March 2017 Scholarship Recipients
George Coleman is an active duty Army Major with 17 years of service and a passion for finance. While he was an economics major at West Point, George says a class called “Finance for Army Leaders” was a turning point for him. “It was a game changer. It has informed so many of my savings and investment decisions.” As an officer, George has had numerous opportunities to counsel his soldiers through financial difficulties and point them in a better direction. “The Army has shown me that many smart people often do not understand the long-term implications of their decisions,” he says. Eager to help others, George will be studying the curriculum for the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, and he eventually wants to sit for the CFP® exam. He says that this education will not only benefit him, but will also benefit his future clients. “I’m looking forward to brushing up on the basics and expanding my knowledge, and then using that knowledge to improve the lives of others.”
Alphonso Dillard retired from the Coast Guard in 2012 after a remarkable 30-year career. He enlisted at the tender age of 17. As he describes it, “I graduated from high school on Friday, and started boot camp on Monday.” Al's formal training and work experience was in finance and logistics. Later in his career, he worked in training and education, first as a recruit training instructor and then as a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist. Eventually, Al transitioned into a Career Development Advisor and Command Financial Specialist. In this capacity, he helped his fellow “Coasties” with personal financial management, setting budgets, paying off debts, etc., and acted as a mentor. “I enjoyed it,” Al says, “because I like to help people.” While on active duty, he earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. He last served as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader of one of the Coast Guard's largest installations. After his retirement from active duty, Al worked for a logistics firm as a contract logistician. He notes that, “I had no idea I was going into financial services. I was planning on teaching at the college level and working in logistics.” When his contract ended, Al was introduced to financial services by a financial advisor who told him about the profession. “I thought it sounded a lot like what I was doing as Command Financial Specialist,” he recalls. Now the owner of his own business, Jaxson Slade Enterprises, LLC, Al says his favorite part of working with clients is teaching them. His company's core values are "Inform, Educate, Empower." His goal when meeting clients is to help them to understand the financial solution to their particular circumstance. After completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, Al knows he will be even better equipped to assist his clients in pursuing their financial goals.
David Johnson is an active duty Marine Corps Corporal currently stationed in Cherry Point, N.C., who comes from a military background. “It was a family tradition,” David says. His current responsibilities as Financial Management Resource Specialist require a level of comfort in dealing with finance and a knack for communication. These are skills that not only help him in his current role but will also prove valuable to him in his future role with Edward Jones. His favorite part of working in finance is helping people. “I like coordinating and communicating financial concepts with people, and making sure they understand.” A lifelong learner, David is excited about the challenge that the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program will offer. “I believe in the importance of education. I want to be a well-rounded advisor and I’m willing to put in the work to get there.”
Meggan Orenstein is the wife of an active duty Army Lieutenant Colonel. Meggan met her husband, Joseph, when they were both attending the University of Rochester, earning their bachelor’s degrees. After graduation, Meggan began her professional career while her husband attended law school. Making ends meet was tough as a new lawyer, so Joseph enlisted as a way to ensure that he could pay off his student loans. Twenty years later, Meggan says, “He still loves what he does, and has no plans to retire.” Meggan earned her Accredited Financial Counselor® designation in May 2016, and is currently the Financial Education Program Associate for Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension Office in Arlington. Having received her certification, Meggan says she is not finished learning yet. Now, she is going to reach for the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) designation. “The AFC® seemed like just the beginning,” she says. “I want to put more tools in my tool belt.”
Michael W. Parker, Jr.
Michael W. Parker, Jr. spent 13 years in the Marine Corps, ultimately reaching the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. Joining the Marines right out of high school, Michael displayed leadership qualities early on—skills that earned him a Combat Meritorious Promotion to Sergeant. Michael was deployed to Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom as a radio technician and, during the first battle of Fallujah, he was in charge of communication support of the commanding officer – a role key to the success of the mission. One of his many other responsibilities was acting as Command Financial Specialist, helping the young Marines in his unit with basic budgeting and financial planning advice. After his transition in 2013, he met with a few different financial firms. The day-to-day duties he encountered seemed very similar to the responsibilities he had handled as Command Financial Specialist. “I realized that I can do this for a living, and I really like it.” Currently with MassMutual, Michael wants to work with the special needs market and, in doing so, continue on his path of helping others. Upon completion of the Chartered Special Needs Consultant® (ChSNC®) program, he will have the skills and confidence to continue serving in this important market.
Robert Perdomo is an Active Reserve Army O3, with 15 years of active duty and 12 years in the reserves. He spent his first four years at Fort Bragg during the First Gulf War. Robert transitioned to the reserves when his daughter was born. He became a Reserve Officer, and also earned a degree in criminal science. A lifelong learner, Robert has always had a passion for financial services. He will begin his studies for the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, and will eventually sit for the CFP® exam. His future in the financial services profession will give him the opportunity to continue to help others. “I want to provide education, information and assistance,” he says.
Josh Rehtmeyer served almost ten years in the United States Marine Corps and reached the rank of Major. During his active duty service, Josh deployed twice to Iraq as an Assault Amphibian Vehicle platoon commander. While in the USMC Reserves, Josh earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and then was employed as a financial advisor for a Fortune 100 company. He found himself working in what he refers to as an “exploitative industry that benefited few and preferred to muddy rather than clarify issues,” and realized he had envisioned a different career path after his military service. By earning the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) designation, Josh will be equipped with the comprehensive knowledge and skills he will need to work as a Certified Personal Financial Counselor on military bases, and to provide service members and their families with free personal financial guidance. Ultimately, Josh also plans to help veterans and those underserved in his community with their financial concerns because, as he notes, “The Marines taught me that commitment is not about you, but about how you can serve others.”
Joi Tann is the wife of an active duty Army Major and is a Personal and Professional Development Advisor at Marine Corps Community Service. Part of Joi’s responsibility is counseling service members on their finances and preparing them to transition to civilian life. A lifelong learner, Joi is eager to expand her knowledge and skills. “My passion is empowering individuals to take control of their finances,” she says. Joi is able to draw from her own experiences as a military spouse to better counsel her clients. “I understand what a deployment is like; I understand having to use Skype in order to see your husband; I understand what’s involved in a Permanent Change of Station move.” Her advice to any spouse new on base is to support yourself as much as you support your spouse. “It’s easy to fall into the shadows of our spouses. It’s important not to forget about yourself. Use this time to find your passion and develop that as much as you can.” Joi says her favorite part of the job is hearing about the successes of service members. “It’s so rewarding when they come back to visit and they’ve found a great job.” Joi will complete the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, which will increase her skillset and allow her help more people.
Jennifer Zellem found herself a widow at the age of 25 when her husband Scott, a Navy Lieutenant Commander, was killed in a plane crash while deployed. In the days following the accident, Jennifer found that the Casualty Assistance Officer assigned to her was uninformed about survivor benefits and seemed unequipped to help. Jennifer asked her husband’s commodore if he had someone with whom she could speak. “I wanted to talk to someone who had walked my path,” she explained. When the commodore told Jennifer he could not think of anyone, she found herself determined to become that expert. Now, nearly 15 years after Scott’s accident, Jennifer works with Navy Mutual Aid, and travels with the Regional Director of Casualty Assistance to help with the CACO training classes. “I feel humbled,” Jennifer says of her work. “If I can help one person and make five minutes of their lives better, I feel like I’ve been successful. I want to give others the right knowledge so that they are three steps ahead of where I was.” Jennifer will be completing the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) program, which will develop a host of new skills toward her goal of helping retirement-aged surviving spouses work through the government benefits system.