Free, confidential personal financial counseling available to Va. Guard members until April

Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, signs the Military Saves Pledge Feb. 6, 2015, in Sandston, Va. By signing the pledge to reduce debt and build wealth, servicemembers get a free copy of their credit score. Personal financial counselors are available around the state until April 13 to assist Virginia National Guard Airmen, Soldiers and family members with free, confidential, personal financial counseling. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, signs the Military Saves Pledge Feb. 6, 2015, in Sandston, Va. By signing the pledge to reduce debt and build wealth, servicemembers get a free copy of their credit score. Personal financial counselors are available around the state until April 13 to assist Virginia National Guard Airmen, Soldiers and family members with free, confidential, personal financial counseling. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Personal financial counselors are available to assist Virginia National Guard Airmen, Soldiers and family members with free, confidential, personal financial counseling until April 13.

The PFCs are located in Sandston, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Norfolk and are available to assist with personal financial issues and questions regarding budgeting, managing credit, debt repayment, saving, and investing with the Thrift Savings Plan.

“This is a great opportunity for all Virginia National Guard members and their families to get free financial services,” said Vickie Sais, the Virginia National Guard Family Programs director. “They can get free services on TSP, budgeting, anything they need without any strings attached.”

The counselors are available during drill as well as outside of drill, according to Bethy Vallejo, the personal financial counselor based in Sandston.

Jennifer Lear, a personal financial counselor for the Virginia National Guard, provides information to Virginia National Guard Soldiers at the Charlottesville readiness center. Personal financial counselors are available to assist Va. Guard Airmen, Soldiers and family members with free, confidential, personal financial counseling until April 13. (Courtesy photo)

Jennifer Lear, a personal financial counselor for the Virginia National Guard, provides information to Virginia National Guard Soldiers at the Charlottesville readiness center. Personal financial counselors are available to assist Va. Guard Airmen, Soldiers and family members with free, confidential, personal financial counseling until April 13. (Courtesy photo)

“They all have a solid financial background,” she said. “They are all financial counselors and some of them have other certifications.”

Since meeting and offering guidance to Guard Airmen and Soldiers, so far they have found that there is a lack of knowledge about the TSP, a retirement savings and investment plan for federal employees and members of the uniformed services, including the Guard and reserve.

But Vallejo says debt is the number one financial concern among Guard members.

“We have found that, due to a variety of issues, people have difficulty managing their debt and budgeting,” she said. “Of course with debt, credit becomes an issue because of security clearances.”

They have also found that there is a perception among Soldiers and Airmen that the PFCs can only be utilized if someone is in financial trouble.

“And that’s not the case,” Vallejo said. “If a security clearance was revoked then they are referred to us by their command. But it doesn’t have to be that way. They can see us whenever they want. They don’t have to be in trouble.”

In addition, everything covered is confidential.

“We don’t keep records and we don’t report back to commands,” Vallejo said.

Although the counselors will attend drills and offer services there, all four PFCs are full time and available throughout the month as needed.

“We can follow up and meet at a coffee shop or some other public place,” Vallejo said. “We don’t have to meet at the armory so no one has to ask why we are meeting.”

The counselors can travel within 50 miles of their area.

Although the whole state is not covered by the four PFCs, “if a unit needs assistance in a remote part of the state we can get them on demand service as needed,” Sais said.

Military Saves Week, a nationwide campaign to persuade, motivate, and encourage military families to save money and develop a personal financial plan, is scheduled for Feb. 23-28. But the Virginia Guard PFCs are going one step further and emphasizing those points all month long. Military Saves encourages all service members, their families, and civilian employees to take a pledge to reduce debt and build wealth. Members who take the pledge will then be able to get their free credit score.

military saves

Bethy Vallejo, a Virginia National Guard personal financial counselor, meets with Va. Guard Soldiers at Fort Pickett Feb. 12, 2015. Vallejo is one of four PFCs available for free financial counseling around the state. (Photo by Capt. Andrew Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“We wanted to do a push for that the entire month of February,” Vallejo said. “We will be pushing that at every drill. If they sign the pledge, they will get their free credit score right there.”

The PFCs will only be on hand to offer assistance and advice until April 13 but if there is still a need for them following that date, Virginia can apply to the Department of Defense to for another 90 days.

“If people use it now and use it a lot, there’s a good chance we will get it again,” Sais said. “So we want people to use this program.”

Contact information and locations for the four Personal Financial Counselors currently available to Va. Guard Soldiers and Airmen:

Bethy Vallejo – Sandston
Cell: (804) 316-3348
Email: VA-PFC1@mflc.zeiders.com
Virginia National Guard Headquarters
Mullins Armory
5901 Beulah Rd
Sandston, VA 23150

Jennifer Lear – Charlottesville
Cell: (602) 361-9462
Email: VA-PFC2@mflc.zeiders.com
Charlottesville Armory
165 Peregory Lane
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Richard Gardner – Fredericksburg
Cell: (401) 486-6401
Email: VA-PFC3@mflc.zeiders.com
Fredericksburg Armory
1700 General Davis Highway
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Leticia (Letty) Stevens
Cell: (703) 559-1516
Email: VA-PFC4@mflc.zeiders.com
Norfolk Armory
3777 Virginia Beach Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23502