CAMP AL QA'IM, Iraq --
1st Lt. Darrell Brown, 31, the supply officer with Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Charlotte, N.C., knows what it is like to be in debt.
“I started out like everyone else and I blew my pay,” said Brown, who is from Charlotte, N.C. “If I couldn’t go pull my money out of an ATM when I wanted to, then it wasn’t for me.”
These days, Brown uses the financial problems he had and overcame as his motivation to help Marines avoid financial instability and invest their money wisely with his own financial management classes here.
“I don’t see why Marines have to make the same mistakes that I did if they can learn from mine,” Brown said. “It changes your life when you get out of debt, and if they fritter away their income they won’t get anywhere.”
Brown joined the Marine Corps in 1995 and began a 10-year term of enlisted service. In 2006, he was commissioned and became a supply officer. He spent many of his early years in the Marine Corps accruing financial debts. Brown attended debt management classes, but the impacts of his spending habits didn’t hit home until tax season came around one year.
“I went to debt management classes, but the information went in one ear and out the other,” he said. “One realization I had was when I saw what I got paid for the year on my W-2. I held it in my hand, looked around and said to myself, ‘what did I spend my money on?’ I had nothing to show for it.”
As a sergeant, Brown transferred to West Palm Beach, Fla., for Inspector/Instructor Duty. After he arrived, an unfortunate incident proved to be beneficial by causing him to stumble upon something he had kept packed away for a rainy day.
“We had a hurricane and everything I owned was ruined from a leak in the roof,” Brown said. “I found a pamphlet on the floor that I let dry out with some other things. When I opened that pamphlet, it was like an epiphany.
It was called ‘Power Paying Your Way Out of Debt’. It was something I ignored in the past, but it was right there when I needed it.”
Brown began slowly making his way out of debt and became more
determined to invest his money in something that would generate a profit. His first experience with a financial advisor wasn’t the most successful.
“When I first started trying to invest, I went to a financial advisor and he declined me, said Brown. “He said ‘I only deal with serious investors and you don’t even have enough money to pay my fees.’ It was tough times.”
Brown, during his lessons with Marines, explains the way he personally got himself out of debt.
“Make a spending plan,” Brown said. “This spending plan would consist of every monthly expense, including how much is spent on activities during liberty or leave. After you make a spending plan, rank your debts from smallest to largest. Focus extra money outside of your spending plan on the smallest debt while still paying the least amount possible on larger ones. You get the smallest debt out of the way, continue with the next and you will see tangible progress.”
He teaches that investing money appropriately varies based on the lifestyle of the investor.
“After you get yourself out of debt, build an emergency fund,” he said.
“This will take the pressure off of using any credit cards. Then take a look at your situation, age, whether you’re married or single and decide what way of investing would be best for you. There is no set way of doing it.”
As the final chapter of his period of instruction, Brown explained the risks and probability of making money with different stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
“You know that Lieutenant Brown is a good teacher because he’s teaching from his own personal experiences,” said Lance Cpl. Philip Swain, 21, a rifleman with Headquarters and Service Company 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, from Louisville, Ky. “He explained to me the best ways I could put my money to work for me. I’ve decided it’s in my best interests to expand on the knowledge I already have and begin investing my money to prepare for my future.”