Fighting the War on Debt

‘Build wealth not debt’ is the motto at the Fleet and Family Support Center, but sometimes it's easier said than done.  The Navy is reaching out to all military members, trying to give people a leg up in a brutal economic climate.

Petty Officer 1st Class Latoya Grace has been in the Navy for 13 years.  She's golden now, but it was a different story when she first enlisted.

"There was an issue, because I had such high debt that I might not be able to retain my security clearance if I didn't straighten it up," Grace said.

Grace wasn't alone in her financial insecurity.

"Initially when I enlisted in the Navy, I was $20,000 in debt," Petty Officer 1st Class Brooks Wakefield said.

Both officers turned to the Navy for help.  They found it in the Fleet and Family Support Center and people like Kermit Cain.

"My job is to take care of my sailors," Cain said.

In his two years as a personal finance educator with the Navy, he's seen sailors with 38-percent APR on their credit cards.  One person was $170,000 in debt.

"And I do believe the director still has it up on his wall -- a 2,000 plus percent interest rate on a 50 dollar loan," Cain said.

Other people enlist without a big credit problem, but quickly develop one on the job.

“The day that they re-enlist they're given half of say $90,000,” Wakefield said.

When ships pull back into port, and sailors have those bonuses in hand, many times rather than going to the bank, they run to the car dealerships instead, he said.

Fleet and Family Support Center aims to help all branches of the military get on firm financial footing.

Money advisor George Chamberlain said once they get out of the hole, they need to invest.

"They have a great program -- the TSP -- good long term investments," he said.

Chamberlain says the best thing young recruits have going for them is time to take advantage of all the military has to offer.

‘Military Saves’ runs all next week.  For more information visit

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