Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The military's new financial education website sucks. 
That's the name of the military's portal website for its new financial education program, funded with the proceeds of a $12 million dollar fine levied against First Command Financial Planning.

My review: It blows chunks.

It's not that the information in it is bad - it's just that it's not specific enough to be of much use to the soldier. For example, it devotes as much space to Equity Indexed Annuities - a conservative investment best suited for those aged 60 and over, and which would almost certainly be unsuitable for any young soldier I know - as it does to the Thrift Savings Program, which is the bread and butter of military retirement savings.

It contains no link that I can find to tax information that's of much use to the soldier, even though there are a number of benefits every service member should know about.

Furthermore, the site contains no reference whatsoever to a terrific program, the Military Savings Deposit Program. I mean, did they even try?

The site includes a number of financial calculators, which is good. But it doesn't put the calculators in with the relevant content, and the calculators are poorly chosen. I mean, how many troops do you know who need to use a breakpoint calculator?

The Website was obviously written by NASD types who refused to go out on a limb about anything, and don't know the first thing about soldiers.

Here's another example - the Website has a page on saving for a home. It's for military people. It even includes a page on 100% mortgages, warning people about the dangers.

Believe it or not, It makes no mention of the VA home loan. Anywhere on the website.

Similarly, the Saving for College page makes no mention of the Montgomery GI Bill, if you can believe that. None. Nor does it mention ROTC scholarships and other green-to-gold programs, nor does it mention the terrific state educational programs available in the National Guard, which vary from state to state. But in the state of Florida, for instance, drilling members of the National Guard recieve 100% tuition at any state school. It does mention the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits, but it's buried way deep in the architecture. No mention is made of the importance of keeping assets out of the child's name when it comes to qualifying for need-based financial aid under the Federal system.

There is no discussion of powers of attorney - a huge issue for deploying service members, and one that causes untold grief to a lot of troops who foolishly sign unlimited powers of attorney to untrustworthy spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends back home.

There is no discussion of the Soldiers and Sailor's act.
The whole thing, really, is just rehashed NASD content designed not for the military, but for the general investor. If this is the best they can do, they need to go back to the drawing board.

The NASD took that 12 million dollars out of First Command, but that money ultimately should be used for the benefit of the troops.

The NASD is trying, but the troops aren't getting their money's worth.

Splash, out


For instance, it doesn't mention that Illinois has the 'Illinois Veteran's Grant' that gives you free tuition for four years at any state-run school? (On top of any GI Bill, college fund etc benefits you may already have?)

Or that Illinois state government has veterans' preference in hiring?

Stuff like that? Just sayin'...

Who's running this thing? Can you drop me an email so I can go nosing around on it and poke someone in the eye about it?
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