By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
The ins and outs of getting and staying in good financial shape can feel like a full-time job. From buying a house to researching tax breaks to asking about lower interest rates on credit cards or auto insurance, getting smart about finances takes effort.
That endeavor can be made easier, however, with a free website and app created especially for military members by the Better Business Bureau and McGraw Hill Companies. The consumer advocacy group’s military division teamed up with the global financial information company to create militaryandmoney.com and its smartphone app, which is available for the iPhone and iPad. There will also soon be an Android version available, Brenda Linnington, director of the BBB Military Line, told me today.
Linnington, wife of Army Gen. Mike Linnington, who commands the Military District of Washington, creates curriculum for the Military Line’s personal finance workshops, which are given at military bases around the country as part of the Defense Department and services’ financial readiness outreach. BBB’s Military Line also is a partner in the Kipplinger/BBB Financial Field Manual.
Linnington replaced Holly Petraeus last year as MilitaryLine’s director when Petraeus was appointed to head the military division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Both have worked to ease personal finance for service members and their families.
“We don’t want it be laborious kind of thing,” Linnington said of the website and app. “They can just plug in their numbers, so they have their personal financial situation in palm of their hands.”
The digital aids came about after the bureau and McGraw Hill separately pledged to help “Joining Forces,” the campaign First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden created last year to support military families, Linnington said. The campaign fostered the partnership, merging the bureau’s military financial acumen with McGraw Hill’s global financial reach.
The website and app provide “basic training” in personal finance with video instructions on budgeting and managing credit. They also offer an “action center” with a calculator for entering your own financial information to help with building savings — you can set a reminder for regular installments — and reducing debt.
“The great thing about the app is it’s very user-friendly, and it puts that person’s financial situation in the palm of their hands,” Linnington said “They can have it with them wherever they go.”
The website and app can help families through the financial shift of deployments and how to ease the burden when combat and hazard pay go away, she noted.
“That reunion period, as wonderful as it is, especially during the honeymoon period, also is full of a lot of stressors,” she said. “Add in the changes to your financial situation — now you have less income, your children are getting older, and becoming more expensive — that can cause more stress on an already stressful situation.”
The website and app are tailored to enlisted members at the E6 level and below, Linnington said, because that is who the bureau found needs it most. Most complaints of financial problems from service members come from the E5 and E6 level, she said. Unlike junior service members, they – most in their mid-20s – are beginning to develop credit and make enough money to pay off debt and save. And they are starting families.
“They have more money than they had before, but they also have more expenses and they’re getting into larger purchases,” she said.