Battaglia Explains Importance of Financial Literacy

Feb. 26, 2015 | BY Amaani Lyle , DOD News

Service members and their families need to make informed investment decisions and avoid unnecessary risks to ensure financial readiness both during and after their service commitments, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Discussing the Feb. 23-28 observance of Military Saves Week in a DoD News broadcast interview, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia said structure is important in handling household financial transactions.

“There are going to be purchases to meet the needs of survival, whether it be a car, a home or bare necessities of everyday life,” he said. “You must have discipline in your financial portfolio that allows you to sidestep … unnecessary purchases … and make a wise and informed decision. That’s what financial readiness is all about.”

Battaglia recalled his own challenges as a young Marine, when he his wife, Lisa, learned to resist impulse-purchase temptations.

“I’m hoping one thing Lisa and I can do for the military force and families is show things we could have done better as a younger couple growing up that they can avoid nowadays,” the sergeant major said.

Small financial considerations can add up, the sergeant major said, noting that he has cut his own hair for the past 25 years. “I can take care of myself and save the 10 to 15 [dollars] a week that I would normally use to get a haircut at a regular barber,” he said.

Loan and Investment Pitfalls

Loan and investment pitfalls exist, some of them specifically targeting service members, Battaglia said. He urged young troops to take advantage of programs and advisors the Defense Department provides to help them navigate and avoid those risks.

“There are loan sharks and payday lenders that are not up-front, … so the advertisement is enticing for the young service member. … All of a sudden, they’re paying for a [purchase] or loan at 28 percent interest, and it wasn’t a smart financial move, but an impulse buy,” he said.

Battaglia recommended investments such as the Thrift Savings Plan, a long-term financial strategy in which service members can deposit up to 15 percent of their pay into accounts of varying growth speed.

“It’s a great investment tool that we are allowed to use while serving in the military, and it starts to build a financial nest egg or portfolio,” he said. “It’ll be 80 to 85 percent of our force who never reach 20 years to retire, so what do they have to show for it at the end of four, six or 10 years?”

In any event, the sergeant major added, all military careers come to end, no matter how long a member serves. “We want to have an emergency fund … so when retirement or end of enlistment or commission comes, you don’t walk out empty-handed,” he said.

Fiscal Fitness Includes Rewards

Fiscal fitness enables him and his family to live in a less stressful environment, Battaglia said, and even permits them to enjoy the occasional reward.

“That may incur some sacrifices along the way, but we can spoil ourselves every once in a while, because we have lived in a financially stable and structured military life cycle,” the sergeant major said.

Battaglia encouraged all service members and components to take the Military Saves Week pledge to develop a disciplined, structured and measurable financial goal.

“Go online and take the pledge … to save each and every month when that paycheck comes in,” he said.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)