The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has enlisted 195 military spouses in finance boot-camp. No push-ups required.
The fellowship program, now in its fourth year, is intended to churn out a class of accredited financial counselors to battle the scam-artists and money land-mines that often damage military families.
The program is funded, in part, from a $12 million settlement from First Command Financial Planning, a Texas broker-dealer accused by the SEC of pitching fraudulent products to military families.
"We saw that the military as an identifiable population was being targeted for predatory financial schemes and specifically fraud," said Gerri Walsh, vice president of financial education at FINRA. "There was a great need."
A 2005 FINRA survey found that only 29% of military families who described themselves as investors could pass a basic test of financial literacy.
Not only does the fellowship program barrage the ranks with knowledge about saving, investing and how to smell an interest-rate rat, but it provides a solid – and, more importantly, portable -- vocation for military spouses.
Previous fellows include Kimberly Henne, a military wife of almost 20 years who is now dispensing tax advice at an airfield in Italy. La Tawnya Belen used the fellowship to land a job at a credit union in Virginia. While, Renee Jaffer finished the program from Okinawa, Japan in the wee hours of the morning.
That's a long way from Wall Street...or even Main Street, for that matter.
The AFC process comprises two courses and a test-fee and costs about $850. Some 2,200 spouses applied for the funding this year, according to FINRA.
The program, which is also supported by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education and the National Military Family Association, is open to spouses of active duty personnel in all branches of the U.S. military.
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