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September 6, 2012

By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff Writer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 6, 2012) -- Army Community Service and the Fort Rucker Installation Chaplains Office present Financial Peace University Tuesdays from Sept. 11 through Dec. 4 from 5:30-8 p.m. to help Soldiers, Families and Department of Defense civilians beat debt and build a more stable future.

The course enables participants to tell their money where it is going to go and what it's going to do instead of their money constantly making them work for it, said Beth Gunter, financial counselor with Survivor Outreach Services, adding that the program is a life-changing way of looking at finances.

"The course is a 13-week program that works on finances in baby steps. So, instead of being overwhelmed with information about what you're supposed to do about your finances, it goes through it in increments that build on each other so that you can make wise decisions about your money," she said.

Being so long, the course can seem daunting, but Gunter assures people that if they can stick with it the course will make a behavioral change that will stay with them long after.

Classes will be held at Wings Chapel on Andrews Avenue and are free, but it is only open to military, their Family members and DOD civilians. The chapel will provide a meal before each session.

A one-time $10 donation is asked to be donated to help cover costs. There is a child watch program for parents who wish to participate, but Gunter said that parents must register children ASAP.

"We are making a big investment in the attendees because we feed them each night, its free and they get a kit to help them in their journey to financial stabilization. That is why we ask for each member to stay the entire 13 weeks because that is what makes the program successful," she said.

There have been attendees who are not in debt and attended the program, but Gunter said that the majority of attendees have some form of debt that they want to take control over.

"What's really great is the first hour is a video presentation by Dave Ramsey and then the second hour we will break down into small groups with one or two counselors to each group to discuss the lessons and the obstacles that come up in life that prevent people from doing the things they want," she said.

The program can help attendees who are in debt and seeking financial counseling to become debt free and also people looking for ways to acquire wealth.

"The first four lessons go over how to get rid of debt and live out of debt. It teaches them how to make major purchases like washers and dryers or even cars with cash and have a spending plan that allows them to do it," she said.

Because of the way the program is designed, Gunter said that it is very important that registered participants attend every week.

"The program works in a specific way, especially concerning the cohesiveness of the small groups, so it is required that people who sign up be present. We realize that mission comes first and students that may be going through flight school or have to leave for another school can't make it because of training. We can work with them as long as they are making the program a priority. We ask that people who know they will be constantly tardy or missing every other week because of their child's schedule to not register, because that takes a seat away from someone who has a more open schedule. They need to have the ambition to be there," she said.

There will be homework each night, so participants should expect regular reading.

"There will be reading, as well as assignments to developing different plans like an emergency plan and a spending plan. The homework isn't hours of hard labor, but there will be a certain amount of work that participants will have to complete at home," she said.

Gunter said that participants will learn how to developed a spending plan and a thrift savings plan; how to eliminate debt; living outside of debt; how to make plans for future expenditures; make investments; differences between stocks, bonds and mutual funds; how to get bargains; how to not be taken advantage of; and proper insurances.

Participants' feedback on past sessions of FPU has encouraged ACS to continue with the program.

Some of the testimonials were: "My husband and I are not living paycheck to paycheck as before," "We have completely restructured our lives. We are living like no one else and making much better financial decisions," and "FPU has made paying off our debt realistic."

Having the ability to succeed in living outside of debt is empowering, and Gunter said it is the main reason why people should participate in the program.

"To live out of debt is really liberating. Knowing that you get to make the decisions about what you want to do with your money and knowing that you can really do it is encouraging to others," she said.

Registration is open until Sept. 7 and seating is limited. Those interested may call 255-9639 for more information.