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Financial Literacy: Military Support Programs-Part 1


by Captain Bob Houle, USCG (retired)

How do we know that financial literacy impacts military readiness?  How do we know if  that impact is serious enough to even be a concern?  And why should MOAA or our MOAA chapter care?  This month we’ll address the first two questions.  In September we’ll discuss why it is a concern to MOAA and to our own chapter leadership.

There are at least three major indicators that financial literacy has a major impact on a unit’s mission readiness.  Anecdotally, at the local unit level, a member with financial problems impacts the command’s readiness in two primary ways:

  1. the member’s personal effectiveness is degraded while dealing both with the problem itself and the stresses the problem has on family, and
  2. one or more members of the command leadership must divert time and resources away from unit mission performance to monitor and tend to the member’s issues.

Another set of indicators are the various national surveys undertaken to assess the state of military family finances and the trend over time on the scope and severity of the various financial issues our military families are facing.   Some progress is slowly being made but the situation is still dire.  

  • In the 2019 Military Financial Readiness Survey conducted by Harris Poll more than one-third of enlisted military members do not pay their bills on time and about half say they had to get a second job to supplement their income. 
  • Another 2019 survey reports that career military families are lagging behind their civilian counterparts not just in pay comparability but in basic money knowledge, reflecting a long-term gap in financial readiness. 

This latter survey is particularly concerning since it marks the seventh consecutive year that service member families scored below the general population in financial literacy despite 40% of military survey-takers saying they have completed a financial literacy or education program compared to just 18% of the general population.

That brings us to the third major impact indicator:  the coordinated, systemic, mandated responses to the financial readiness issue by the US Congress and the military services.  Effective January 2016 10 U.S.C 992 mandated the Armed Forces conduct financial literacy training.  DOD and the US Coast Guard have formal, comprehensive financial literacy programs to which substantial financial and personnel resources have been allocated. 

Future articles in this series will discuss the apparent efficacy of these service programs and what impact, if any, our MOAA Cape Canaveral Chapter can have on our membership’s participation in and benefit from these varied programs.  In the meantime all our members are urged to become familiar with the materials found in our Financial Literacy Forum on our new chapter website (look under the “Events & Activities” tab).  We have curated information there on these service programs and our own chapter’s program along with articles and other resources.

It’s time for all of us to take action and help others become financially secure and independent.  Never Stop Serving!

Neon CRM by Neon One