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Kelvin Boston, the host of the award-winning PBS financial literacy series "Moneywise," in conjunction with Military Saves, is touring U.S. Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout Japan, encouraging servicemembers and their families to make wise financial decisions and teaching people how to become financially independent.

Kelvin Boston, the host of the award-winning PBS financial literacy series "Moneywise," in conjunction with Military Saves, is touring U.S. Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout Japan, encouraging servicemembers and their families to make wise financial decisions and teaching people how to become financially independent. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

Kelvin Boston, the host of the award-winning PBS financial literacy series “Moneywise,” has spent years teaching people how to become financially successful.

As part of his first international series of presentations, Boston is reaching out to servicemembers in Japan and on Okinawa to show them how to become financially independent.

“If you are in the military, and if you can do three things, you can reach financial success,” Boston said last week during a visit to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. “Reduce consumer debt. Increase savings. And max out your benefits.”

According to Boston, understanding how consumer debt works is the key to reducing it.

“You don’t need to use your credit card to go to McDonald’s,” he said. “You want to save consumer debt for big things like buying a home or flying home on an emergency.”

Boston said consumer debt and a lack of savings often go hand-in-hand.

“What we are finding is that a lot of people use predatory lenders,” Boston said. “But if they had an emergency fund, then they wouldn’t have to go use the lenders.”

During Boston’s Yokosuka presentation, David DuBois, the manager and principle adviser of military career readiness for Commander, Navy Installations Command, told the audience that in some states — he cited California as an example — there are more predatory lending businesses than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.

“Another thing I try to talk to people about is saving for short-term goals and long-term goals,” Boston said. “That is where I tell people to increase their savings.”

Boston suggested using the Thrift Savings Plan and, if at all possible, looking into opening an Individual Retirement Account.

He also stressed the importance of having a written plan, which he said will help people understand how and where their money is being used so they can reach their financial goals.

“I don’t expect everyone to be a financial expert, but it is important to have a strategy, and that’s where a financial plan comes in,” Boston said. “But even if you spend $100 to sit down with a certified financial planner, it will be the best money you’ve spent."

Boston’s third pillar to financial success in the military is to maximize the use of military benefits. In particular, Boston touched again on the importance of contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan and getting the most out of the medical and dental services; morale, welfare and recreation; and Fleet and Family Support Services.

“Every time you go out to serve your country, you are helping to raise up the American people,” Boston said. “So we offer you these benefits to help raise you up. But if you don’t take advantage of them, you’re not only letting yourself down; in a way, you’re also letting us down.”

Boston’s speaking engagements are part of the Military Saves program.

For more information on Military Saves, go online to www.militarysaves.org. More information on “Moneywise” and Boston can be found at http://www.moneywise.tv.

Meet Kelvin BostonMonday - MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Tuesday - Camp Fuji, Japan

Wednesday - Camp Foster, Okinawa

Thursday - Camp Foster, Okinawa

Small investments add up

What will $100 a month do for you?

A lot, if you invest it, says financial expert Kelvin Boston.

In fact, he has a name for folks who do just that: “super savers.”

Boston said a lot of junior servicemembers are super savers and have the most to benefit from programs like the Thrift Savings Plan.

“If you can invest that $100 each month into long-term savings, like your TSP, over time you are going to have a lot of money,” Boston said.

“A lot of financial planners don’t want to deal with the small savers, but I think that’s wrong,” Boston said. “With the super savers and compound interest over time, that’s how you gain financial success.”

Boston said too many financial planners are too focused on looking for that person who is going to give them $5,000 to $10,000 to invest in one deal, or who are at the end of a military career and are looking to score a rollover with a large sum.

“But where does that large sum come from?” Boston said. “It comes from consistently saving small amounts. Just do your best — over time.”

— Chris Fowler

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