First Command Reports: Career Military Families Facing Financial Readiness Gap

Career military families are lagging behind their civilian counterparts in basic money knowledge, reflecting a long-term gap in financial readiness, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

Results of the eighth annual financial readiness test and survey commissioned by First Command Financial Services, Inc., in partnership with First Command Educational Foundation, reveal that middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) earned an average grade of 64. In contrast, general population test takers with similar household incomes earned an average grade of 72.

One third (33 percent) of military test takers correctly answered seven or more questions in the nine-question quiz. That compares to roughly half (48 percent) of civilian respondents. Perfect scores were earned by just three percent of military respondents and nine percent of the general population.

“These test results mark the seventh consecutive year that service member families scored below the general population,” said Scott Spiker, chairman and chief executive officer of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “This financial readiness gap is particularly notable as military families are significantly more likely than general population families to say they have completed a financial literacy or education program. We believe that expanded training and education and one-on-one support can help many military families more effectively deal with the financial challenges they face today and more confidently address their goals for tomorrow.”

The 2019 survey reveals that 40 percent of military test takers say they have completed a financial literacy or education program. That compares to 18 percent of general population families. These findings are consistent with the results of past financial readiness surveys.

First Command Financial Services is committed to narrowing the gap by supporting training and education to the military through charitable gifts and hands-on assistance. Those efforts include providing ongoing support to First Command Educational Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) charity that provides in-person and online financial readiness tools for service members across the globe as well as increased scholarship opportunities for service members and their families.

“First Command Educational Foundation is continuing its mission to educate those who serve,” said Bill Johnson, CEO of First Command Educational Foundation. “The Foundation is developing a new on-line military curriculum and is currently testing with over 300 U.S. Coast Guard service members. We believe this will empower all our service members and their families to better understand all the career and life stages of financial readiness.”

Most importantly, First Command Financial Services seeks to improve financial readiness through face-to-face coaching.

“Financial advisors are an important source of financial information, but coaching is where they bring the greatest value for military families,” said Mark Steffe, president and chief operating officer of First Command. “They help service members make the most of their military pay and benefits by keeping them focused on developing and sticking with good behaviors that address all of their family’s financial needs. Coaching helps military families bridge the gap in their own financial knowledge so they feel more confident in their pursuit of long-term financial security.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command Educational Foundation

First Command Educational Foundation (FCEF) has been proudly supporting scholars and their families since 1983. FCEF is a 501(c)(3) public charity, and has worked tirelessly to promote their mission to educate those who serve. To that end, FCEF has awarded over $4.5 million in scholarship grants to help offset the costs of higher education, and has educated over 60 thousand individuals on numerous financial readiness topics.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Financial Planning and First Command Bank, coach our Nation’s military families in their pursuit of financial security. Since 1958, First Command Financial Advisors have been shaping positive financial behaviors through face-to-face coaching with hundreds of thousands of client families.

First Command Financial Services, Inc., is the parent of First Command Financial Planning, Inc. (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Advisory Services, Inc., First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Financial planning services and investment products, including securities, are offered by First Command Financial Planning, Inc., a broker-dealer. Financial planning and investment advisory services are offered by First Command Advisory Services, Inc., an investment adviser. Insurance products and services are offered by First Command Insurance Services, Inc., in all states except Montana, where as required by law, insurance products and services are offered by First Command Financial Services, Inc. (a separate Montana domestic corporation). Banking products and services are offered by First Command Bank. In certain states, as required by law, First Command Insurance Services, Inc. does business as a separate domestic corporation. Securities products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met. First Command Financial Services, Inc. and its related entities are not affiliated with, authorized to sell or represent on behalf of or otherwise endorsed by any federal employee benefits programs referenced, by the U.S. government, or the U.S. armed forces.