This Veterans Day, we hope all current and former military service members will take advantage of the professional services available to help them establish and improve their credit, become homeowners, and balance their household budgets.
For our armed forces, it’s not always easy to achieve financial security. Military personnel face special challenges that others don’t. Military life makes it difficult for spouses to pick up outside employment, and veterans may find it difficult to convince private sector employers that their military service is applicable in other job fields.
2020 Military Financial Readiness Survey
The NFCC completed a survey last year, sponsored by Wells Fargo and conducted by Harris Poll, assessing the financial readiness of military personnel.
This survey was first conducted in 2014, again in 2019, and updated in 2020. Comparing results to the 2019 survey reveals important trends and helps identify key challenges and impacts resulting from the recent economic obstacles that have affected people around the world.
Over three-quarters of active-duty service members (78 percent) reported taking out a loan in the prior year, representing a marginal increase from 2019 (75 percent). However, the type of loan has changed dramatically.
In 2020, 31 percent of active-duty service members have taken out a cash advance or payday loan, compared to only 13 percent in 2019.
This represents an even more dramatic shift since 2014 when just six percent of active-duty service members reported taking out such loans. Recent economic challenges may be a contributing factor to increased payday loan usage, as 52 percent reported difficulty finding adequate loan options.
The survey wasn’t all bad news. Military service members and their spouses are more likely to be saving for retirement than their civilian counterparts, and they are more likely to have additional savings besides their retirement accounts.
The NFCC found that many veterans are confident in their ability to meet financial commitments, though concerns remain.
- 85 percent of veterans say they pay their bills on time.
- Only 19 percent feel like finances control their lives often or always, compared to 46 percent of active-duty servicemembers.
- Over half (55%) of veterans with personal debt are very confident they can pay off their loans according to schedule.
- Only 22 percent of veterans reported any financial impacts from COVID-19, compared to 78 percent of active-duty servicemembers.
- Veterans are more likely to use traditional financial services (credit cards and checking accounts). In the past six months, 74 percent have used checking/savings accounts and 70 percent have used credit cards.
- 43 percent of veterans have worries about their personal finances. Their biggest financial worry is saving enough (17 percent).
- Less than half of veterans keep a budget (42 percent).
- About half of veterans (49%) wish they had more information about financial resources specifically for veterans, and a similar amount (50%) feel there are not enough financial resources available specifically for veterans.
Getting military credit counseling
Current and former members of our military are a treasured resource, and our nation’s gratitude toward our veterans is celebrated every November 11th – as well as the rest of the year. It’s very important to us that both veterans and active military members know that there are many options available to them for help with their debts, credit and personal finances:
- Free Credit Counseling for Veterans– Working with a credit coach can help service members and veterans pay off debt and manage personal finances. Free credit coaching includes advice on credit and debt management, as well as a personalized financial action plan.
- Financial Coaching– Professional financial coaching is available, for credit, debt, homeownership, and more (like bankruptcy help and foreclosure prevention help).
- VA – The Veterans Benefits Administration offers special programs for veterans and their beneficiaries. They also offer home loans, life insurance, education, and access to health benefits for veterans.
- GI Bill– The VA-administered GI Bill offers benefits for eligible service members seeking education and training assistance.
- Military Saves– Our friends at America Saves sponsor Military Saves, designed to motivate and support military families to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.
- Military OneSource – Military OneSource is funded by the Department of Defense to help members of military families get tax services, employment help, and assistance with relocation and deployment.
Charities and other sources of aid:
- Red Cross – The American Red Cross offers financial assistance for military families, which can include funds for emergency travel, burial expenses, emergency food & shelter, and more.
- American Legion – The American Legion offers Temporary Financial Assistance for military families in need.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars – The VFW offers financial grants through their Unmet Needs program, designed to help America’s military families who have run into unexpected financial difficulties.
- Operation First Response – Since 2004, Operation First Response has helped almost 23,689 families of wounded and disabled veterans with emergency financial needs.
- Operation Home Front – Operation Home Front offers help to military families with financial assistance, housing programs, and caregiver support
- DAV (Disabled American Veterans) – DAV helps veterans get the benefits they’re entitled to. They helped over a million vets and their families every year.
- USA Cares – USA Cares is a veteran and family support system; a national nonprofit organization that assists veterans and military families facing hardships related to their military service.
- Hope for the Warriors – Hope for the Warriors offers “a full cycle of care to restore self, family, and hope” to service and family members, as well as families of service members we have lost.
- Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes – The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes serves to help the wounded veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, as well as their families.
- Air Force Aid Society – AFAS offers emergency assistance to Air Force families and service members through no-interest loans and grants.
- Army Emergency Relief – AER provides assistance to soldiers and families with scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans.
- Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society – The NMCRS offers assistance for urgent financial needs through financial counseling, grants, interest-free loans to active duty or retired sailors and marines, eligible family members, surviving spouses, and reservists on active duty.
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance – CGMA helps members of the Coast Guard and their families, including active duty and retired personnel, civilian employees, Reservists, Auxiliarists, and commissioned officers of the Public Health Service.
- Local programs – Your city, county, or state might have local aid programs for current and former military personnel. For example, in our home base of Southern California, we have STEP, or Support The Enlisted Project. The Red Cross, Military OneSource, or your local military aid society might be able to help you connect with programs near you.
However one gets the help they need, we want each veteran and member of the armed forces to know that it is possible to have healthy credit and live debt-free. We urge everyone who needs it to seek out professional assistance and take advantage of all of the help that exists to support the journey to financial freedom.