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June 9, 2015

Financial Readiness for Military Families

As with many aspects of military life, financial readiness looks different. Part of this is due to the nature of service life. Other factors involve companies targeting our military.

Just because it looks different doesn’t mean that it is any less important. In fact, it is even more important for our service men and women to have a solid financial base.

Military Related Challenges

There are many military specific challenges when it comes to money. These two are the most prominent:

Targeted by Shady Vendors

It’s a very sad truth that shady and dishonest vendors target military members. While prevalent throughout your entire career, the vendors are most aggressive when members first enter service.

Especially with the younger members, the military is often their first steady paycheck. Not only that, this paycheck is guaranteed for four years.

Few have a solid financial education and many are susceptible to money mistakes. Pair this with the fact that they are easy to spot in a crowd. They have a specific hair cut, dress differently and use military vocabulary.

Which means easy target.

Countless vendors set up shop right outside base to prey on young men and women enlisted. Signs say “Military D1 and up welcome!” Some even have a veteran who greets our young service members with a smile and a firm handshake.

And then they take advantage of our young service members.

From car loans far outside their means to exorbitant interest rates to sleazy payday lenders, the offenses are egregious. And that is only a small list.

Deployment

The second major financial challenge specific to military life is around long-term separations. This is especially challenging for families. Fundamentally, spouses need to work together to build an actionable plan for their money.

Both communication and budgeting are learned skills.

There is a lot of strain and stress that comes with a deployment. Nearly 50% of deployed service members leave behind a family. With the absence of a spouse, there are countless additional responsibilities to be addressed.

And then there is anxiety, fear, loneliness and depression. 

To say this is a challenging environment for spouses to learn communication and budgeting skills is an understatement. For a fighting chance, couples need to work on strengthening these skills prior to deployment. Having a base, as well as talking openly about the challenges will make implementing a budget throughout the deployment feasible.

Importance of Financial Readiness

In addition to increasing the overall quality of life, here are two military specific reasons that financial readiness is so important:

Relieve Stress in the Field 

Family finances are one of the largest struggling points for deployed military members. Even for civilians, financial stress negatively impacts health and wellbeing.

There is one big difference: civilians aren’t in combat.

Our service members need to be present and focused on the job. Not doing so could be deadly. That is why it is so essential for our service members to have strong financial education and practices. They don’t need the added burden and stress of financial troubles when on the frontlines.

Clearance

Financial wellbeing doesn’t only impact our service members’ ability to perform their job; it also directly impacts their position and clearance. In 2013, 62% of the security clearances were revoked due to financial reasons.

There are 13 different factors that determine if a security clearance is granted or revoked. Only one is tied to personal finance. But this one factor is the largest reason that service members lose their clearance.

The financial factor is there to protect against individuals being monetarily bribed for information. As a general rule, service members wanting to maintain their clearance status should not exceed a 20% debt to income ratio.

Solutions 

There are countless quality nonprofit and service providers who offer free resources and support to our service men, women and families. These organizations help you combat the shady organizations preying on our military members.

The military also has built in support systems, such as personal financial managers, who provide tailored counseling and workshops to build strong financial practices.

If you are a service member or family member looking for military specific financial resources, reach out to the Virtual Counselor Network. Together we can give you the tools, education and support to build a strong financial foundation.