Cadets in the Command Your Finances course (Photo courtesy Texas A&M)
The USAA Educational Foundation (USAAEF) has teamed up with Texas A&M University’s Financial Planning Program to pilot a for-credit, personal finance course aimed at the school’s Corps of Cadets. The goal of the course, which started this fall, is ensuring that the students who are likely to become military officers also will be financially fit leaders.
The “Command Your Finances” course, worth three credit hours, teaches cadets the fundamentals of personal finance as well as how to apply the concepts to their daily lives and lead others to make financially sound decisions.
USAAEF, a nonprofit organization, provided a $1 million grant — to be paid over three years – to develop course materials, underwrite an instructor’s salary and enable future expansion of the program to service academies and other university ROTC units.
Justin Schmitt, assistant vice president of The USAA Educational Foundation, says USAAEF chose to team up with Texas A&M because of its “great reputation” and record for producing military officers, trailing only the nation’s service academies.
“We developed the program with Texas A&M because we have a shared vision to elevate financial readiness in the military,” Schmitt says. “We believe it’s important to educate students before they enter military service on how to manage finances while managing a military career.”
Eighteen students on the College Station, Texas, campus are enrolled in Command Your Finances this semester, with a projected enrollment of 50 students in the spring. Part of the Department of Agricultural Economics, the elective course is open to all Texas A&M students but is geared to future military leaders. Topics are taught within the framework of the military lifestyle that includes frequent moves, deployments and family separation.
After the yearlong pilot, the two organizations plan to scale the program by offering free curriculum materials to university ROTC programs nationwide and all five service academies.
Nathan Harness, director of financial planning at Texas A&M, says the new program will set the standard for financial readiness in educational institutions across the country.
“So many people think about retirement only 10 years or so before they are ready to retire,” Harness says. “Someone who is 21 years old is typically not thinking about stocks or bonds and might not even know what stocks and bonds are. This program will supply our students with the knowledge, plus enable them to mentor other A&M students so that they may someday go out and teach others about financial readiness.”
Schmitt says USAAEF’s long-term goal is to “change the culture of military officer education so financial education becomes part of what it means to be a successful military officer.”
The USAA Educational Foundation (the “Foundation”) is a nonprofit organization sponsored by USAA. The purpose of the Foundation is to lead and inspire actions that improve financial readiness in the military and local community. Its resources are available online and free of charge. The Foundation does not endorse or promote any commercial supplier, product or service.
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