They help their fellow citizens sleep at night knowing they’re safe from harm, but many military service members may not be sleeping too well themselves. A recent survey of military personnel revealed that 77% of them have money worries, and more than half are concerned about their job security in the face of government budget cuts.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) sponsored a survey of 267 active-duty enlisted U.S. military personnel and the results showed that 57% of respondents are very worried about the possibility of losing income due to defense budget downsizing.
Even without a loss of income, many military members are already struggling. Fifty-five percent said they are not financially prepared should an emergency arise, and 28% are worried that their financial situation could impact their future with the military.
Taking on debt to get by
When the NFCC compared this data to their 2014 Financial Literacy Survey, it highlighted the differences between general population and members of the military—especially when it comes to taking on consumer debt.
Military service members are applying for credit at twice the rate of the general population: 28% of military members have applied for a new credit card in the last 12 months, compared with 14% of the general population.
Paying off those credit cards can be a greater problem for military folks than others, as well. Fifty-eight percent of military members said they carry credit card debt from one month to the next, versus 34% of the general population. And twice as many of them have paid less than the minimum payment on one of their credit cards over the last year—6% compared with 3% of civilians.
Taking out a cash advance from a credit card, which almost always incurs fees and high interest rates, is something military service people are more likely to do. Five percent of military respondents said they’d gotten cash advances from their credit cards in the previous 12 months. Only 2% of the general population took out credit card cash advances.
As to other types of debt, three out of five service members said they’ve had to look for non-traditional lenders to bridge the gap between their income and their financial needs. Forty-nine percent have taken out some type of loan in the past year, whether it was a new credit card (18%), a loan from friends or family (13%) or a payday loan (6%). The 2014 Military Finance Survey was conducted online by Harris Poll from April 7 to 15.