Choose Your Debt Amount
Learn how InCharge makes military debt relief a top priority, and discover other programs that can help you get out of debt and stay that way.
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- Making The Most Of Your Military Education Benefits
- Military Pay 101: How Much Do You Earn?
Bad credit is the number one reason why service members lose their security clearance. Learn if your security clearance is at risk because of bad credit and what steps to take to improve it.
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- What To Do If The IRS Contacts You
- How To Avoid Military Financial Scams
- Military & Veteran Debt Relief
- Credit Card Payoff Calculator
Moving is a way of life in the military. Learn how to prepare for frequent moves, how to assess a base or city, whether you should live on or off base and how to manage the actual move.
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Members of the military spend distinguished careers serving our country, but that dedication sometimes comes with a heavy financial price.
According to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), military personnel have significantly more debt and fewer assets than civilians.
Think about the discipline learned during basic training. Couldn’t that be applied to other areas of life, specifically debt management? Shouldn’t a military career lead to lifetime financial security? Unfortunately, when it comes to money matters, things don’t always turn out that way.
“This is a serious problem,” NFCC president and CEO Susan Keating told NBC News. “The issue of financial stability for those who serve our country is a real concern.’’
According to the NFCC survey, the average military family had 7 percent higher unsecured debt balances (nearly $500 more than the average), 16 percent fewer tangible assets ($11,000 less than the average) and 15 percent higher monthly debt-related expenses ($200 more than the average).
Military Plagued by Debt Collections
Additionally, a 2016 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau determined that military members and their families are much more at-risk in debt collections than the general population. According to the CFPB report, debt collection represents almost half (46 percent) of all military complaints filed.
By comparison, debt collection represented only 26 percent of the total complaints received by the CFPB.
Members of the military get themselves in financial troubles for a lot of reasons, but the most common one is overspending, especially if they’re supporting a family.
And if there’s a family emergency, the money will have to be stretched even further, perhaps creating a crisis that can’t be reversed. Military members can be young with little financial experience — maybe no experience at setting a budget — so mistakes are made.
Frequent moves can apply more pressure, particularly when a military family needs to sell their home on short notice. The lack of day-to-day continuity also makes things difficult for a spouse to find and hold a good job.
Deployment can add more complications, especially if an unprepared spouse inherits all the financial responsibilities. Bills could be neglected during the transition. Those missed payments could lead to more debt.
Because of the steady paychecks, military members also can get credit more easily and are more likely to be targeted by creditors.
Some military members could be afraid to seek financial help, particularly if they are involved with collection agencies, because they are fearful of jeopardizing their security clearance.
Where Do I Go From Here? Civilian Transition – eBook
The book is a compilation of relevant articles covering areas such as translating your military experience and skills into marketable civilian job skills, planning a civilian career, transitioning to civilian life, and planning for life after the service.
Military Debt Help Options: Free Credit Counseling
But, in fact, a great course of action is contacting a non-profit credit counseling organization approved by the NFCC.
- Learning personal finance basics.
- Resolving complaints on a credit record.
- Learning about military savings programs.
- Creating a plan to pay off debt.
- Researching large purchases.
- Making a savings plan.
- Understanding the long-term consequences of bankruptcy.
- Enroll in a Free Bill Consolidation Program
For the informed and financially prudent, there are ways to avoid any financial trouble. But it requires planning and discipline. With that, over time, a secure future could be ensured.
How Military Families Can Get Out Of Debt
If military families find themselves slipping into debt, there are proven ways to reverse the cycle. Portions of a sound financial plan could include:
Getting Out Of Debt: It sounds obvious, but making a plan to make more than the minimum payment on debt, especially credit card debt, will increase the odds of finding financial freedom.
Building A Budget: Tailoring a plan to a unique income and spending needs will add clarity. It helps to pull records from banks and credit cards for at least the past three months to determine what’s going into various spending categories.
Eliminating Unnecessary Spending: It’s always enlightening to examine the entertainment budget. It could be time to restrict eating out, going to the movies or treating yourself to that special latte. Painful, yes, but in the long run, the added discipline will pay dividends.
Improving Your Credit Score: Make all your payments on time. Improve your debt-to-income ratio. Don’t let any bill go into collections. It’s surprising how much a credit score can improve in one year.
Using Common Sense: There is “good debt,’’ such as purchasing a home, buying a car or entering a college savings plan. But stay away from “bad debt,’’ such as running up a credit-card balance, getting lured into new credit cards that promise low interest rates, seeking cash advance loans and borrowing money for big-ticket items that just aren’t needed.
These are tips to take seriously. The average military member who contacts a credit counselor has accumulated about $10,000 in consumer debt, according to the NFCC. If you’re just starting out in a military career, don’t go there.
And if you’re stuck in a difficult financial situation, there’s hope. Get some help. Stick to a plan. Use common sense. Later in life, you will salute those decisions.
Military Grants for Education
A career in the armed services is a great way to pick up work skills that can be useful in the civilian labor market.
It’s also a great way to qualify for college education grants that enhance those skills and make you even more marketable in civilian life. Service members received an average of nearly $5,000 more in scholarships and grants than civilians.
Active service members, veterans and their immediate families are eligible for grants that lead to degrees at 2-year, 4-year and graduate schools, and for specialized training at career colleges or trade schools.
The G.I. Bill, which is available to all branches of the military, is the leading source of grant-funded education opportunities. Same is true for Pell Grants, though family size and income help determine how much you will receive.
There are hundreds of grants award to members of a specific branch of the military. The trick is to find which program applies to your branch of service, and whether you meet the qualifications set up by the program.
To find out what military education grants you qualify for, get in touch with your local VA office or contact an office from your branch of service. Here is a list of grants for military members for you to utilize.
About The Author
In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.
- Reeves, S. (2016, March 2) 5 Reasons Members of the Military Go Into Debt. Retrieved from https://www.veteransunited.com/money/5-reasons-members-of-the-military-go-into-debt/
- Muse, K. (2016, January 5) 7 Financial New Years Resolutions For Military Families. Retrieved from http://themilitarywallet.com/financial-new-year-resolutions-for-military-families/
- Weisbaum, H. (2015, January 13) Survey: Military Families Have More Debt, Fewer Assets Than Civilians. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/business/personal-finance/survey-military-families-carry-more-debt-have-fewer-assets-civilians-n390046