By Bruce McClary
Members of the U.S. armed forces, Coast Guard, veterans, and their families face financial challenges often not adequately addressed by resources designed for the general public. Recent preliminary data from the Sharpen Your Financial Focus® (Sharpen) program reveals military families face unique challenges. For example, military Sharpen participants had higher unsecured debt balances ($400-$500 more) than the average Sharpen participant. Fewer tangible assets and higher debt-related expenses were also more common among these families. Relocation, frequent deployment, and changes in local economic conditions are likely among the factors influencing these results.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) and the American Library Association (ALA) are working together to provide locally-based resources that help improve the financial lives of service members, veterans and their families in libraries across the country. ALA and NFCC have identified libraries and NFCC member agencies with significant populations of veterans and/or military families and the capacity and desire to initiate a new collaboration to deliver financial education services and resources tailored to this community. These local partners agreed to be at the forefront of this effort and share learnings that can inform how to improve and expand such services more broadly. They are:
California: Contra Costa County Library with CCCS of San Francisco, El Dorado High School Library (Placentia) with CCCS of Orange County, and Los Angeles Public Library with Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management.
District of Columbia: District of Columbia Public Library with Agency to be Determined
NFCC member agencies are working with libraries to offer financial education workshops, access to personalized counseling, and other resources that help families reach their financial goals and contribute to the economic stability of their neighborhoods. The workshops are being delivered by NFCC Certified Credit Counselors in libraries and will cover subjects like housing, budgeting, banking, credit, PCS & deployment, and career transition into civilian life. Additional support is available in the form of direct counseling that can be accessed through the nonprofit NFCC members participating in this project.
Support for these programs is offered by Wells Fargo as a part of Hands on Banking® for the Military program.