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Military families receive financial help from local banks, credit unions

Banks have tailored services to meet troops’ needs

Military families have financial needs different from most civilians -- they relocate, they’re stationed overseas and they need a bank that can accommodate them no matter where they are.

There are 100,000 active duty members that live in San Diego and one-fourth of the jobs are associated with the military, according to Brian Lee, Wells Fargo’s area president for the North San Diego market and military proponent.

“We can take care of a person that’s active, retired or associated with the military. We can take care of their financial needs in 50 states and wherever they’re deployed to,” Lee said. “It’s easy for military people to deal with Wells Fargo through one phone number.”

For example, if a soldier calls Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) while on deployment and says his wife’s car broke down, Lee said, “On the spot, we’re able to approve that soldier for a loan and get the money to his wife so she can get a car.”

Navy Federal Credit Union offers education programs to recruits before they leave for boot camp, said Evangeline Miranda, branch manager in Miramar. The credit union offers monthly financial education to troops new to the base to discuss financial stability and balancing checkbooks.

“We’re formed by the military and for the military. It’s our first and foremost priority,” said Jeanette Mack, corporate communications manager. “A lot of our products and services are designed for military life and families. If you’re in the military and go to another lender, they might look at you and say because you relocate, it’s a liability. The car might not stay in the state or country. That’s not something we’re going to look at -- we expect it. We want you to fulfill your goals. You have unique needs and we design products and services to work for you.”

There are 130 Navy Federal Credit Union branches on or near military branches, said Raleigh Miller, public relations specialist.

“If a service member overseas needs extra help, we can help them push through a loan at any time,” Miller said.

Financial education is also a focus for Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo plans to roll out a hands-on financial education program specifically for military personnel this summer. The program will include online classes, local seminars, events and on-base training. It’s customized to military and families in different life stages, including deployment, starting a family and buying a home, Lee said.

Lee quoted a commanding general from Camp Pendleton who he heard say that between 300 and 400 Marines leave the Marine Corps each week from Camp Pendleton.

“And he said one of his main things is transitioning a Marine from military to civilian life,” Lee said. “As he said, we’ve got to start working on it very soon after they start. … 100 percent of military people will leave the military. Everyone needs a plan and he said too many of the Marines are in survival mode when they get out -- and that falls in line with what we’ll be trying to do.”

Mission Federal Credit Union will also host a financial workshop for military families, said Tricia M. Link, vice president of external affairs and community relations.

“From a financial standpoint, as a credit union, it’s a huge focus for us as a nonprofit to help all ages have strong financial futures, and definitely military families,” Link said. “Especially in San Diego, where the cost of living is higher and there are military families living below the poverty level. They could benefit from financial education workshops to help manage that.”

Wells Fargo also helps military spouses find employment through its alliance with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

“If someone is stationed at Pendleton and his wife starts working at Wells Fargo in the Oceanside area, and all of a sudden, whether he’s restationed or gets out and they move, frequently they’re able to transfer,” Lee said. “In the past, without this national presence we currently have, we would be more reluctant to hire someone. … We can hire them now and know that if they have to move, they can move within Wells Fargo.”

Wells Fargo supports the family members of deployed sailors and Marines by sponsoring the Navy ships coming home through its partnerships with the Armed Services YMCA. Wells Fargo provides funding to purchase craft supplies for family members to use to make signs to hold up as the ships come in, Lee said.

In 2012, Wells Fargo created its Military Affairs Program, through which it has committed $35 million through 2015 to help members of military veterans and families by providing housing, career transition and customized financial education, Lee said. Wells Fargo works with nonprofits and donates the house and the property. One such complete donation was done in El Cajon last year, Lee said, where a mortgage-free home was donated to a retired Navy SEAL.

“Those types of things are happening throughout the nation,” Lee said. “In just San Diego last year, Wells Fargo donated $350,000 that went to a series of nonprofits.”

Lee said Wells Fargo hopes to increase that number this year and he is “confident we’re going to get more money to put into local nonprofits.”

May is Military Appreciation Month and Wells Fargo will be distributing military banking flyers and brochures, thank-you cards and military-branded giveaways in all of its 198 Southern California stores.

Navy Federal Credit Union will offer exclusive specials for the military during military appreciation month, Miranda said, including referral bonuses. She said one of the best services offered is ATM rebates and direct deposits posted one or two days early. Navy Federal Credit Union is also offering a provision for those affected by sequestration, which is a 3 percent line of credit on current checking accounts until June 2014, Miranda said.

“We do always have new products and services coming out and encourage all members to check Websites for new developments,” Mack said. There will be improvements to checking accounts and an iPad app is scheduled for this year, as well.

Navy Federal Credit Union relocated its Miramar branch to an on-base LEED Silver certified building at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. It has seen a 10 percent increase in members visiting the branch for the last few weeks since the relocation, Miranda said.

Mission Federal Credit Union recently started a partnership with MOM4USA, according Link.

“On March 23, we sponsored their food pantry event at Camp Pendleton. In that, we donated fun, purple shopping totes to 175 military families,” Link said. “In the totes were food, and one grand prize tote contained baby supplies for newborns and moms.”

Mission Federal Credit Union has branches in Carlsbad and Oceanside, which are close to each sides of the base, Link said.

“We’re local to San Diego County. We have 23 branches around the county. San Diego is such an important military town, we thought it was a nice way to support the local military presence,” Link said.

Mission Federal Credit Union doesn’t have a program specific to military members, but they would be eligible for the normal checking account and member promotions offered, Link said.

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