Savings program is zero risk for troops
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Troops assigned to hot spots around the world are finding out that today’s stock market may not be the place to invest their hard-earned cash.
Wall Street investors gloomily watched as the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its third straight yearly loss, but troops in places such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan were watching their money grow.
Dating back to Vietnam, troops have been taking advantage of the Savings Deposit Program, which guarantees a 10 percent annual return.
“Looking at different types of investment [and] the risk, there’s zero amount of risk,” said Capt. Joe Baugh of the 220th Finance Detachment, who is a certified public accountant in his civilian life. “That’s basically unheard of in the investment world.”
The savings program is available to troops assigned to Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Northern Watch over Iraq and Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo.
Servicemembers deployed to one of the regions for 30 consecutive days — or at least one day for three straight months — are eligible for the program.
“This gives (troops) opportunity to take money and put it in an investment that earns money instead of sitting stagnant,” Baugh said.
Since September, enlisted and officers assigned to Operation Joint Forge have put in more than $500,000.
The maximum amount a servicemember can put into the program is limited to $10,000, but there is no minimum, Baugh said. Troops can remain enrolled in the program up to 90 days after their deployments end.
“It’s a great way to pick up an additional couple hundred dollars while you’re here (in Bosnia),” Baugh said.
Signing up for the program is easy, he said.
Active-duty soldiers have the option of making deposits by allotments, while National Guard and Reserve troops can use cash and write personal checks.
For troops downrange, where their pay is tax-free, only the interest earned through the savings program is taxable, not the deposit.
Unfortunately, not everyone takes part in the program, for various reasons, Baugh said.
“Not as many people participate as are eligible, but not everyone can participate because they might have obligations back home,” he said.
Sgt. James Marchiano of A Company, 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment, said half of his paycheck goes to paying off a business loan at home.
And then there are souvenirs to buy, Marchiano said.
“Saving is not an option cause everybody at home wants stuff from Bosnia or Hungary or Germany,” he said.
Others simply don’t know about the investment opportunity.
“Whenever we get free time with soldiers, we highly encourage them,” said Baugh who said he is only short by a few hundred dollars from the maximum.
“I would have taken part in it, but I didn’t know about it,” said Pfc. Dana Macdonald of 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment from Camp Connor, two hours from Eagle Base.
“I didn’t save any money,” Macdonald said.
During his visit to Eagle Base where the finance office is open six days a week, he planned to stop in.
Why not? It’s exactly like money in the bank.