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 often find it difficult to convince private sector employers that their military service is applicable in other job fields.
2019 Military Financial Readiness Survey
The NFCC completed a survey earlier this year, assessing the financial readiness of military personnel. This survey was first conducted in 2014 and again in 2019, so we now have some data on how things have changed in the past five years.
For one thing, military members are reporting that it’s harder to pay the bills these days. In 2014, 16% of service members reported they weren’t paying all of their bills on time. This year, that percentage is up to 34%.
Debt collection is also a growing concern; only 3% of military service members reported that they had debts in collection in 2014. This year that figure is up to 11%.
Spouses of military personnel also face these challenges. 29% of military spouses report that they can’t pay all of their bills on time. Generally speaking, the NFCC found that military members and their families are more likely to be behind on bills or debt payments than the rest of the population.
The survey wasn’t all bad news. Military service members and their spouses are more likely to be saving for retirement than the average American, and they are more likely to have additional savings besides their retirement accounts.
Getting financial help
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:
- Credit Counseling – Working with a credit coach can help servicemembers 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 20,000 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 just last 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.