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Fort Lee Soldiers attend class titled “Understanding Your Credit” during a previous Military Saves Week event at the Post Field House. A representative from SunTrust Bank led the discussion. At the end of the class, all attendees received a certificate of completion that was worth four promotion points for Army junior enlisted members. (File photo contributed by ACS)

Military Families have a lot to be thankful for in today's economy. Between the near-certainty of a steady paycheck and the no-cost benefits provided by Uncle Sam, the struggle to make financial ends meet is less noticeable than what's happening in the private sector. The problem of too much month and not enough money still exists, for sure, but the odds of a service member and his or her Family breaking even or better on payday are a lot higher.

That's why the Department of Defense is emphasizing the positive message of Military Saves Week, Feb. 19-25. The DoD wants military troops and Families to do more with their money than simply "get by." Sound planning for financial security in the future is the more desirable goal; it results in service members not having to worry about their Family's financial well-being when deployed and feeling confident about retirement in the more-distant future.

"The whole idea is to set yourself up for financial success," said Patsy Piggott, the Financial Readiness Program manager at the Fort Lee Army Community Service. "Even if you save only a small amount each month and pay down your debt, it adds up over time. That's the focus of the military saves campaign - to become financially stable through small changes in your spending and investing habits."

Behind the Military Saves Campaign is a growing network of partners like the Fort Lee Credit Union, the Better Business Bureau and SunTrust Bank, Piggott noted. "Our partners encourage military members to be aggressive in saving and investing for their futures."

Making a commitment to "pay yourself first" by saving for both short-term and long-term goals is among the smart choices encouraged by MSC supporters. If you are unable to save at this time in your life because you have financial obligations, your focus should be on paying off your debts, Piggott said.

"Military Families have an advantage because they can establish an allotment for savings and the financial readiness section maintains a partnership with agencies that provide services at no cost," she added. "The savings will be taken out of your pay, and it's likely you won't even miss the money over time. There's a feeling of security because you're saving, and it becomes a habit."

In recognition of Military Saves Week, ACS is conducting a special community event on Feb. 23, 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., at the Post Field House.

"During that event and throughout the week, we're asking military members to make a pledge to pay off their financial obligations and invest for their future," Piggott noted. "The Military Saves celebration at the field house is also an opportunity to learn money-saving tips, investment strategies, how to apply for and manage your credit, how interest rates on loans are applied and the free financial assistance services available right here in our community."

Experts from the Better Business Bureau will participate in the event as well, she said. They will address consumer concerns and help participants understand how the laws in Virginia apply when you make a purchase you are not satisfied with because of a defective product, or who to call if you are a victim of a scam.

The Financial Readiness Program office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Those needing assistance are asked to call (804) 734-7952 to schedule an appointment. Additional information about Military Saves Week activities also can be found at www.Facebook.com/FortLeeArmyCommunityService.