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Consumer Watch: Start saving money, reducing debt during Military Saves Week

Feb. 21, 2014 - 04:14PM   |  
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How would it feel to have $1.2 million in savings and other assets by the time you’re 38?

You can see some real-life examples of service members who have done just that on the militarysaves.org website. With Military Saves Week — Feb. 24 through March 1 — comes special offers from local financial institutions that serve troops and families, as well as tips and information to help jump-start or fine-tune your savings skills.

The yearlong Military Saves effort is part of the nonprofit America Saves campaign, and a partner in the Defense Department’s Financial Readiness Campaign. Its goal is to motivate and support military families in their efforts to save money, reduce debt and build wealth.

A number of financial institutions, large and small, that cater primarily to the military community are sponsoring educational activities, and some are offering incentives during that week. For example:

■ Offerings from military banks vary by location, but include incentives such as a $100 bonus for the 13th month of a savings account; special savings accounts; $50 savings certificates; matching contributions; special child/youth accounts; classes and seminars; higher-interest rate promotions; donations to military aid societies for opening an account, and many others, according to the Association of Military Banks of America.

■ Fort Belvoir Credit Union in northern Virginia is offering a 10 percent annual yield on new certificates of deposit for active-duty troops who are members of the credit union. It’s a 12-month term with a maximum deposit of $1,000, which would earn you $97.62 — not huge, but it’s a start, and better than the estimated $10 you’d earn elsewhere on a similar product these days.

■ Pacific Marine Credit Union in the San Diego area is offering a 4 percent annual rate for certificates of deposit of as little as $100 and up to $500. You can make additional deposits of anywhere from $10 to $500 each month.

■ Navy Federal Credit Union is offering a $100 IRA bonus for opening your first IRA with the credit union or for an IRA rollover/direct transfer. NFCU also has increased its interest rates for certificates of deposit for three, four, five, six or seven years, all with minimum deposits of $1,000.

■ Service Credit Union is offering a Military Saves Account with a 2 percent annual yield on balances up to $2,500 when the member has or starts direct deposit and sets up automatic monthly deposits of at least $25 to the account.

■ Schofield Federal Credit Union at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is offering an account with a 1 percent annual yield for 12 months. This promotion extends to March 17.

■ Fort Sill Federal Credit Union will deposit the initial $5 to a member’s share account and $5 to open a Military Saves savings account. FSFCU will also offer a six-month Military Saves share certificate at 1 percent annual yield.

■ VyStar Credit Union is waiving the membership fee when an account is opened at the branch at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and giving a $25 gift card for those who open a savings account, certificate of deposit or money market account at that branch.

■ Scott Credit Union in Illinois is offering a $50 coupon by email to members who live on Scott Air Force Base and in surrounding communities with a lot of military families. Anyone who opens an account will receive $50. Existing members will receive $50 if they sign up for SCU online, bill pay or a debit card.

■ MAC Federal Credit Union at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, is offering a Military Saves account. Those who deposit at least $100 for 12 consecutive months, with no withdrawals of the minimum $100, will earn a bonus dividend in the 13th month.

■ Security Service Federal Credit Union’s campaign includes a cash deposit in new military savings accounts that are opened; and higher-than-published rates when a new certificate of deposit is opened.

Many financial institutions, such as Pen Air Federal Credit Union in Pensacola, Fla., are offering events aimed at capturing interest in saving. Pen Air’s “The Savings Poker Run,” in partnership with the NAS Pensacola fleet and family support center, offers five areas on base with savings tips, with chances for prizes.

■ Andrews Federal Credit Union’s series of seminars includes “Plastic Surgery: Repair Your Credit and Start Fresh” on Feb. 24 and 26; “Teens and Money,” Feb. 26; and “It’s Your Money: Take Charge!” on March 1. Check with the credit union for locations and times.

■ Kirtland Federal Credit Union will hold a “Saving and Investing” seminar Feb. 25, with lunch; and a workshop Feb. 28 on “What it really costs to move off base.” Throughout the week there will be drawings for free Visa gift cards.

■ Fort Gordon Community Credit Union is holding an essay contest for 7th- and 8th-grade students with the topic “What are the benefits of saving money from a young age?” First place nets $100; second place, $50; and third place, $25. Deadline is March 1.

Remember that most of these promotions are limited to Military Saves Week, although many of these institutions have other deals during the year.

Barring an unexpected windfall like an inheritance, you won’t get rich in a year. But any time is a good time to take the first step down the path toward financial well-being, and these tools can help you get started.

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