My Coast Guard

Holiday Spending Decisions to Make? 

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Writer

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Assistance with your spend plan—especially during this holiday season—is just one of the services offered by personal financial managers (PFMs), the Coast Guard’s own cadre of Accredited Financial Counselors©  available to provide free services to members, families and civilians.

“The personal financial managers can help members budget and develop a spending plan that includes a savings plan,” said Joni Jann, a personal financial management (PFM) program specialist. There are 13 PFMs across the country covering each district who can assist with financial counseling, resources, training and education.

For many, the holiday season also marks the close of the calendar year and a time to calculate end-of-the-year expenses. PFMs can provide resources and information, and are able to facilitate a year in review of spending habits. They can provide simple suggestions and tips that can help clients achieve their 2021 financial goals. 

“We partner with CG SUPRT, DoD, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and others,” said Lisa Johnson, the Family Support Services Program Manager, a position that includes overseeing the Personal Financial Management Program. 

The program has a contract with CG SUPRT to offer members unlimited 30-minute telephonic money coaching sessions with specialists on an array of topics. There are many other services offered through the CG SUPRT Personal Financial Wellness Program, for example, financial classes on home ownership, long-term and seasonal planning, estate planning, virtual webinars and free online tax filing through H&R Block, to name a few. 

“We triage the member’s situation within the Office of Work Life,” Johnson explained. “No matter the life event, the root cause may be stemming from finances and it’s the PFMs job to understand that root cause, to be able to assist and do a deeper dive, and to take a holistic approach,” said Johnson. 

The triage approach is an important message, especially during this year, where so many have been impacted financially, and may identify the COVID-19 pandemic as their root cause for financial strain.

“They [PFMs] help people overcome when they have a situation like a foreclosure. We have success stories of helping people clear out debt, understanding continuation pay, navigating blended retirement, and we will even run credit scores to talk you through your credit regarding its impact on security clearances,” said Ashley Kampfe, the Personal Financial Management Program Coordinator. 

Personal financial managers can also help Coast Guard clients create a plan for successfully paying back the Payroll Tax Deferral for the months of January-April, 2021. To begin, it’s as easy as reaching out to their assigned PFM. 

The Personal Financial Management Program categorizes the heart of their service offerings through three pillars: 

  • Education, training and financial counseling
  • Working with Command Financial Specialists 
  • CG SUPRT Personal Financial Wellness services

The CFS Program allows financial assistance to be better implemented at the unit level.  The PFMs distribute messages to the commands through the CFSs, who are referred to as “force multipliers” and are a unit’s source for financial education and training.

The Command Financial Specialists are required to undergo a 40-hour training and be designated by their command. “There are approximately 350 CFSs in the field and that number is growing. The CFSs work very closely with their District PFMs,” said Johnson. 

The PFMs travel up to 50% (aside from COVID timeframe) to reach remote and isolated units and partner with CG SUPRT to share financial education with members.  During this unique COVID timeframe, services have been adapted to accommodate online and virtual offerings.

“All of our PFMs are rock stars and I am so proud of them,” said Kampfe.

In agreement, Johnson said, “My proudest moment since the expansion of the Personal Financial Management Program has been watching this program come to fruition and knowing the impact it’s made on our members’ lives.”

If you want to know how PFMs can assist you with a financial plan this holiday season and beyond, a comprehensive list of resources for the Personal Financial Management Program can be found on the HSWL website.