Schuette, Triad Staff
Members of the Fort McCoy community who find themselves
facing financial debt, such as paying off gifts purchased during
the holiday season, may find themselves faced with unpleasant
Betsy Kelsey, Fort McCoy Family Advocacy Program manager and
Financial Readiness Program manager, said the key to proper
financial planning is education and understanding the
circumstances of debt and the consequences of not being able to
pay off debt in a timely manner. One of the more recent
alternatives to pay off debts is the increasing availability of
check advance or payday loan services, Kelsey said.
are getting a lot of literature and stories from elsewhere in
the military that these organizations are targeting Soldiers,"
Kelsey said. "The Soldiers see something that looks good and go
into it. One of the things to remember is: 'If it looks too good
to be true, it probably is.'"
Kelsey said she has not directly dealt with Soldiers at Fort
McCoy who use this service, but has heard that it is happening.
During her talks with credit counselors, she has learned that
these contracts appear to be legal and enforceable. The best
advice she can give to Soldiers and other members of the Fort
McCoy community is to educate themselves about what these
Check advance and payday loan businesses usually charge fees to,
in effect, make a loan or advanced payment of money. Both the
fees and amount of money received are due at the personnel's
next payday. Kelsey said these businesses may or may not reveal
interest rates, which can range up to hundreds of percent.
problems start arising when many people can't pay back the
entire amount, including fees, they owe," Kelsey said. "Then
they keep paying fees, and may wind up paying hundreds or even
thousands of dollars in fees (for the advance of a relatively
small amount of money)."
Although society often encourages instant monetary
gratification, a better strategy is to know how to budget and
use money wisely, Kelsey said.
best advice to Soldiers and anyone else encountering financial
struggles is to know the terms before they enter into a contract
with a check advance or payday loan business, Kelsey said.
Military personnel should keep in mind that excessive debt may
jeopardize their career.
good place for members of the Fort McCoy community to start
developing financial awareness is an eight-hour financial
readiness training course available through Army Community
Service (ACS). This is highly recommended for personnel,
especially younger personnel, and covers the basics, Kelsey
said. The training includes: locating and choosing a bank;
budgeting; saving; investing; setting up checking accounts;
establishing credit and using it wisely; and knowing consumer
people reach the point that they are financially stressed and
can't afford groceries or can't pay the cost of an emergency,
this information will help, Kelsey said.
can't deny when there is a problem," Kelsey said. "If you are in
excessive debt because you are living outside of your means
without a spending plan or budget, a check advance or pay day
lender is not the solution. Seek assistance in creating a budget
that is realistic and one that you will be able to follow."
Military personnel with emergency expenses may be eligible for
assistance from such organizations such as Army Emergency Relief
(AER), which is available through ACS at Fort McCoy. AER can
provide no-interest loans or even grants to help Soldiers and
their family members deal with emergency financial situations,