DVIDS – News – Idaho National Guard Builds Fiscal Well-Being Through Financial Counseling

Capt. Ashley Thropp, who is a behavioral health officer for the Idaho Army National Guard and a clinical social worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has always known how to earn money, budget and save.

She joined the military when she was 17, always lived below her means, and ate bean and cheese burritos while earning her undergraduate degree because they were cheap and easy.

Although she’s still living below her means now, it wasn’t until after having her son two years ago that Thropp realized she didn’t understand a thing about investing.

At that time, Thropp decided to meet with one of the Idaho National Guard’s financial advisors to learn how to invest his money, prepare for a better retirement, and plan for his son’s future.

“I just had my son and was working from home at the time,” Thropp said. “My unit had posted information about free financial advice and I was wondering if the advisers could answer some questions about how my family could make better financial choices for our future.”

Financial advisory services

Idaho National Guard financial counselors provide tax assistance, offer credit management support and counseling opportunities, and provide training in money management, budgeting, and home buying. They also help service members achieve long-term goals, such as emergency savings, education, home buying, and retirement.

“Just like we need to see a medical professional for our annual checkups, it’s a good idea to see a financial professional to ensure a financially healthy future,” said Jennifer Wood, Personal Finance Advisor. of the Idaho National Guard.

Statistically, Wood said financial issues are reported in the top three areas where the military struggles the most. Because a service member’s financial problems affect their military readiness, the Idaho National Guard provides free financial counseling and services through credentialed financial advisors, like Wood, who are available to all branches of the military, their family members, Gold Star families, and veterans within 180 days of transitioning out of the military.

Initial financial appointments last approximately one hour and can be done in person, over the phone or via video conference. During this time, a financial advisor will get to know a person’s financial situation, gather information, and make a plan for the future.

“Together we identify where they are and where they want to be financially in the future,” Wood said. “Setting future financial goals gives the client a place to allocate money. Goals are identified, labeled and achieved through monthly allocations.

Make your investment profitable

During Thropp’s visit with the financial adviser, she said they discussed the five basic TSP funds, Lifecycle funds and what Thropp thinks about investment risk.

“The financial adviser told me about each of the different TSP funds, how they work and their risk tolerance,” Thropp said. “I learned that choosing a different fund could mean I was taking more risk with my investment, but the payoff was significantly better. She also helped me find investment percentages that I was comfortable with and that made sense to me.

After meeting with the financial adviser, Thropp opted to move his TSP funds from Fund G to more aggressive C and S options. Thropp said she’s thrilled her retirement investment has grown after just a few months.

The Thrift Savings Plan is the federally sponsored retirement plan for employees, for which all military service members are eligible. Despite contributing 15% of her custodial earnings since 2005, Thropp never accessed or managed her money in the TSP and so was defaulted to Option G, which Wood describes as a custodial account. glorified savings.

“I didn’t understand risk tolerance and investing until I met the financial advisor,” Thropp said. “I hadn’t realized that Fund G had only increased by very small percentages, compared to Funds C and S, which move with the market and have already increased significantly since I made the switch. I just wish I had known the benefits of contributing to different funds sooner.

In addition to TSP investment opportunities, Thropp learned about the importance of other investments, stand-alone mutual funds, and investing in his children’s education through a 529 Education account. Account 529 is an educational investment account, offered in every state, which in Idaho also offers a state tax benefit.

Wood said the money from a 529 accumulates much the same as the TSP, except it can only be used for all qualified education expenses, including kindergarten tuition. to grade 12 and expenses such as tuition, books and school supplies.

“I learned that the 529 plan evolves with the market and grows more over the years than it would through a savings account,” Thropp said. “The financial adviser showed me a graph of market growth over the last hundred year period. I opened mine last year, contributing $50 per paycheck to investing in the market So far I have invested $1750 of my own money and it is already at $2600.

While different TSP options and a 529 worked best for Thropp, financial counselors are able to provide information and options to service members and their families based on individual needs.

All investments involve risk, Wood said, and the level of risk one is willing to take is the amount of return an investor should expect to see.

“Not everyone is in a position to make a high-risk, high-reward investment,” Wood said. “That’s why I recommend investing in mutual funds over stocks for newbie investors. I realize that blockchain currency, like Bitcoin, is a flashy and exciting way to investing, but it’s also risky. I’ve seen service members who live paycheck to paycheck invest in cryptocurrency in hopes of making a bumper return, only to end up losing money. Investing slowly and steadily is the best way to gain wealth.

For Thropp, she said her goal is to contribute as much as possible now in her retirement, while she’s still young and able to afford to take higher risks with her investments.

Grateful for the benefits of the Guard

“Over the past few years, I think I may have taken for granted the services and benefits that are available to us as guards, such as free financial advice,” Thropp said. “I can easily call or arrange a video chat with a financial advisor. Other people don’t have this and when I look at it from this angle I realize how amazing it is to have these benefits at my fingertips and I try to share this knowledge with others .

Thropp said she encourages other guards to invest in their TSPs and to meet with a financial advisor about their retirement and investment opportunities to help them prepare for their future.

“I’m passing on this information because I wish I had known it myself early on,” Thropp said. “The Guard has so many opportunities and advantages available to us, if we only take advantage of them. I am very grateful to the Guard and what it has given me over the years to grow and improve my life, both personally and professionally.

In addition to financial services, the Idaho National Guard Member and Family Support Program also offers crisis intervention referral resources, legal resources, TRICARE resources, family support emergency, community information and outreach and financial services.

Visit https://www.imd.idaho.gov/personal-finance-counseling/ and https://www.imd.idaho.gov/idaho-national-guard/family-programs/ for more information.

Date taken: 05.09.2022
Date posted: 05.09.2022 17:34
Story ID: 420306
Location: BOISE, ID, United States

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