by Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Blue Star Families just released its 2012 Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report. While the survey has tons of significant feedback on important topics such as military pay and benefits, children and deployment, and spousal employment, the thing that caught my eye is that 68% of respondents said they experience financial stress. Meanwhile, only 34% said that their unit provided financial education and that they knew where to find answers to their questions. Wow! That’s troubling. And I can’t help but feel that while there are some individual units out there that may be lacking when it comes to educating service members and families, there is DEFINITELY help out there, if you know where to go to find it.
Where to go if you need help right now. The big Kahuna of all military-related help sites has got to be Military OneSource. Sponsored by the Department of Defense, they are open 24/7 365 days a year. Need short term financial counseling? They’ve got it, either via telephone or, depending on your location, in person, by accredited financial counselors. They provide counseling on financial issues such as basic budgeting, money management, debt consolidation (including coaching to help people contact their creditors and negotiate late fees, interest rates, and affordable payment plans), and assistance with housing issues (behind on mortgage payments, potential foreclosure).
More places to go. Another valuable source of help is your installation’s family center, whether it’s Army Community Services, Airman & Family Readiness, Navy Fleet and Family Services, Marine Corps Community Service, or the Coast Guard Work-Life Program. The Guard and the Reserve have family programs as well. You don’t have to be active duty in order to seek help at these places. You may be surprised to find out the resources that are available, from budget counseling, retirement planning, and saving for college to job hunting and resume-tweaking. Most of these centers have an accredited financial counselor on staff or can arrange for you to see one if necessary.
Need more information? Whether you are researching the Savings Deposit Program or planning your budget, Military OneSource is again a great resource for information of all kinds. Did you know that through Military OneSource you can access Morningstar’s Investment Research Center for free (a membership is typically $189 per year!) and get real-time stock quotes, do research on funds or stocks, and track your portfolio.
Need still more information? Another great source for financial information is SaveandInvest.org, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s website. Partnering with the Department of Defense, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Military Family Association and a slew of other organizations (including Military Saves!), the site provides an unbelievable amount of financial education for all stages of life. These are also the folks who give service members access to free credit scores.
The Thrift Savings Plan’s site has tools to help you plan your retirement (and check your account balance). Mymoney.gov is a coalition of 21 different federal entities that promote financial education. Choose to Save, a program of the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Education and Research Fund, has lots of financial planning tools and a bunch of calculators for everything from college to life insurance to retirement. America Saves also has helpful saving strategies as well as getting out of debt.
Financial stress in this day and age isn’t to be wondered at. We all go through tough times. But it’s important to know that help is close by – a click of the mouse, a phone call or a short drive to your installation away.
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