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FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profiles

Cathy YoakumCathy Yoakum
Aviano Air Base, Italy

"You never know when a big crisis is going to hit, and if you've made a habit to live within your means, you can weather any storm. Be a saver. Learn to budget in a savings plan the same way you budget for dining out or renting videos. And use a debit card or cash for that meal or video, not a credit card."

Three days before the deadline to apply for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program, Cathy Yoakum saw a program posting and immediately applied.

"I thought the fellowship would be an ideal opportunity to help other military families," said Cathy, who for years has been her family's accountant and "finance guru."

Nearly 15 years had passed since her graduation from Chico State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance. And after staying home with her children, substitute teaching, working in a credit union and serving as a religious education coordinator at multiple installations, Cathy was looking for a way to use her degree and refresh her financial knowledge.

The Southern California native benefited the most from the fellowship's courses on debt, she said.

Cathy and her husband, who has been in the Air Force for 24 years, have learned to live on one income, an experience she shares with clients as a volunteer at the Airman & Family Readiness Center and the Tax Center at Aviano Air Base in Northeastern Italy—the fifth base that Cathy and her husband, Chief Master Sgt. Mike Yoakum, have moved to in 20 years of marriage. This summer, the couple and their children, 18-year-old Shelby and 13-year-old Tyler, will move to Vacaville, California.

At the Airman & Family Readiness Center, Cathy coordinates and teaches classes and financial readiness events. At the Tax Center, she processes taxes, answers servicemembers' tax questions and encourages clients to enroll in the Thrift Savings Plan or start a Roth IRA.

"You never know when a big crisis is going to hit, and if you've made a habit to live within your means, you can weather any storm," Cathy said. "Be a saver. Learn to budget in a savings plan the same way you budget for dining out or renting videos. And use a debit card or cash for that meal or video, not a credit card."

During the recent Military Saves Week, Cathy co-taught Money Matters, a class for the Aviano Youth Program. She plans to continue to expand her career in financial education and counseling after her family's move back to the United States, with a goal of "spreading the word about how important it is to live within your means, have a budget and save," she said.