They serve their country and many put their lives on the line to preserve liberty. But now several surveys looking at money and military families found that financial freedom is elusive for service members.
A survey released May 19 by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 77 percent of service members have financial worries. More than half (57 percent) are worried that defense cuts and downsizing could end up costing them their jobs.
"Men and women in uniform face many challenges and daily sacrifices while serving our country," said Susan C. Keating, NFCC president and CEO, in a statement. "Financial concerns shouldn't be one of them."
But, the survey found, service members are twice as likely to have applied for a credit card in the last year than civilians (28 percent versus 14 percent). And they are carrying balances more than civilians as well (58 percent versus 34 percent).
They were also twice as likely to have paid less than the minimum payment on a loan or credit card in the last year.
A poll from Blue Star Families last month found similar statistics: "Sixty-four percent of respondents said they had 'experienced stress related to their families' current financial condition.’ ”
The Blue Star Families survey also looked at the obstacles service members have to financial security. Forty-nine percent said "spouse employment" is a problem. Another 40 percent said frequent moves made it hard on their finances.
But again, insecurity plagued service members in this poll as well, with 45 percent saying "uncertainty in military life" was straining their finances.
First Command Financial Services released a poll on May 19 that looked at the plans service personnel had for their tax refunds. Seventy-two percent of middle-class military families reported that they intend to use their refunds to save more or pay down debt.
"While this year's survey on tax refunds reveals a continuing focus on frugality in military families, the more significant news may be that the reasons for frugal living are changing," Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, said in a statement.
Spiker said while the economy improves, the military is facing something similar. "Sequestration is becoming the new recession. Over three out of five military families report feeling anxiety about sequestration. They worry about how military budget cuts and defense downsizing will impact their family finances.
"By continuing to focus on saving more and spending less, our men and women in uniform are taking positive steps to get their financial lives squared away."
In addition to planning on using their tax refunds to help their financial situation, another report from First Command Financial Services finds that 56 percent of middle-class military families use online financial tools — a higher rate than the general population (44 percent).
For example, 84 percent of service members use automatic fund transfers versus 50 percent of the general population. Service members are also more likely to use online budgeting tools (40 percent versus 22 percent of the general population).