"Debt sucks" Adviser helps Airmen save money

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
With Americans receiving tax refunds this time of year, many Airmen often have ideas about what to do with their new influx of money - buy new rims for their car, treat their friends to dinner or splurge on new clothes.

But before they part with their cash, they may want to consider the advantages of making an investment in their selves, or more specifically, their debt.
Tom Snyder, a core compliance expert at the Hurlburt Field Airman & Family Readiness Center, made teaching others about the importance of financial responsibility his personal mission for nearly 20 years.

He's given presentations to all types of Airmen, from the brand new ones at the Commando Pride Airman Center to the more experienced ones at the professional NCO briefings.

While the Department of Defense designated Feb. 21-28 "Military Saves Week," Mr. Snyder is available year-round to sit down and talk with any Airman, civilian or family member in his office about their financial situation and how they can learn better saving habits or tackle mounting debt before it's too late.

"At first, people are hesitant to talk about their finances, because it's very personal," Mr. Snyder said. "Most people come in on their own accord, and they often come here and say 'I'll bet you've never seen anything like this.'"

As the first of four A&FRC personnel accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, Mr. Snyder said he's seen just about every problem before, regardless of the person's rank or experience.

More often than not, it's the stories about what happened before people got to him--such as buying a car with a 30 percent annual percentage rate or purchasing a life insurance policy when they're already covered--that motivate him to see people get through their situation.

"We can help anyone on base who's willing to do it," he said. "If they have goals, we'll help them meet them."

Those who have visited Mr. Snyder's office are familiar with his debt calculator, a system that factors in their income, bills, savings plans and current debts. With it, he presents Airmen with a detailed calendar of how long it would take them to become debt-free.

"When they see it in black and white, it makes all the difference in the world," he said. "Instead of figuring it out in their heads as having this particular bill paid off in 10 months, they can see how interest factors in and how much longer it will take."

After the calculation, Mr. Snyder offers advice to help Airmen pay their interest off first and make the most out of their current funds and a new tax refund. With new strategies included into the projections, Mr. Snyder shows the biggest savings are not just measured in money, but in the time saved from paying interest.

"My philosophy is 'invest in your debt,'" he said. "Before you start investing in anything else, pay your bills. You can never save money as long as you have debt, and if you save that much money in interest, it's an investment."

A&FRC personnel also know Mr. Snyder for the two different cars he alternates driving to work each day: a twenty-year-old sedan with nearly 350,000 miles and a bumper sticker that reads 'Debt Sucks,' and a new luxury car. He said he paid off the luxury car by saving for it while driving the older car and loves to show people how he did it.

"He's a tremendous asset for this base because of his knowledge and commitment to taking care of Airmen and making sure they are not getting ripped off," said Debby Lundblad, A&FRC director. "He has the ability to do what other financial advisers do off base. But with the money Airmen would pay for consumer credit to manage their bills, they could use that money to pay their debt by visiting Mr. Snyder. He's outstanding."

So as Hurlburt Field personnel either receive tax refunds or have to make adjustments to pay taxes this year, advisers like Mr. Snyder will be here to help them stop bad habits, learn good ones and conquer debt.

"As long as someone walks away with something, I really appreciate that," he said. "You should see it when people leave here and see a light at the end of the tunnel. There's a lot of satisfaction in this job, and I love it."