JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Whether it’s for a house, a car or to build credit, financial responsibility makes sense.
During a four-hour seminar Thursday, the USO of North Carolina Jacksonville presented Get It Together, a program designed to increase awareness about the importance of a good credit score, the need for a savings account, how to create and contribute to investment accounts and why financial responsibility is of the utmost importance. In attendance were more than 50 Marines, sailors and their spouses from 2nd Supply Battalion aboard Camp Lejeune.
For Marine Lance Cpl. Leilani Montanio, 21, of Camp Lejeune, being financially prepared for the future became even more evident thanks to the presentation. She realized that a credit score doesn’t just affect her ability to purchase a home or a vehicle, it also can prevent her from getting a job after the Marine Corps or limit her from attaining or maintaining a higher security clearance.
“I think the hardest part for me is understanding the credit report,” Montanio said. “Understanding inquiries, how to get things off (your report) and how to raise your credit score are important. This class has helped a lot because now I know that I can pull my credit report. I didn’t know what website to visit.”
The scariest thing that Montanio can envision financially is one day being in debt — something she said she hopes this class will prevent. At 21 years old, she wants to plan now for the family she will have in the future. She would recommend the class because she believes every young Marine needs to know how to establish and be responsible with credit and how to correct mistakes.
“The biggest take away I think is how to establish credit and manage my money,” Montanio said. “In my opinion I think it depends on the person but so far, Marines aren’t very good with money. I think it’s us being young. A lot of us coming out of high school are young and have the advantage of just having money to spend however we want. I think sometimes we take advantage of that and go crazy.”
Being in charge of the detachment attending the class, Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Childs, 47, of Jacksonville, said he initially came to make sure his Marines and sailors attended like they were supposed to, but after the class began, he started learning things he didn’t know or had forgotten over the years.
“I think the Marines are going to walk away knowing how to better manage their money,” he said. “Being able to look further down into their future and past the next payday, being able to buy a house or a car is important and that is something I wasn’t able to do in that particular time of my life.”
Back when he joined the Corps, he said people weren’t given extensive classes like the one at the USO. He feels it’s something that will make the Marines better in the long run and lead them towards financial independence and success, he said.
Currently preparing for retirement, Childs said he isn’t 100-percent ready, but he now knows how to prepare a little better. Finances, he said, “are interesting and important” and having someone who doesn’t wear a uniform talk to the Marines simply reinforced the classes and resources the Marines and sailors have gotten on base.
“A lot more Marines are married now than I remember from when I came in,” he said. “Now that I see the guys coming in married, they have family responsibilities. They need these classes. They are still young with a young mindset. We make money, then we spend money. That’s not a good mindset to have.”
As one of the instructors and the chief executive officer of Get It Together, Hallie Hawkins, said the feeling of financial responsibility and independence is a successful one.
In addition to the presentation, Hawkins said the servicemembers were given a free review of their credit report, two free online classes and a 15-minute one-on-one sit down with the instructors to discuss financial concerns or questions.
“We want people to walk away knowing how to think about things,” Hawkins said. “Everybody is told what to do and what you have to do. It’s always about telling. We think people need to be creative and think about things for themselves. They need to think about their world and what is important to them. Only then can they realize how they want to spend their money. Once that thought process is accomplished they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.”