By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs
The U.S. Navy is dedicated to teaching Sailors how to use their money wisely. During the annual Military Saves week, which took place Feb. 26-March 2, Sailors and their families were offered numerous classes to learn important money saving advice. 
"Rather than just have classes in one location this year, we went to numerous locations around Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) so we could get our message out to the masses," said John Baker, NAS Jax Fleet and Family Support Center's personal financial manager and financial educator.
During the opening event, military members raised their hands to commit themselves to save money, reduce debt and build wealth during Military Saves week.
"This year's theme is 'Start Small, Think Big' and we stress to set goals, make a plan and you will save automatically," said Baker.
Topics of the week included debt reduction strategies, retirement planning, and car buying. With the upcoming election of the Blended Retirement System for military, several classes were offered by Bob Bieri from Navy Mutual.
"It is completely possible for a Sailor to retire from the Navy and have a million dollars in their Thrift Savings Program (TSP)," said Bieri.
During a presentation at Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, Bieri spoke about the benefits of the new retirement system, the differences in individual retirement accounts and how the TSP funds differ.
"If you aren't planning on making the Navy into a career, this gives you an option to put some money aside for your future, which is a great thing," said Bieri. "The future can be uncertain and with this system, your money will be there waiting for you."
During the car buying class, Baker told the attendees the most powerful tool they have is their feet.
"I have left a car dealership in the middle of the extended warranty process and been chased down and off lots," Baker said.
Baker educated Sailors about the difference between invoice prices on vehicles versus the manufacturer's suggested retail price. He also said to check for all incentives and do not feel pressured into dealer add-ons - they can remove them and he advised that buyers can save by doing your own pinstriping.
Baker also spoke about credit management at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Jacksonville. He highlighted how hard and soft credit inquiries affect credit and how to fix your credit. Baker's advice was to never pay for credit counseling as there are many organizations locally that can help for free. He also stressed the importance of contacting credit card companies about the Servicemember Civil Relief Act, so lower interest rates can be obtained for military members.
"Even though I have been retired for two years, I recently called and got a $5,000 credit on a card I've had since 2003," Baker said.
Youths at the Youth Activities Center also learned about the benefits of saving money. Participants were handed paper money and Baker showed them a three-step process with jars on how to share, save and spend. Baker asked the children how they chose to spend their money and talked about how to save money while shopping.
"I'm going to tell my parents that I need to put my money in a bank account," said Cassidy Kelly, age 8.
The week wrapped up with presentations by VyStar Credit Union representatives, who helped sponsor the event by donating $25 gift cards that were given away at each brief and goody bags for the children.
Baker stressed that some financial classes are held quarterly for those who missed some of the classes. For class information or questions, contact Baker at 542-5635 or email at john.c.baker.ctr@navy.mil.
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