Financial planning programs aimed at veterans

Free seminars geared to financial understanding

SAN DIEGO - A new program is trying to help military veterans and their families become smarter about their money and future.

Brad Pagano did not serve in the military but nearly everyone in his family has, including his brother, who was broke when he came back from Iraq.

"He was in debt, his friends he served with were in debt, and I said, 'How can that be? You came home with all that combat pay.' He spent it all," Pagano said.

It led Pagano to start the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, a nonprofit that conducts free seminars for veterans, as well as the public, to help people get their financial houses in order.

"What we're trying to do is to help them understand that every decision they make will affect them monetarily," said Pagano.

Among some of the guest lecturers is John Vallas, who served 10 years in the Navy. He, like many other veterans, was at a loss when he got out.

"I was transitioning out of the military. My wife and I moved back to San Diego and I didn't know what to do next," he said.

Vallas tried a number of things which didn't work. That's when he sought information about finance and it paid off.

"I went to workshops, put a business plan together while I was going to school and opened a business," he said.

Vallas owns the Swell Cafe in Mission Beach. It's been three years, but Vallas said his financial foundation is always top of mind.

"I succeeded because I failed and kept trying," Vallas said.

Learn more about the San Diego Financial Literacy Center at

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