5 Ways Service Members Feel Outgunned Financially
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The Fiscal Times
May 19, 2014

When members of our military are fighting for our country, they shouldn’t have to worry about household bills piling up.

But the reality is far different: A new survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling reveals that most of our rank-and-file service members are troubled by their financial situations. They’re not only concerned about their current and future ability to earn and save enough – they’re more worried now than they were 12 months ago, despite a growing economy.

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The survey indicates that our military members have these five financial “deficits”:

1) Fifty-seven percent say they’re worried about potential loss of income and job security as a result of defense cuts and downsizing.

2) Fifty-five percent say they’re ill prepared financially for an emergency.

3) Three out of five service members who have taken out a loan in the past 12 months say they had limited lending options, requiring them to look for alternative, non-traditional lenders to meet their needs, such as payday loan providers.

4) Fifty-eight percent are more likely to carry some credit card debt month to month. That’s a far higher percentage than the general population, where only 34 percent of people do.

5) Service members are also more likely to apply for new credit cards, transfer credit card balances over to other cards, miss credit card payments, or cancel credit cards than the general population.

There are some caveats here. Seventy-one percent of the military respondents were between 18 and 24 years old – so some of their financial weaknesses may be more connected to their status as millennials, a generation that is struggling financially.

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There were some positive findings from the survey, especially compared to the general population. Service members are more inclined to have a budget and to keep close track of how much they spend than the general population, for example.

They’re also less likely to struggle to pay bills, get calls from collectors and consider bankruptcy than the general population. More than 8 in 10 service members pay all their bills on time and have no debt in collection.

Excluding retirement, those in the military are also twice as likely to save as the general population.

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Marine Cole has been covering finance and business for a decade and has written for publications that include The Wall Street Journal, Crain's New York Business, and AdvertisingAge.