Official Urges Planning, Offers Resources for Fiscal Fitness
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 It’s important for children to learn financial life skills early on to maintain financial security and avoid woes in adulthood, a Defense Department official said.
Barbara Thompson, director of DOD’s office of family policy and children and youth, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel that the department continues to encourage military families to sidestep debt by creating a feasible spending plan and using resources that are available to them for achieving financial stability.
“It takes planning. Part of the family readiness system is making sure that families are financially stable, and that includes … the service member, the spouse and the children,” she said. “As [children] get closer … to being independent, you want them to have life skills that [enable them] to take care of themselves financially and make sure they don’t get into debt.”
Officials encourage military families to tap into resources such as the Military OneSource website and its Military Youth on the Move application and Jumpstart’s Reality Check. The sites, Thompson explained, offer tailored information that supports financial savvy in youth and adults.
“There’s a huge focus on children across the federal government and their financial literacy, because … we recognize that the earlier they learn, the more prepared they are for adulthood,” Thompson said.
Jumpstart visitors, for example, can download vetted, evidence-based curriculums, programs and information provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Thompson said. “It’s important for parents and educators to have a variety of resources, because we’re all at different stages of learning,” she added.
Parents, Thompson noted, should guide their children toward a meaningful, successful career and encourage interaction with guidance counselors, who can help children gauge their aptitude for various skill sets.
DOD child development programs also provide assistance, supporting children from birth through age 12 with field trips, math skills and money management.
In addition to parents, significant adults in children’s lives -- such as teachers, ministers or youth directors -- can help to convey similar messages about the importance of saving, earning and maintaining a good credit score and paying down debt.
But Thompson warned of financial pitfalls as children approach adulthood, particularly during their college years, when many people become mired in student loan debt.
“It’s important to analyze what you want to do, how you want to do it, and take advantage of the grants and scholarships that are available,” Thompson said.
Alternatively, Thompson said, senior leaders recognize that about 50 percent of military children either have decided to enter the military or are seriously considering it following high school graduation.
“So we want to make sure they’re on a sound footing when they enter their basic training,” she said. “It’s never too early to start.”