Wrangler leaders and Soldiers learn about finances

By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain
15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — Leaders and Soldiers of the Special Troops Battalion “Wranglers,” 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), gathered June 19 at Fort Hood’s Community Events Center to learn some ways to better manage their finances.

The class, taught by Melody Squires, with the Financial Readiness Branch of Army Community Service, taught the Soldiers about credit and how it works, as well as planning a budget.

Squires said everyone should check their credit report once a year to ensure that the information on it is accurate and that no one has stolen their identity and tried opening new credit accounts.

“You need to make sure what’s yours is yours,” Squires said, adding that 70% of credit reports have some kind of error.

She said everyone is entitled to one free credit report every year, and it can be obtained online at www.annualcreditreport.com, not through sites advertised on TV.

Squires explained many of the sites advertised on TV require signing up for a paid service to obtain their free credit report.

She advised Soldiers to be aware of what they are getting should they choose to sign up for a paid credit monitoring service.

Once Soldiers have their credit report, Squires explained they can get an analysis of both their credit report and score through ACS by calling 287-2489 and asking for a credit analysis.

Squires offered several methods Soldiers can use to improve or build their credit.

One of the best ways is to use a credit card every once in a while for normal purchases such as groceries, she said.

Squires went on to explain that having credit cards and not using them doesn’t automatically lead to good credit because companies look at the high balance of the card and how well the payments have been kept up.

She said stability in income and employment is very important to building credit, and Soldiers can use some kind of collateral to gain secured loans, which also builds their credit.

Squires also explained that by setting a budget and keeping to it, Soldiers can work to build credit and save towards goals.

Goals can be anything they are planning to purchase, from a new computer to a big vacation or even retirement, she said.

“Be realistic in your budget,” Squires said, explaining that some Soldiers try to cut back too far in important areas, such as food.

Squires said to plan the budget for a year out, thinking about all the possible expenses that could come up during that year, including clothing, vehicle maintenance and taxes.

“Think about what is going to happen all year,” she said.

The most important part of the budget is sticking to it, Squires said.

“Budget is 90% attitude and 10% paper,” she said.

In order to help stay on budget by cutting some unnecessary costs, Soldiers can bring their lunch to work with them, rather than going out to eat everyday, Squires said.

She went on to add that Soldiers who live off post could save money on gas by taking their shower after physical training at a gym, rather than traveling back and forth several times a day.

Staff Sgt. Andrea Parris, the brigade legal section noncommissioned officer in charge, enjoyed the class.

“It was very informative,” Parris said. “I wish it could have been longer.”

Parris explained that she learned many of the things taught in the class the hard way, through experience, but there were still some things she did not know.

To her, the most important part was learning how to find out if anyone has filed an auto or homeowner’s insurance claim in her name, which can be done through a report called a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or C.L.U.E., report.

Parris plans on taking advantage of the C.L.U.E. report, as well as the credit analysis and other services she learned about during the class, and she hopes they offer the class again soon so that many more Soldiers can learn about the opportunities available to them.