FORT LEWIS, Wash. – Alarmed at the prospect of payday lenders preying on their active duty members or dependents, military credit unions are stepping up their financial education these days with the distribution of a new self-help guide on money management-a publication becoming one of the hottest giveaways on military bases. “My father is a retired military man, and I know first-hand the needs of military families which is why I consider financial education to be paramount,” explained Ken. S. Leonard, president of the $165 million Fort Lewis Community Federal Community Credit Union, which has provided a key role here in financing the guide, “Military Families: Money & Mobility.” The publication is actually the product of the National Military Family Association in Alexandria, Va. and has been in circulation for more than a year, but only in the last few months has the 61-page guide become in demand as military CUs, witnessing rising bankruptcies, began looking for new education instruments. “We had so many of our members get deployed overseas we needed something to help the dependents at home, so our president called up the Defense Council in Washington and by chance discovered this publication,” said Dana D. Giove, vice president and chief marketing officer of the 22,000-member Fort Lewis CU. To get copies out quickly to its Army members stationed on the base here as well as in Iraq, Fort Lewis CU in January donated $10,000 to pay for financing a second printing of the publication and it was joined by the Defense Credit Union Council, the D.C. trade group for military CUs which also gave $5,000. The reception to the book, said Giove, has been excellent and 8,000 copies are being given away this month to Army personnel at special education classes on managing personal finance being held on the base here and in deployment kits. The brochures, which contain budget forms, worksheets and spending tips, are also being sent to members’ homes at their request. As a further gesture in supporting the work of the D.C. family group, Fort Lewis said is donating another $10,000 for a second printing of the book later this year.. Expressing gratitude to Fort Lewis and other military CUs like Pentagon Federal, Navy Federal, Fort Stewart Georgia CU and others which have been supportive of NMFA work, officials of the organization said they are soliciting funds now from businesses and CUs for a rewrite of the book later this year to update chapters, particularly on payday lenders. “We know payday lending is causing big trouble and we want to make those chapters clear on repayment schedules and to simply discourage people from using some of these outlets,” said Lillie S. Cannon, deputy director of government relations for NMFA. The current book contains a section on payday lending called “Avoiding the Money Drains” and warns against unsavory practices of pawnshops, rent-to-own stores and title firms. “Too often when you approach the entrance to a military base you pass through a gauntlet of pawnshops, fast-food restaurants, payday-loan businesses and liquor stores” with many of the businesses “bad for your financial health,” warned the publication. “You can’t shut your eyes to these businesses, but you certainly don’t have to give them your money,” quotes the book going on to describe “the most common money drains.” The book suggests ways “you can climb out of debt” just in case an individual falls into one of those “money drains.” Agreeing on the book’s value, the Fort Stewart Georgia Federal CU in Hinesville said it ordered 250 copies of the publication for distribution last week to family members on the Fort Stewart Third Infantry Division Army base here. In an April 2 letter, Elaine R. Tuten, CEO of the $57 million CU, invited military family representatives to stop by CU branches to pick up a copy and to “use it for yourself or perhaps as a guide to help a friend in need.” The 20,000-member CU also said it sought to extend “our services to you, whether financial or not.” In an interview, Tuten, who is a director of the Defense Credit Union Council, said her CU is prepared to assist military family members in “any way we can” including help in finding counseling services. A number of the early casualties in the Iraq War have been from the Third ID. “We are all in this together,” wrote Tuten “and we appreciate any opportunity to serve.” She added, “if we can’t help with a situation, we will do our best to find someone who can.” She called the NMFA publication “a wonderful book” and timely “since I think few people realize so much bankruptcy” exists in military markets. In California, the $300 million March Community Credit Union of Moreno Valley said it received 300 copies of the NMFA book which is being distributed this month to senior commanders on the March Air Guard Reserve Base. “I’m a retired military man, but I think this would have been a great publication to give my wife while I was on duty,” said Larry McCarty, marketing manger at March Community, adding he expects to hand out copies “to a few of the ladies on our staff who have husbands overseas.” In Alexandria, NMFA said it was delighted with the late-blooming reception it was receiving from CUs around the country and said it was now signing up CUs as $500 corporate sponsors of the organization to help defray future costs of publication production as well as other expenses. NMFA, which gets its funding for the publication from the National Financial Education Foundation, said CUs signing up for corporate membership would receive 250 copies of the book for free. Julia Pfaff, NMFA executive director, said her organization, with 21,000 members, may not be well known to CUs around the nation “but we are embarking now on a visibility campaign to get on radar screens.” Up to now, she said, NMFA, founded in 1969 and which has members from all ranks of the seven uniformed services, has concentrated on working with the military branches as an advocacy group before Congress, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies but realizes the value of approaching corporations-both profit and non-profit-for help during this crisis period. “Financial literacy and issues affecting readiness are issues that we are dealing with now on a new level,” said Pfaff. NMFA lists Kellogg Co. and Boeing among its major corporate sponsors and six credit unions among the non-profits. Over the years, a major benefactor of NMFA has been Pentagon Federal which has made NMFA one of its SEGs allowing membership signups on the NMFA Web site. In addition, Pentagon Federal has provided various support services, printed brochures, conducted market surveys and donated meeting space. “We have a long standing relationship with Pentagon Federal which is a natural fit for us from a headquarters standpoint,” said Pfaff. NMFA is Alexandria while Pentagon is in nearby Vienna. Va. [email protected]

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