By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
What is a no-load mutual fund? What is a junk bond? Which organization insures investors against losses in the stock market?
Military service members are among the 71 percent of Americans who don't know the answers to these and other financial-related questions. An online resource, saveandinvest.org, is now available to help provide answers.
Two years ago, a quiz was posted on the military.com Web site, and more than 1,500 service members and their spouses logged on to take it. A large majority failed the quiz.
"We looked at a broad cross-section of the military population (to include spouses)," said Gerri Walsh, vice president of investor education with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Only 11 percent of service members below age 30 passed the quiz, Walsh said.
Saveandinvest.org is a nonprofit, unbiased resource, started about two years ago, that provides online credit and financial management tools. The resource targets military service members and civilians over 55, to help them grasp financial concepts.
All of the information posted to the site is free and unbiased, and is written by regulators of the Federal Trade Commission.
The program was developed with the idea that military members are underserved, and the campaign came from a sense that financial readiness goes hand-in-hand with military readiness.
"During a deployment, a soldier (or his family) shouldn't have to worry about bill collectors, retirement or credit scores," Walsh said.
The program, designed to help military members manage their money with confidence, has reached out to more than 12,000 people on 38 military installations.
There are many other tools accessible to those who browse the Web site. Browsers will find financial resources including how to start a savings plan, building and managing a budget, saving for college or retirement, buying a home and understanding and improving one's credit score.
A counseling education program also is available. It's directed toward military spouses who often experience financial difficulties during transition periods such as deployments and relocations to other installations.
"It's hard for spouses to keep a job during periods of transition," Walsh said. "We offer spouses the opportunity to earn a portable credential designation, which helps them to get a job in the financial industry."
The distance learning course takes about two years to complete and requires passing two exams and completing a practicum component.
The self-study program is designed to help spouses help one another and give back to the military community in the form of financial counseling.
"There are opportunities (for trained persons) to provide (financial counseling) at places like morale and welfare groups," Walsh said.
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.