak for themselves.”
Recently, 21 families who participated in the program at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., collectively paid off $93,000 of debt and saved $59,000 by the end of the 13 week program. Five of those families became debt free.
“You can’t imagine that feeling!” Gray said. “If Marines don’t have to worry about their finances they can focus on their job.
“I want Marines to be financially sound on their own.”
Couples are strongly encouraged to attend the course together so financial decisions can be made together and prevent further financial stress on the relationship.
“I have had Marines tell me that it has changed their lives and saved marriages because the Marine and their spouse are now on the same page,” Gray said. “They agree on what their long term goals are financially and how they will jointly achieve those goals.”
Financial Peace University provides a guided path supported by Marine Aircraft Group 31 command to break the cultural cycle of debt.
“I would recommend [the course] to a lot of people,” said Sgt. Helena Almaguer, MALS-31 advanced automatic test equipment technician and participant of the course.
“Your finances can always be better,” continued Almaguer. “One of the leadership traits is to ‘know yourself and seek improvement.’ This is one way you can improve yourself.”
For more information about upcoming courses or to sign up, contact Spink at 228-7571.