Supporting Financial Readiness for Military Families

Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Military Line, is privileged to partner with The McGraw-Hill Companies, in support of Joining Forces work on military financial literacy and readiness. In mid-July, we are launching a landing page on McGraw Hill’s “Making Change Now” financial literacy website and will also include an associated smart phone application expressly for military consumers.

Nearly 70 percent of Active Duty military and 51 percent of National Guard and Reserves are 30 years or younger. Many receive a steady paycheck for the first time in their lives and often lack sound financial experience… ultimately leading to bad decisions when managing their finances. Personal financial distractions can spell all sorts of trouble with broad ramifications for military readiness. Given mobility and relative unpredictability of the military life style, financial problems are often tipping points in a service member’s family and professional health.

There are many options in the area of sound financial advice available to our military - leaders, mentors, relatives, and financial professionals. A few valuable online resources available to service members include SaveandInvest.org, Military Saves, Military OneSource, and Financial Literacy Now. All provide basic principles of money management. Military members living near or on a military installation have access to a personal financial manager who provides guidance and education. Also, every service has a non-profit “Financial Relief Agency” that is responsible for providing emergency financial assistance to their respective service. They are- Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Relief Society, and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

When it comes to Financial Readiness, a primary concern is for service members living an unending cycle of debt: complicated by high interest/high fee, short term loans. To combat this, organizations having the service members’ best interest at heart are creating alternative financial products that go head to head with these predatory loans.  A great example is the The ARK Program: a no-interest, low fee, short term loan created by PenFed Foundation. A service member experiencing “more month, than money” (a phrase coined by my good friend, Holly Petraeus at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) now has a better option than the loan, colorfully and strategically advertised, just outside military installation front gates or online.  

A strong military needs a strong foundation, and that foundation comes from military families and their communities.  Where military consumers help sustain their local marketplace; we’ve seen thoughtful civilian leaders looking out for the best interest of their local military community members. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is holding 400 “Hiring Our Heroes” events scheduled for transitioning service members and military spouses with national and local businesses participating. Also, several local BBBs are partnering with the Defense Credit Union Council to conduct a pilot program that encourages BBB input into Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Boards (AFDCB). Installation commanders regularly rely upon these boards for recommendations about putting problematic businesses off limits to service members when these establishments are deemed harmful. 

There are many more opportunities in which to support, assist, and even help protectour military and their families in the vast economic domain. We are greatly honored to do our part.

Brenda Linnington is the Director of the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Military Line

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