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FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profiles

fellowship_thomas.jpgArndrea Thomas
Goldsboro, North Carolina

“I like doing something that makes a difference and empowers people.”

Arndrea Thomas understands how important a family’s financial health is to the health of the family. Before the birth of her son, she and her husband James, an Air Force technical sergeant, paid for all of their living expenses with his salary—and deposited her entire salary into a savings account. Their extraordinary financial discipline helped the couple buy a house and save for the future, and it allowed them to keep their family financially sound even after Arndrea left her job to stay at home with their newborn son.

Today, as the only accredited financial counselor at the Airman and Family Readiness Center on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Arndrea serves as the core compliance expert on the base and works with the Family Life Programs as a community readiness specialist. She also inspires military servicemembers and couples with her success story.

“I like a challenge and I like helping people,” Arndrea said. “Finances are at people’s core, and it’s not healthy for a family to worry about money. I like doing something that makes a difference and empowers people.”

Arndrea, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, knows firsthand the challenges many military servicemembers and their families face. She grew up in a military town, and her husband of 14 years has spent 17 years in the military. She attributes some military families’ financial challenges to frequent moves and deployments, single incomes, escalating living costs and a lack of financial knowledge.

Arndrea’s unlikely path to becoming a financial manager began at East Carolina University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. Arndrea has a fondness for math and had always considered becoming a math teacher. After college, her interests in math and social work converged when she took a job as a social worker specializing in helping families manage their budgets.

At a Department of Defense conference in 2006, Arndrea met a military spouse who had recently completed the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program and who encouraged her to apply. After she was accepted into the program, her supervisor at the Airman and Family Readiness Center promoted her to financial manager.

Arndrea received her AFC designation in March 2008, just six months after receiving her FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Although Arndrea found the certification process challenging, she also felt that she received all the support she needed. More importantly, she believes the training increased her knowledge of personal finance issues “300 percent.”

The knowledge she gained through the FINRA Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program informs all of her interactions with the military servicemembers, couples and families who visit the center, where she also teaches classes and workshops and handles emergency relief loans. In November 2010, Arndrea’s work helping servicemembers with their personal finances earned her an Air Combat Command Award for Technician of the Year for the Airman and Family Services Flight.