News: Holly Petraeus visits Marine Corps Base Hawaii, discusses finance
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay - The Marine Corps Base Hawaii community had the opportunity to bring financial questions and concerns to Holly Petraeus, head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, during a townhall meeting at the base chapel, Sept. 5.
The spouse of CIA director and former Army Gen. David Petraeus, Holly Petraeus has visited more than 30 military installations this year, gathering feedback and introducing service members to the bureau and what it offers.
When her husband deployed during the first year of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, Petraeus noticed the financial problems military families were experiencing. She started volunteering with the Better Business Bureau, and later found employment there. Last year, she was appointed to lead the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the CFPB, located in Washington, D.C.
In addition to visiting Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Petraeus dined with base officials at Anderson Hall Dining Facility, which included staff from various units, Marine Corps Community Services and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
“Our goals are very much the same as Mrs. Petraeus’,” said attendee Lauren Giblin, the publicity coordinator for the NMCRS. “Her intention is to empower and educate Marines and sailors so they can be financially secure and successful. We were excited to hear that it’s also the CFPB’s goal for military families. We really agreed with and appreciated that the bureau was aware, not only of payday lenders, but also predatory businesses that charge you so much as to take all of your basic housing allowance or your cost of living allowance.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gregory Isaacson, engineer operations officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, also attended the luncheon.
“I think it’s nice to know that government at the federal level is as
interested in the financial well-being of Marines and sailors as we are at the operational level,” Isaacson said.
He said he appreciated Petraeus for taking an interest in these issues, but that units should follow suit.
“I would like to see organizational leadership take a more active role in the training, education and mentorship of its Marines and sailors and how they handle their finances,” Isaacson said.
He said more than a single training session is necessary to truly resonate with the service members.
“The base’s Command Financial Specialist program is an excellent one that units would do well to take better advantage of,” Isaacson said.
In the afternoon, Petraeus spoke at the base chapel once for base leadership, and again for the rest of the base community.
Her office is currently working on numerous financial issues with which the military, and even former military, must deal. These include selling a house before making a permanent change of station move or falling prey to payday lenders and business scams.
She shared real stories about people who lost money to scammers, or earned worthless degrees from unaccredited schools. Petraeus stressed that people must be fully aware before making a financial commitment. She encouraged people to submit complaints to the CFPB’s website. She said even if a person’s financial ordeal was already resolved, the CFPB would like to hear personal stories which they can share as real examples.
“Ask questions before you sign a contract,” Petraeus said. “Don’t focus on the monthly payment.”
For instance, she pointed out that some monthly payments may appear to be affordable, but with added amounts of interest, people may end up paying more money for a service or product than its original worth.
In addition, attendees heard a few words from Iris Ikeda Catalani, a representative from the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
Ikeda Catalani introduced her department and the work they do. Petraeus and Ikeda Catalani then opened the floor for comments and questions.
“I’m very happy to work with military families to avoid scams and traps out there,” Petraeus said.
To make a complaint, share your own financial experiences, or find out more information about the CFPB, visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov.