PoM financial readiness expert talks affording Monterey, AER campaign

A man wearing a white dress shirt and black bowtie sits at a desk and smiles.

John Goulette | Presidio of Monterey | March 18, 2024

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. — While being stationed at the Presidio of Monterey means you get the benefits of beautiful scenic views and amazing wildlife, it also means you will live in one of the highest cost-of-living areas in the country.

Thankfully, PoM’s Financial Readiness Program is ready and able to assist service members with their finances. Elliott Crawford, PoM’s financial readiness program manager, is an expert on how to thrive in a high-cost-of-living area like Monterey.

“This is a prime opportunity. I always tell other Soldiers, especially those who are ages 18-25, that if you do it right here, you can become millionaires,” said Crawford when discussing financial advice for junior enlisted service members. “Don’t incur debt, don’t go out and make a crazy decision when buying a car and invest well while you are here. This money that you make here can catapult you to millionaire status later in life.”

Crawford emphasized the point of smart spending and taking advantage of PoM services like the dining facilities and barracks.

“If you’re here as a single student at DLIFLC, you don’t really need a car. You don’t need to pay for groceries or housing. Really what you should be doing is investing highly and putting as much into your TSP as possible,” Crawford said.

“There are three goals that Soldiers should accomplish while they are here,” Crawford said. “The first is to leave here with a solid emergency fund, which I consider at least one to three months of your base pay. The second is to have heavily invested in your TSP; I usually advocate for a 25 percent investment. Lastly, I want you to have additional savings that you can use for a down payment on either a car or house.”

Crawford’s advice for single enlisted service members at DLIFLC differs from his advice to those with a Family or those who are stationed at PoM but not DLIFLC students. While the single students have most of their amenities taken care of, those with a Family have other responsibilities. According to Crawford, the major difference is the housing expense, which can be extremely high in the area.

“There are plenty of resources you can use to offset the costs here. Before you make any big financial decision, you should come to me,” Crawford said. “We can go through your finances and establish a realistic budget. We can decide together whether you are making the correct financial decisions. It is my job to make sure you are in a good position financially, so come see me.”

Crawford, who is also the Army Emergency Relief officer at PoM, discussed how Soldiers can use AER to their advantage.

“If you come to see me and it is obvious that you do not have the things necessary to live adequately here, I would direct you to the Army Emergency Relief service,” Crawford said. “They [AER] can help with things like furniture for your Family, initial rent and housing expenses. Before you go out and run up a credit card or take out a loan and go into debt, come to me so we can talk about AER.”

AER is the Army’s official not-for-profit charity that is financed entirely by donations – disbursing 89 cents of every dollar collected directly to support programs for Soldiers and their families. AER’s mission is to provide grants, interest-free loans and scholarships to promote readiness and relieve financial the stress Soldiers and their Families can face. The 2024 AER campaign began March 1 and will run until June 14.

Crawford told a recent story of how a Soldier who just moved to PoM was able to receive $3,000 in AER funds through an interest-free loan to buy furniture for their large Family.

“They were able to buy three beds, dressers for each Family member, and a washer and dryer for under that amount,” Crawford said. “That is a prime example of why AER works for Soldiers who are struggling; it helps them improve their quality of life.”

Crawford is a retired chief warrant officer 3 and current Army spouse. His wife, Maj. Lutisha Crawford, is the chief behavioral health service officer at PoM’s Army Health Clinic. Crawford transitioned from being a cyberspace defense warrant officer in the Army to a personal finance expert after his retirement because of his passion for helping others succeed financially.

The PoM Financial Readiness Program is located inside the Army Community Service building, 2218 Gigling Road, Building 4260, Seaside. For more information on the program, and how to get in contact with Crawford, please visit presidio.armymwr.com/programs/acs/financial-readiness.

More on the 2024 AER Annual Campaign.