2017 Military Saves Survey: Unexpected expenses the top savings challenge

Military Saves recently released the results of its 2017 Military Saves Saver Survey, which details the savings goals and challenges of Military Savers. The survey revealed that unexpected expenses are the top savings challenge for Military Savers (45 percent), followed by others depending on their income (30 percent). Retirement came in as the top savings goal (23 percent), followed by debt repayment (22 percent).

The online survey, administered in April of this year, surveyed 859 Military Savers—active duty service members, reservists, National Guard members, military spouses, DoD civilians, DoD contractors, and veterans who have taken the pledge within the past three years. While the survey results cannot necessarily be generalized to the entire Military Saves community, the findings provide insights into the savings attitudes and behaviors of Military Savers.

Savings Goals and Challenges

Despite 45 percent indicating that unexpected expenses pose the biggest challenge to their ability to save money, only 14 percent reported an emergency fund as a savings goal. Having an emergency fund not only allows you to cover unexpected expenses, it also gives you peace of mind that you can afford these types of financial emergencies without using a credit card or high-interest loan to pay for them.

Retirement Readiness

Survey respondents were also asked about retirement readiness and, specifically, what steps they've taken towards retirement. Twenty-three percent indicated retirement as their top savings goal, but retirement is more of a top savings goal for those in higher pay grades—45 percent of O1-O7 service members vs. 11 percent of E1-E3 service members. For lower pay grades, debt repayment was their top savings goal (28 percent).

When asked what steps, if any, they have taken towards retirement/saving for retirement, 67 percent indicated they have set up retirement accounts, and nearly half (47 percent) said they have increased contributions.

With the Blended Retirement System (BRS) coming on January 1, 2018, there will be changes to how service members can save for retirement. If you are eligible for the BRS, you should take the time to educate yourself on the new retirement system. Those joining the service after January 1, 2018 will automatically be enrolled, while current eligible service members will have to opt-in if they choose BRS over the legacy retirement system. Military Saves has developed a five-step checklist that will help guide you through the process.

Banks and Credit Unions Seen as Most Helpful Sources of Financial Information

Military Savers were also asked about what they considered the most helpful sources of financial information. Fifty-nine percent indicated banks and credit unions, followed by family and friends (39 percent), military peers (26 percent), personal financial managers/counselors/family readiness programs (16 percent), and military chain of command (seven percent).

Impact of Military Saves Pledge

Our 2017 Military Saver Survey results show that the Military Saves Pledge works to positively affect savings behavior. Fifty-eight percent of Military Savers said since taking the pledge they are saving regularly; 56 percent said the pledge reminds them of the importance of saving; 51 percent said it reminds them of the importance of building wealth over time; and half said it is something their family and friends should also take.

Our survey results also indicate that Military Savers take the Pledge to help with long-term, large savings goals—59 percent stated they plan to save $5,000 or more towards their savings goal and are looking to Military Saves for guidance for one year or longer.

Click here to view the 2017 Military Saves Saver Survey Infographic.

Military Saves is here to help you stay on track. Take Military Saves Pledge to set your savings goal and follow the prompts to opt-in to receive text message reminders and tips. Think of Military Saves as your personal savings support system.

Take the pledge

Fifty-eight percent of Military Savers are saving regularly since taking the Military Saves Pledge. Learn more: http://bit.ly/2yGRBLA

Tweet this now

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | April 22, 2014

    Is your child a victim of Identity theft? Find out!  http://ow.ly/C7B3q

Saver Stories View all »

Involving Kids in Family Finances

Written by | April 19, 2019


One of the best lessons we can share with our kids is about money. By middle school, kids should have a good understanding of how money works as well as the importance of saving.


Setting a Goal Leads to Success

Written by Super User | May 24, 2019

Growing up, Marisa’s dad had always talked about saving first, but she said she didn’t really internalize it until much later. “I was drifting along with no plan, carrying a little bit of revolving debt, saving some money here and there, but without a real plan for it.”


Building a Six-Figure Savings While Enjoying Life

Written by Jackie Toops | November 13, 2020

Does the idea of saving up hundreds of thousands of dollars seem impossible? How about doing it while still living an enjoyable lifestyle?

For military spouse Martina and her husband, an E-5 in the Navy, accumulating a six-figure savings has become a reality. One might think that in order to save this much, it would take a great deal of sacrificing and forgoing a certain quality of life, but Martina and her husband would disagree. “Over the past few years (about five), we've managed to save almost $120,000 while mostly living on one income. We've learned so much about easy ways to save money and live a good life,” shares Martina.