Mrs Petraeus brings financial knowledge to Yokota community
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Holly Petraeus, head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, held a town meeting and discussed predatory business practices and personal financial tips with the military community at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 6, 2013.
Petraeus visited Yokota to hear first-hand of service members' financial hardships and to inform service members of her role at the CFPB, which opened its doors less than two years ago in the wake of the U.S. economic recession.
"There's really a double purpose for me when I go around to military bases and do town halls," Petraeus said. "The first is to let service members know that we are there for them and inform them of what we do. And also, it is important to not only tell them what we do, but to hear about what financial issues they are running into because that is what really informs what I do."
Taking what service members tell her back to the political streets of Washington D.C. and Capital Hill, Petraeus said her job directly relies on service member feedback.
"I testify in front of Congress quite a lot," she added. "They ask me what issues service members are having and I want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth -- what their problems are. Those are the things I work on."
The CFPB enforces consumer financial laws making it easier for consumers to have a market place where products are visibly and honestly comparable to ensure a fair deal, according to Petraeus. Her office is within that agency and focuses on supporting service members.
"I have a responsibility to see that service members get the financial information they need to make better consumer decisions, to monitor their complaints to us and to work with other federal and state agencies on consumer protection measures for the military," Petraeus added.
"The Office of Servicemember Affairs will ask CFPB bank and non-bank examiners to keep an eye out for military-specific issues," Petraeus said in an Office of Servicemember Affairs statement. "When we find out about people breaking consumer financial protection laws to harm service members, we'll help CFPB enforcement teams take action against them. And we plan to make it easy for military personnel and their families to contact the CFPB with questions or complaints about consumer financial products and services."
Petraeus said not everyone's situation can be helped on her end because companies are finding legal loop-holes, so she gave service members tips to avoid bad financial situations. She told military members to be wary of military 'friendly' loans who offer help to service members, but charge 40 to 400 percent interest on the loan. She also said there are a number of colleges that want service members' money and G.I. Bills, but they aren't all created equal. She encourages service members to go to a school that will give credits or degrees that will get the member where they want to go.
Petraeus, who moved 24 times in 32 years with her husband David Petreaus, former Army Gen. and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a large financial difficulty for military members is how often they are required to move. Buying a home and having to move within a short period of time can make the decision to sell or not a difficult one.
Finally, Petraeus recommended service members take advantage of their financial planning help where they are stationed. Yokota not only has the 374th Comptrollers Squadron, but also has financial planners at the Airman & Family Readiness Center.
"Make a plan for financial success, so your money goes where you want it and it won't be one of those moments where you look back and wonder where your money went," she said. "That is something that can really serve you well.
Petraeus said she wants to hear from individuals who feel they are being treated unfairly in a financial situation.
"It not only gives us a chance to help you, but it tells our enforcement section who isn't being legal and who they should go after. You aren't only helping yourself, but you are also helping other service members," she added.
To make a complaint, share your own financial experiences, or find out more information about the CFPB, visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov.