Contact: Erica Brown, a community readiness technician at Shaw Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC)
Situation: A financial education class to reach young airmen on their own turf, in the dorms. The workshops in the barracks would eliminate much of the embarrassment and discomfort that airmen perceived around going to the AFRC. The workshop in the barracks would also reach young airmen who could use some proactive financial guidance, but who had not gotten to the point of financial crisis.
Who: Young airmen at Shaw Air Force Base
- Outreach was needed that did not have the stigma of “being in trouble” and “being sent to the principal’s office” because of financial mismanagement.
- It’s a tough sell to convince skeptical airmen that they should sit through a boring PowerPoint slideshow in their free time so a fun, engaging activity was needed.
- To reach service members while their problems were manageable. Often they don’t show signs of financial distress until their problems have become very serious (like significant credit card debt or missed car payments).
- To provide a forum to introduce the financial assistance capabilities of the AFRC and identify topics to focus on with the airmen.
- To promote attendance to these programs held in the dorms:
- The class was well publicized and first sergeants who are responsible for the junior airmen were enlisted to help spread the word.
- To get the buy-in of the sergeants, her message was simple: An ounce of prevention today may help your people before things get out of hand later on.
- Airmen received credits. (At Shaw they accrue credits for attending classes that prepare them to live off-base, a common goal of many. By attending more classes, airmen can move off-base faster.)
- The one-hour class starts with a five-minute introduction on the role of Airmen and Family Readiness.
- Money Habitudes is introduced with a brief overview and then the airmen sort the cards on their own (which took another 10-15 minutes).
- After sorting the cards, she spent another few minutes going over the various Habitude types and how each affected people in the long-run.
- While she had their attention, Brown made sure to link their learnings in this more casual barracks environment to getting more formal help at the AFRC.
- Using the Money Habitudes, Brown found that she could make the class, its content and outcomes personal and relevant to each participant by helping them see their own patterns of how, why, where and when they were more likely to spend, save, give away and invest their money.
- The cards provided a non-threatening and proactive activity. Because the airmen sorted the cards, the individual strengths and challenges for each type resonated with them. They could see exactly where their money was going so Brown never had to take a “bad cop” role.
- This positive experience provided the opportunity for Brown to link the learnings and needs to getting more formal help at the AFRC and some individuals made appointments on the spot to get help with budgeting and other money issues.
Observations and Comments:
When using Money Habitudes in her dorm class, one airman revealed, after looking at his sorted cards, that he owned 120 pairs of shoes. And, of that collection, he had almost religious devotion to Air Jordans, many of which cost hundreds of dollars. For a young enlisted man with a family, it was an expensive habit. Conversation was started and fellow airmen helped to coach him and support him in changing his behavior. It actually became a peer learning environment.
Brown doubts the airman would have hit upon this specific personal insight – and the larger spending patterns it represented – without Money Habitudes. And, of course, it was only because Brown had gone to the dorm and reached him with a non-threatening and proactive activity that he was able to see and address this issue. Without Brown’s outreach, he might have waited months or years before being required to get financial help or working up the courage to go to the AFRC.
You can’t change anybody’s mindset, but you can give them ideas to change.