Financial Professionals Offer Wealth of Information
As published in the Fort Gordon Signal News (PDF 2.18 MB), February 2, 2007
Bonnie Heater, Signal staff writer-editor
This is part two of a three-part series on the financial forum offered at Fort Gordon on January 11, 2007
Frank Dong, financial advisor, gives advice on how to dig out of debt at the financial forum held January 11, 2007 at Alexander Hall. He is a retired Army officer, who joined the National Association of Securities Dealers in 2005 to head the Military Financial Education program.
The Fort Gordon Army Community Service in partnership with the National Association of Securities Dealers Investor Education Foundation presented a free financial forum for the post community on January 11, 2007 at Alexander Hall. The event was open to active duty service members, reservists, National Guard members, military retirees, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security civilian employees and their spouses.
Col. Bob Hoelscher, commandant of the Leader College of Information Technology at Fort Gordon, introduced the three presenters. “John Gannon is the executive director of the foundation and has been with NASD since 2001,” said Hoelscher. “John Komorske is vice president and counsel for NASD and Frank Dong is one of our own, a retired Army officer, who joined NASD in 2005 to head the Military Financial Education Program."
“The program is designed to help members of the military community better understand investing and the marketplace so that they can manage their money with confidence," he added.
During Dong’s presentation he spoke about car title loans. “A typical loan often has triple-digit annual interest rates,” explained Dong. The former University of Maryland professor said an individual could end up paying more in fees than for the car.
“In the end, if the borrower can not pay the car loan, the lender can repossess the car — and charge you for towing and storage of the vehicle,” said Dong.
The next topic was about digging out of debt. He recommended you call the business to which you owe money and ask them for more time to repay the debt. He also advised talking with the financial counseling personnel on your post or base.
“You can also work with a nonprofit debt counseling service,” said Dong. “You can contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit at (800) 388-2227 for a listing of nonprofit debt counseling services in your area."
“In addition, I recommend you organize your debt by the amount of interest charged and pay off the debt with the highest interest first, explained Dong. “Make the minimum payment due on all debts, but put any extra money toward the debt with the highest interest rate.”
The retired Army officer advised attendees to immediately stop purchasing with credit until their debt is paid off.
He also suggested members in the audience to limit themselves to only one major credit card and use it only for emergencies. “Until your debt is paid off I encourage individuals to pay only with cash or a debit card,” said Dong. “You can also consider consolidating your debts."
“Good credit is critical,” he continued. “It will affect the loan rate you can get on buying a car or home in the future."
“It’s important to establish good credit and keep it. If you don’t have credit yet, you can open an individual savings and checking account in your name to help you establish credit. You can also apply for a small loan at a bank, but pay it back promptly.”
Dong advised the audience to take out a secured bank loan and apply for department store and gasoline credit cards, which are easier to obtain than major credit cards. “You could also ask a friend or relative with good credit to co-sign a loan," he said.
“I would encourage everyone to check your credit report annually,” said Dong. “You can request a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.”
According to Dong, consumers can call the toll free number (877) 322-8228 and request a copy of their credit report or go on-line to www.annualcreditreport.com. “Report any and all problems to the credit bureaus immediately and request that a 'fraud alert' be placed on your file,” said the former Army officer.
“It is also important to know your credit score,” said Dong. “It’s usually a three digit number that lenders review to determine the likelihood of your repaying a loan or mortgage on time. I would check your credit report annually too. You can get your score by calling (877) 322-8228 or on-line at www.annualcreditreport.com."
"If you are tired of receiving numerous credit card or insurance offers you can elect to opt out," according to Dong. “You can contact the Credit Reporting Industry Pre-Screening Opt-Out Center at (888) 567-8688 or go on-line to www.optoutprescreen.com and ask to have your name removed from future credit card and insurance offers.
“Bankruptcy is a last resort,” he cautioned. “It may not provide the debt relief you seek.”
For more information about managing your credit and money with confidence check out the NASD Investor Education Foundation’s Web site: SaveAndInvest.org. It offers free, unbiased resources and tools.