Before the COVID-19 Pandemic…
According to Consumer Credit, 34% of military families report not being able to pay bills, 11% of military families have debt in collections and only 50% of military families reported that they had set aside funds sufficient to cover expenses for three months in case of emergency. In addition, 91% of military families report having at least one credit card compared to their civilian counterparts at 69%.
Overall, 84% of enlisted service members and/or their families, that make up 82% of the total Armed Forces, report having significant worries about personal finances and continually put life decisions on hold, like buying a house or pursing higher education, until they become more financially stable.
Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic…
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, fellow veteran service organizations Blue Star Families, Booz Allen Hamilton and the Association of Defense Communities conducted a weekly pain points survey to gauge the financial impact of the pandemic on military families.
Over the course of 10-week, 17% of active duty military spouses lost their jobs, 22% of military families reported a loss in income and 19% shared that they are extremely tight on finances. During this time, 15% of military families reported an increase in spending on groceries and 10% experienced housing financial issues.
At Hope For The Warriors, our goal is to meet our military families where they are at and help them find HOPE during troubling times. Through an analysis of needs and with financial support being our top-requested service by military families, our social workers, who are certified in financial social work, developed a four-week financial wellness workshop to help combat the financial stress our military families were facing. Amidst the one-on-one support they offered participating families, our team was eager to share these five impactful tips with YOU to increase financial stability in YOUR life.
1. Spend time with your money
Financial trouble is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. Marriage and relationships take work. While you strive to “never stop dating your spouse,” our first tip is to have a financial date night with them! It’s not a glamorous date night, but it can be a major step in improving your relationship and quality of life.
Block out time each week to work on your financial goals, reconnect with them, talk about it with your significant other and family members. Don’t ignore your debt or financial situation. The more time you spend with your budget, the easier it becomes to talk about your finances and not be stressed out about them. Plus, it’s a great way to see progress in your steps to become a financially healthy family.
2. Get Organized
Organization is the key to success! Design a budget notebook or excel sheet that documents money coming in and where it is going. Begin to audit your spending by looking at past bank statements. Keep your receipts to track spending habits and start creating boundaries on spending.
If you need a budget sheet, click here to download.
3. Create a plan and stick to it!
Financials are overwhelming and understanding them can sometimes feel like trying to translate a foreign language. One of the best ways to start your plan is to create smart goals. Pulling up yourself out of debt or bringing up your credit score is something that takes time, but there is no better time than NOW to start making goals for your money. To ease that overwhelming feeling, start outlining your financial goals with SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.
If debt is one of your main concerns, create a Get Out of Debt (GOOD) Plan!
Here are some tips on how to create a plan:
- Decide how much money you can set aside to put on your debts every month. Any amount will help, even a $1 extra a monthly payment on a high interest credit card can save you tons of money wasted on interest over the life of the loan.
- Call your credit cards and find out the interest rates on them, the amount that is due, and try to negotiate lower interest rates if you can. During COVID, especially, credit card and loan companies have been very generous in holding interest or lowering rates due to financial stress from the pandemic. Also ask about veteran assistance programs or if you can have late charges or other extra fees dropped. It never hurts to ask!
- Decide on a path to pay your loans or credit cards. A popular choice that many are finding easy to follow is the “snowball approach,” made popular by Dave Ramsey. Dave Ramsey also offers discounts to military on books and materials and offers great free resources! Click here to learn more: https://www.daveramsey.com/
One of the best pieces of advice we can give you for each payday is to pay yourself first! As stated above, 50% of military families report not having an emergency savings. In today’s world, an emergency savings account is a must. However, it’s also important to stash some cash away into accounts for vacations, investments and retirement. One way to do this is to ask your bank or human resources how you can set up an automatic allotment into those accounts directly from your paycheck. That way it’s less work on you and you learn to live without that money in your checking.
5. Share the Wealth
As parents, one of our main goals is to make the lives of our children better than our own. One of the best ways to do this is to teach your children financial habits that will set them up for success. Working towards a more financially stable family can create teachable moments for your children. Get them involved in their own finance goals at a young age by sharing your goals and accomplishments, teaching them how save and introducing them to philanthropy by giving to charities.
One fantastic way to teach your kiddos how to save is through their allowances or monetary birthday or holiday gifts. Whenever it’s their allowance “payday,” have them put half of their allowance in their piggy bank and the rest in their wallet. You can also do this with two labeled mason jars or even add a third jar for charity. For the biggest monetary gifts that they may receive on their birthday or holiday, work with them to set 50% aside, teach them out to fill out a deposit slip and head to your bank together to show them how to deposit money in their savings account.
How to inquire about HOPE’s Financial Wellness Workshops.
HOPE’s Financial Wellness Workshop is a FREE Four-week workshop series consisting of 45-minute sessions. The workshop sessions focus on financial stress awareness, how to budget and save, financial self-care, and focusing on your financial future. The goal of this work show is to:
- Learn stress-reduction activities, improve your financial awareness and learn coping skills to find confidence in uncertainty.
- Participate in interactive Zoom sessions where you can ask questions, practice skills and build your financial knowledge and wellness.
- Receive financial resources and expert tips tailored to veterans’ families who need help managing financial stressors during the Corona Virus crisis.
For more information or to sign up for the next workshop, apply for services at www.hopeforthewarriors.org.