We have a good friend who is serving in the U.S. Army. In talking to him, we weren’t surprised to find out that life in uniform isn’t much different now than it was when we wore woodlands cammo to work every day back in the early ‘90s. The pay is still low, the working conditions are still stressful, and personal loans are still way too easy to get when you’re a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
The military make perfect targets (I mean, customers) for personal loans. They are employed. They have steady income. They have economic needs that crop up from time to time. So far, they’re not much different than most of us (well, other than the employed part).
The one thing that a soldier has that most of us don’t have is a First Sergeant (that’s a Senior Chief Petty Officer, for you boat floaters). He’s the guy (from a banker’s standpoint) that you call first if a soldier isn’t making his loan payments in a timely manner. He’s also the guy (from a soldier’s standpoint) who can make your world a living hell if his morning coffee is interrupted by a banker who’s waiting for his money.
First Sergeants (or SCPOs) are invariably ugly people. When they hand them the rank insignia, they immediately take away all congeniality they may have otherwise had. And if you’ve ever had to stand in front of one and explain yourself and your financial affairs, you know that they get even uglier when they’re riled.
That’s why bankers and other lenders in military towns are so eager to lend money to soldiers. They know they have the meanest, ugliest ally in the world. And, furthermore, with a standard fort, post, or base directory and the soldier’s unit, the heavy artillery is never more than a phone call away. We’re not sure, but we’re pretty convinced that all of the First Sergeants’ coffee times are printed somewhere in the post directory as well, so bankers can properly time their phone calls.
Your best bet when you’re in the military is to avoid taking loans that you don’t need. And when you do need a loan, drive at least 150 miles from your post. The further you get from military bases, the less likely your lender is to realize that he can call your first sergeant if you’re a week late with a payment.
Another good idea, if you have to take a loan (especially if you do it near a military base) is to set yourself up on automatic payments. A quick trip to the paymaster and you don’t need to worry about getting your loan payment in on time while you’re out in the field. Best of all, you won’t have to see the First Sergeant after his coffee break has been interrupted.
Photo via The U.S. Army