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You work hard for it. You spend it freely. You routinely save it so when you are no longer able to work and barely able to shop, you will somehow manage to survive.

As usual, theory is one thing and reality is another.

According to the 2010 Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual Retirement Confidence Survey, 43 percent of workers admit to having less than $10,000 saved for their own golden years.

You don’t need a savvy financial counselor to tell you that $10,000 won’t get you very far in what will hopefully be the rest of your post-work life.

To make up for your financial shortfall, you could plan to work forever, assuming you can continue to find work when the market will be filled with other members of the gray hair-no hair generation doing the same thing. Maybe by then age discrimination will be a non-issue anyhow.

Or you could get smart now and start routinely saving a portion of your hard-earned paycheck now while you are enjoying your prime salary earning years. Now. (See a pattern developing here, Sparky?)

If you’re feeling clueless at the mere thought, begin your journey to a funded retirement by visiting SaveAndInvest.Org, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation Web site that provides free, unbiased financial information and tools to military families and older investors. Maybe you even fall into both of those categories and can benefit twice as much!

At, you can not only learn how to manage your money now and plan for retirement, but you can also get tips on how to buy a home, save for college, protect your identity and deftly handle your finances through PCS moves and deployments.

And if you feel you need a savvy financial planner, then you can use FINRA’s BrokerCheck (at to make sure the one you’re about to work with is indeed savvy, reputable and not connected to Ponzie scheme king Bernie Madoff.

Better yet, why not just become a savvy financial planner and learn all the answers for yourself?

If you’re an eligible military spouse, FINRA may be able to help with this.

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program, now in its fifth year, has opened the 2010 application process for new fellows.

The program provides fellowship recipients with the education needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation. The program covers the costs associated with completing the AFC training and testing.

The fellowship is administered in partnership with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) and the National Military Family Association (NMFA).

You are eligible if you are a current or spouse of an active duty or retired Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army or Air National Guard or reserve component servicemember. Spouses of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are also eligible.

Earning this credential not only gives you a marketable and portable job skill but it also gives you the added expertise to help your family and other military families overcome financial challenges — such as not saving enough money for retirement.

Recipients of the fellowship must commit to completing the course of study and to volunteering or working in the financial counseling field for up to two years.

According to FINRA, spouse fellows have so far logged more than 185,000 practicum hours assisting the military community. The program has graduated 188 fellows.

To learn more about the fellowship, visit Applications are available online and are due April 30.

And start thinking about how you’ll survive financially in your golden years. Now.

Janet Farley’s column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at:


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