Active members of the military, veterans and their families routinely face complex challenges in their daily lives. Thankfully, there is a growing awareness of the benefit that support networks can play in helping our heroes tackle serious medical, logistical and transitional issues.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area Inc., a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, recognizes that debt management and savings are matters of common concern among civilians as well as service members and their families.
Military participants surveyed after enrolling in the Sharpen Your Financial Focus program of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, were found to have fewer tangible assets and a higher level of unsecured debt than the average program participant. Unsecured debt balances for members of the military averaged 7.1 percent higher than the combined average, according to data from Ohio State University. Tangible assets for military consumers were 16.2 percent less than the overall program participant average. This concerning mix of lower accumulation of wealth and higher-than-average unsecured debt, combined with the ever-changing nature of military life, can create a difficult and dangerous financial cycle.
Programs such as Hands on Banking for the Military, offered by Wells Fargo and the NFCC, provide education and assistance to keep military families on the right track toward financial stability in all stages of military life.
CCCS has identified the following aspects of military life that pose challenges to personal financial management:
• Frequent Relocation — With each move, military families are presented with new housing choices and a different local economy to consider. Length of time at a duty station, employment options for spouses, and cost of living are all factors that can have a significant impact on household budgets and savings plans.
• Employment for Military Spouses — A single income is often not enough to make ends meet; however, the changing local economy and the cycle of relocation make it nearly impossible for spouses to maintain steady employment. Carefully planning a budget to operate on a single income when necessary is the key to balance income and expenses while avoiding unnecessary reliance on debt.
• Deployment — Deployed members of the military are protected from a pileup of interest and fees on existing debts through the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, aka the Service-Members’ Civil Relief Act. Although this protection can cap annual interest rates at 6 percent during deployment, it only applies to debt incurred before beginning active duty and requires a written request for relief to the lender. Responsible debt management that prevents further balance increases is an important consideration for deployed service members and their families on the home front.
• Transition to Civilian Life — Employers are encouraged to hire military veterans for a number of good reasons. Former service members are among the best trained and most highly skilled employees available in today’s workforce. With all of the advantages of a distinguished military record, there can still be a few bumps along the way during the move from active duty to civilian life. Changes in salary and housing expenses can pose their own challenges that may require some reliable advice from objective sources.
The NFCC stands ready to serve active-duty members of the military, veterans and their families as they face these unique crossroads in their lives. CCCS is able to provide financial counseling in person, by phone or online. To reach a certified financial counselor, call 912-691-2227 or visit www.cccssavannah.org.