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Financial planner brings warmth, common sense to Yellow Ribbon

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino
  • Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs

Financial management classes drew standing-room only attendance last weekend at the final Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration training event of the year.


“The choices a couple makes today will impact them in five years,” said instructor Kristy Tubbs. “This can be a loan for a vehicle or an investment. Either way, they need to be on the same page or the outcome can be disastrous.”


Tubbs, a private financial counselor, is wife of Col. Richard S. Tubbs, vice commander of the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. Her sessions, which focus on helping couples work together to achieve financial success, are the scene of the beginnings of many success stories.


Tubbs said that she knows of at least 12 couples who had either already divorced -- or were on the verge of it – before attending her training as part of Yellow Ribbon, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.


The unique challenges military families face is what led Tubbs to her career and helps explain why she is so passionate about Yellow Ribbon. She already had a profession as a marriage counselor when her husband joined the military more than 26 years ago. She said that most of their disagreements involved finances, which prompted her to head back to school to pursue a degree in finance. Tubbs offers one-on-one counseling to military families for free.


“It’s what’s important to me. I had to learn about deployment on my own. Things are different today, but reservists still don’t have as easy access to resources, so I try to help that,” she said.


Her affiliation with the Yellow Ribbon program began in 2010 and her “7 Steps to 7 Figures” seminars are well attended.


“People are hungry for advice and assistance,” she said.


Two of those people, Maj. Robert Hammontree and his wife, Brandy Ann, of Little Rock, Arkansas, were happy with the information they received at the most recent Yellow Ribbon training weekend.


Robert is a C-130 navigator with the 913th Airlift Group at Little Rock AFB, and when he isn’t flying, he and Brandy Ann run their family’s restaurants.


“We don’t want money problems to affect our family’s future,” he said. “With sound planning we can worry less about money and focus more on what’s important.”


They have two teenage sons and two pizza restaurants which afford them little time to focus on financial planning.

“We took this class because we want to be ready in case of a deployment,” Brandy Ann said. “This isn’t a passive activity, you have to think and act in unison. We’re always planning ahead.”


Tubbs said that the financial challenges the Hammontrees face are similar to many of the military families she meets. She recommends that families begin their road to financial success by taking three steps:


- Establish a family success motto such as, “We will stay debt-free in order to follow our financial dreams.”


- Create deployment financial goals. Families should create an alternate budget to follow during deployments.


- Restore and repair your family’s credit. A good credit score not only affords you access to necessities, it can also reduce how much you pay for borrowing money, as well as lowering the cost of items like auto insurance, Tubbs said.


“It’s really exciting when people come through post-deployment having followed a plan and accomplished their goals,” she said.


However, this isn’t always the case. A 2012 Kansas State University study, “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce,” concluded that financial disagreements were the single strongest indicator of a couple’s likelihood to separate.


When families are out of sync with their spending habits it can wreak havoc on day-to-day living. An example Tubbs shares is her story of an Airman who had deployed to Afghanistan and purchased an expensive motorcycle through an overseas purchase program. When the servicemember returned home, the family returned to their pre-deployment spending plan, and realized that the motorcycle was creating a hardship. They faced a decision whether to keep the vehicle and sacrifice somewhere else, or sell it and stick to the original plan. The family eventually sold the motorcycle, but its purchase had an adverse impact on their financial plan.


“I get that deployers sacrifice a great deal, and it’s OK to reward themselves when they come home, but a couple needs to be on the same page in order to accomplish their goals,” she said.


While challenges are prevalent, Tubbs added that her success stories are the reason she remains so passionate about helping Yellow Ribbon participants. When one couple left a seminar, she was convinced that they weren’t committed to sticking to a plan. She believed that their commitment to the relationship was tenuous at best. When the same couple returned to her seminar months later following a deployment, they gave her an envelope with the specific instructions that she not open it until the end of the weekend.


“I opened it and found torn up pieces of paper. When I put the pieces together it was their divorce papers,” she said. “They wanted me to know that my seminar had helped them put their relationship back together. That’s why I do this (counseling) for free.”