Andrews AFB chaplains enrich Airman spiritually, materially

AIR FORCE DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON -- Holiday spending time is here, but one Airman assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., recently learned how to make the holidays even more special: by sticking to her budget.

Through the Financial Peace University seminar at the base chapel, Airman 1st Class Ambier Garris, 779th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, discovered her personal financial freedom through the class' teachings.

"I took this class to gain greater knowledge in the financial portion of my life and to help pay off my credit cards and student loans," said Airman Garris. "I heard about the class through Chaplain Hughley. She handed me the flyer and told me that the class could be of great assistance to me."

Chaplain (Capt.) Mark McKellen, 316th Wing protestant chaplain and FPU facilitator, said the class teaches financial responsibility -- especially since finances impact lives. "The material works. When FPU's techniques are followed, it sets the person or family up for financial success," said Chaplain McKellen. "Statistically, many marriages fail as a result of finances. This material is a tool which can help military members be successful, not only in their financial part of life, but in all aspects of their lives."

According to Chaplain McKellen, families pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 on average during the course of the class. At Andrews, the last FPU graduating class paid off a total of $14,000 in debt and saved $10,000. "In just the first three weeks, one class member paid off $1,300 in debt and another paid off $2,400 in debt," added Chaplain McKellen.

Chaplain McKellen explained the course's success, "Each student learns how to dump debt and build wealth -- basically it teaches how to make your money work for you rather than the other way around."

Airman Garris agreed saying, "I have learned a great deal while participating in this course. I have learned the facts and myths about my credit score, loans, and finances in general. I now know that I do not have to be in debt just to have a good credit score -- I learned that debt consolidation is not the way to go."

Airman Garris said one key misperception she overcame was that it was not difficult to be in control of her budget. "I learned many other key facts, but the fact that sticks out the most is that it doesn't take a lot to take control of your finances," said Airman Garris. "I am taking control of my finances at 20 years of age and I will continue to do just that."

"Financial bondage is the single-most leading cause of stress when it comes to family, social and personal problems. Money doesn't make you happy, but being able to take control of what you have by investing it, saving it, or giving some of it away does make you happy," said Airman Garris.

Airman Garris said she was able to start saving money immediately. "The class was introduced to the idea of having an emergency fund so I started setting aside a certain amount of money out of every check so that I can have a fully funded emergency fund," said Airman Garris. "For my income level, I only need to save up to $500 and so far I have saved up $200. Eventually I will have about $1,000 saved up and I will go on to have 3 to 6 months worth of money saved up just in case I get sick and can't work." In addition having an emergency account, Airman Garris has paid off four credit cards.

The class is in the sixth week of training and Airman Garris said the hardest habit to break was buying fast food. "I figured out that fast food was where the majority of my money was going," said Airman Garris. "I put myself on a budget so when I have reached my spending limit on fast food, I don't spend another dime of money in a fast food restaurant." Airman Garris said that by breaking this habit, she learned an important lesson, "When I begun to pay off debts, I realized that in doing that, it took the place of my habit to buy unneeded items -- which ultimately makes me a better person."

Through the class, Airman Garris also realized that it's never too late to learn how to budget. "The most important information that I could give anyone would be that no matter what your age -- or your financial situation -- you have to take control of your finances. This is ultimately your life."