In case you thought that the U.S. Coast Guard was the only branch of the military worried about their financial status, and that only because of the recent partial government shutdown, you’d be mistaken.
The latest Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey results, in collaboration with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families, finds that, far from feeling secure about a government paycheck, financial issues/stress was the top stressor for military families for the first time.
That was followed by deployments and relocation stress.
The report says that 70 percent of millennial military family respondents said that having two incomes was vital to their family’s well-being; among older military family respondents, regardless of rank, 63 percent said the same. In fact, 62 percent of military family respondents reported experiencing stress regarding their family’s current personal financial condition.
Among active duty members, 36 percent said financial issues/stress was their top concern; 49 percent of military spouses, however, put it at the top of their lists.
It was similar among veterans and their spouses, with spouses being more stressed by financial issues, at 54 percent, than the vets themselves, at 44 percent.
And while 37 percent of military family respondents reported feeling moderately or very insecure about their financial future; among military spouse respondents who were not working but would like to be, just 10 percent reported they were financially okay with just their servicemember’s paycheck.
In addition, military family respondents reported higher rates of difficulty making ends meet than civilian families (13 percent compared with 7 percent), said the report, “suggesting the need for two incomes is not just an expectation but a need for financial security.”
One reason for that high level of worry is undoubtedly the continued un/underemployment of military spouses. According to the report, the percentage of military spouse respondents reporting that they were unemployed in 2018—not employed but actively seeking work in the past four weeks—rose to 30 percent.
In addition, 56 percent of working spouse respondents reported they were underemployed.
Why the underemployment? Frequent relocation was cited as the cause.
That’s not their only financial worry connected with relocation. According to the study, 31 percent of military family respondents reported having to fork over more than $1,000 in unreimbursed expenses during their last military move.
Not only is relocating tough on female servicemembers with kids, due to family concerns and children’s issues in adjusting to a new home, the report said, but 79 percent of female servicemembers who relocated in the last year could not find reliable childcare.
Another factor is how long it can take a veteran to find a job after transitioning out of service. Not only is it tough economically, a long period seeking work leaves vets and their families feeling disconnected from the civilian community.
And while a third of female servicemember respondents selected retirement benefits as their primary reason for joining, compared with 43 percent of male respondents, female vets reported leaving the military at a younger average age (32 years) than their male counterparts (37 years).
Quality of life issues and inability to find child care meant female servicemembers were more likely to miss out on military retirement benefits.
Then there’s financial assistance. Caregiver respondents said that additional help in finding financial assistance resources was necessary, with less than a third saying that support services provided by the nonprofit community were adequate to support caregivers.