Military Members Rank Financial Stress a Greater Concern Than Deployment

Inside Subprime: June 26, 2019

By Jessica Easto

According to a recent report, US military members and their spouses ranked “financial stress” as their greatest concern, even over deployment.

Members of the military and their spouses face unique financial challenges. Deployment often means erratic pay and frequent moves, which leads to additional expenses and different costs of living. Additionally, frequent moves can make it difficult for military partners and spouses to find steady employment and contribute to the family’s household income.

Eric Wanner, a sergeant in the US Army who currently lives at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, recently spoke to CNBC about his experience. He and his wife, Jana, have moved four times in the last twelve years.

“When we came back from overseas we had to rent a car for two months while we waited for our other car to get shipped,” said Jana. “That was a massive expense.”

Military families’ concerns over finances has been growing in recent years. According to another report, this one from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), 90 percent of active service members and 84 percent of their spouses worry about personal finances, figures that are up from a similar NFCC report from 2014.

The NFCC also found that military members are struggling more now than in the past to pay their bills on time. Thirty percent of military partners or spouses reported that they do not pay their bills on time and 10 percent say they have debts in collection.

Military families who are struggling to make ends meet are susceptible to predatory payday loans. Last year, a report showed that 44 percent of active-duty members use them.

According to Josh Andrews, a certified financial planner and advice director at financial services firm USAA in San Antonio, Texas, there are several things military members and their families can do to help their financial situation, including:

  • Save money right away by automatically contributing 10 percent of your paycheck to the military’s Thrift Savings Plan. Then create a budget with whatever is left over.
  • Pay down debt, starting with the loans that are costing you the most. Andrews advises that payday loans (aka cash advances) are often the most expensive.
  • When you know you are changing locations, research the new location’s cost of living, as everything from food to gas to rent can vary greatly. Adjust your budget accordingly.
  • Consider your future, since most do not serve actively until retirement. Look for training and other types of education that can help you land a job that meets your needs for income, insurance, and other benefits once you transition out of your military service.

Learn more about payday loans, scams, and cash advances by checking out our city and state financial guides, including Florida, Illinois, Chicago, Ohio, Texas, and more.