Financial educator helps Airmen, families achieve success

Lona Berndt loves her job and is passionate about supporting servicemembers and government employees with improving their financial situation.

“Lona has been a life-changer in my financial game,” said Tech. Sgt. Lawrence Kelsey, 375th Medical Support Squadron, who schedules financial counseling sessions with her on a regular basis.

“She provides direction and priceless advice that has helped me with financial growth and stability.”

Kelsey has sent several Airmen in his unit to see Berndt, telling them that he wished he would have taken advantage of Airman and Family Readiness Center’s resources sooner.

“Personal finances affect you for the rest of your life. You can set yourself up for future success with the right tools and leadership,” he said.

As a nationally accredited finance educator, Berndt serves as the installation Personal Finance Readiness Program Manager, supporting all members of Team Scott. She also serves as the Air Force Aid Society Officer, a Certified Credit Report reviewer, and an Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist.

Berndt said the AFRC provides and abundance of financial resources and education to meet the needs of our community

“There is something here for everyone regardless of where people are at in their financial life-cycle.”

She discovered the importance of financial literacy from her mother who was a single parent.

“My mother encouraged me to get a college education as my ticket to financial freedom.”

She took her mother’s teaching to heart, earning a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Personal Finance, and then passed on that financial literacy to her 22-year-old son, Ethan, and 17-year-old daughter, Jadyn.

“I knew that once I had children, I would teach them how important understanding the economy is to financial stability and success,” she said.

Ethan is the assistant head bagger at the Commissary, and Jadyn works alongside him as a bagger. They were encouraged to get jobs for sake of early financial preparation and, ultimately, the pursuit of prosperity.

Berndt explained that time is the most critical component to achieving financial stability and wealth.

“The goal is for them to start early and be active and hands-on in earning, saving, and investing. I tell them it’s possible to save for emergencies and never have a car payment all the while maintaining a healthy social life.”

For instance, the average car payment is $475 per month and is the most significant consumer expense that keeps people from building wealth. Both of her children established a mutual fund that functions as their car replacement fund. The family pays the mutual funds a car payment each month.

Ethan prides himself in being financially responsible. He started in high school, with the goal of being a millionaire by the time he is 40. Ethan is working on his plan by building good saving habits and investing early. His mother reminds him consistently that debt is not an option.

“My mother taught me to save a third, invest a third, and the other third is mine to spend,” he explained.

Ethan enjoys his job at the Commissary, preferring it to the other industries that he has worked in. He explained how baggers at the Commissary work for tips and get paid in cash, “It is easy to spend frivolously when you use a credit or debit card. Cash is always harder to let go.”

Jadyn admires her brother’s initiative and is following in his footsteps.

“I have learned that you do not always have to spend money as soon as you receive it,” she said. “It is important to take time to determine whether something is a want or a need.”

She feels lucky to have the guidance and support of her family to help prepare her for life after high school. “I want to be able to rely on myself in the future. Saving and investing are good habits that my mom and brother have adopted that have led to financial success.”

Anyone seeking financial advice or counseling can make an appointment with Berndt at the AFRC. Appointments can be scheduled online at www.scottafrc.com or by calling 256-8668.