Attention! Our troops put themselves in harm's way for us every day. Need they be targets in the financial world as well?

No, Sir! The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) recently announced the introduction of a program launched by its Investor Education Foundation aimed at providing financial education to military personnel and their families.

Shock and awe probably ensued following research conducted last year that showed that only 29% of military personnel who invest performed adequately on a quiz assessing basic financial knowledge. A more encouraging 58% responded that they wished to become more knowledgeable. The armed forces are particularly in need of confident financial planning, given the relative youth of the troops who must consider the impact of their deployment on their families.

The military recognizes that financial preparedness is necessary for military readiness. To combat this lack of readiness, the NASD Foundation is partnering with the SEC, military counselors, and other organizations to provide financial education. The centerpiece of this effort is a new website specifically designed for this purpose,, featuring information and educational content. In addition to the website, the program also features on-the-ground training, a spousal fellowship program designed to train military spouses to provide educational activities, tools, and financial counseling within their community.

The program is funded through fines levied against First Command Financial Planning, Inc., in a 2004 $12 million settlement with the NASD and SEC. The company allegedly issued misleading statements in the sales of systemic investment plans to military personnel -- products that most civilians haven't seen much of since the 1970s. Those types of products allow investors to accumulate shares of mutual funds for small monthly payments over terms of up to 25 years. The NASD has issued a warning to investors that related commissions can take up to 50% of contributions in the first year. Over $5 million has already been paid in restitution to wronged customers, and First Command has since voluntarily ceased its sales of contractual funds.

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