Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Carol Richards-Boyd knows navigating the world of personal finance isn’t easy. Even after a career in budget counseling, she is still learning and taking continuing education classes to sharpen her skills. “If no one taught you how to manage your finances, how would you know?” she asked. “My dad always told me, ‘money doesn’t grow on trees,’ but that didn’t give me any skills.”
Her sympathetic understanding has helped Carol serve Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society clients for 25 years. Prior to her work with the Society, Carol was an adult education counselor in her native London, so she has devoted her entire career to helping others through a variety of counseling avenues.
Carol came to the Society shortly after becoming a Navy spouse and attempting to volunteer with the Red Cross in San Diego. The Red Cross worker suggested she walk down the hall to Navy Relief and volunteer there instead, and Carol is glad that she took that advice.
“In London, I was a teacher, and then worked for the Inner London Education Authority helping adults who wanted to change careers or needed job training,” Carol explained. “I’d done casework and counseling, so when I saw the advertisement for budget counselor with the Society, I thought, ‘well, that’s me.’ I had two little kids, and working for the Society, I had an employer that understood what it meant to have to deal with childcare, and sometimes sick kids with a deployed spouse. And, I really liked the Society’s mission.” So Carol volunteered, was soon hired, and has stayed with the Society.
She worked in the San Diego office for 14 years, until the budget counselor position was eliminated, then stayed on as a volunteer for a while. Her family PCS’ed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she took a year off and enjoyed spending more time with her teenage kids. Her children are now adults, and her daughter volunteered for the Society before going to medical school. Eventually, Carol began volunteering with the Society again, and was later hired as a part-time relief services assistant. She is also an accredited financial counselor.
“Here in Hawaii, the most frequent financial challenge service members face is not receiving their military travel allowances in a timely manner and the shock at the high cost of living here,” she said. “They do get a cost-of-living allowance which helps them actually afford living in Hawaii. But they have to live within their budget and use the military facilities.”
In addition to the sticker shock for families new to the duty station, Carol sees many retirees and widows who are struggling to make ends meet, as well as frequent instances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, or mistakes made by military pay clerks. For example, “we were providing a monthly stipend to a military widow because she just didn’t have enough income to live above the poverty level. We were also working with the VA to help her get income she was entitled to. It took a long time.” In another case, “the VA told a retired service member that he had been returned to active duty, stopped his disability pay, and billed him for repayment of three months’ of disability payments. The retiree called the VA and explained to them he was 90% disabled and had served for 24 years. A few weeks later, the retiree called the VA to check on the status of his case. He was told his case had been resolved and he was back on active duty. The retiree had to physically go in to the VA and show them his retiree ID card and ask for his disability payments to be reinstituted. The VA have finally agreed that the retiree was not on active duty, but could not say when he would start receiving his disability payments again.”
“I’ve learned a lot from the volunteers I work with and from the clients,” Carol said. “There’s always someone for you to turn to here—in the office or throughout the Society or in the military. If you get in a jam – there are resources available. I’m grateful to be able to do this work, and to have such empathetic and caring co-workers.”
Thank you for your 25 years of dedicated service, Carol!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso