Members of the military face hurdles every day — and financial challenges are among some of the biggest.
Eric Wanner, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and his wife, Jana, have moved four times in the last 12 years — most recently to Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
Because of frequent deployments and moving expenses, as well as cost-of-living adjustments and erratic pay, the couple struggles when it comes to managing their household finances. They are raising a family on a single military income.
For example, “when we came back from overseas we had to rent a car for two months while we waited for our other car to get shipped,” said Jana Wanner. “That was a massive expense.”
In fact, service members and their spouses ranked financial stress as their greatest concern, even over deployment, according to Blue Star Families’ annual military family lifestyle survey.
Nearly 9 in 10 active service members and 84% of spouses or partners have worries about personal finances, according to a separate report by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which also did the same survey of military personnel five years ago.
Rather than have some of those challenges subside as the economy improved, more military families are worried about meeting basic household needs and debt payments today than in 2014, the NFCC found.
In fact, service members are now twice as likely not to be able to pay all their bills on time than they were just a few years ago.
Roughly 3 in 10 spouses or partners of service members said they do not pay their bills on time and about 1 in 10 said they currently have debts in collection, according to the survey.
Still, because of issues such as increased childcare costs during periods of deployment and the likelihood of relocation, it can be hard for spouses to find full-time employment to supplement their military incomes and build retirement savings.
As a result, about half of service members and their spouses of service members say they rely on the gig economy to stay afloat, the NFCC found.