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Protecting the military: CFPB teaches service members to be savvy consumers

Fort Bliss

POSTED: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 9:46pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 4:01pm

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), located in Washington, D.C., sent a special representative to the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy on Fort Bliss April 29 to speak about services they offer the military.
Hollister K. Petraeus, CFPB assistant director for Servicemember Affairs, spoke about what the bureau offers service members and their families. She spoke to USASMA students and later to their spouses on how the CFPB works to make markets better, encourage good business practices and identify bad ones.

“No matter how small or large your pay is, everybody can profit from paying attention to their finances,” said Petraeus. “I will fight to do everything I can to make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of.”

Married to former CIA director, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, Hollister is familiar with the financial challenges service members often face. She has previously served as the director of the Better Business Bureau Military Line, a partnership between the BBB and the Defense Department’s Financial Readiness Campaign that provides consumer education for service members and their families.

“She and her office do a lot for the military and service members,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory L. Malloy, USASMA commandant. “Whatever we can do to assist in her efforts to help our veterans, we will do.”

Malloy said Petraeus spoke to service members as well as their spouses at USASMA last year. Her guest lecture had some of the most positive responses from the students and cadre, so she was asked to return this year to provide useful financial advice once more. Malloy added that he hopes Petraeus will return next year.

“Mrs. Petraeus and her family have a rich military background,” said Malloy. “She certainly understands the broad spectrum of what it means to serve.”

During the question and answer session with service members, Petraeus shared real stories about how people lost money to scammers, or earned worthless degrees from unaccredited schools. She tested their financial knowledge with a multiple-choice questionnaire, joking that if they answered one particular question incorrectly, they would be doing push-ups outside.

“Ask questions before you sign a contract,” Petraeus said. “Don’t just focus on what the monthly payment is going to be. People have to protect themselves and do their homework.”

For instance, she pointed out some monthly payments may appear to be affordable, but with added interest people may end up paying more for a service or product than its original value. She also said she wants every service member to learn to be more responsible with his or her income and learn to avoid the scammers that target the military.

Petraeus added there are many ways to check a business out before signing on the dotted line. She gave an example of a scam that took place outside of Fort Bragg: people invested over $8 million only to find the scammers weren’t licensed brokers. At the end of her lecture, she told USASMA students she wanted all of them to succeed and be aware of resources, so they can help educate their subordinates.

 

“It’s been a pleasure to come back to Fort Bliss and I appreciate how much that the folks stationed here and their families do for all of us,” said Petraeus. “It is my honor to serve them in Washington.”

The goal of the CFPB is to provide the best financial education to the entire military community, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retirees, family members and veterans. To that end, Petraeus is constantly visiting military posts around the world.

“I’ve been to 73 military installations,” said Petraeus. “Next month I’m going to some bases in Europe, because I want them to know even though they are not stationed in the U.S., my agency still works for them.”

To share your own financial experiences or for more information about the CFPB, visit www.consumerfinance.gov. 

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