Military Millennials & Managing Debt/Credit

Here are some numbers that might surprise you: Millennials now make up the largest generation—83.1 million "Generation Y" 18 to 34-year-olds are entering the workforce and joining our armed services. And millennials—21 to 34-year-olds—hold an estimated $1.1 trillion of the country's $3.6 trillion in consumer debt. This partner packet provides resources to help young service members and their families navigate the often complex world of debt and credit.

Please share this article, social media content, and resources provided with your constituents, your partners, and the general public. As always, please encourage individuals to take the Military Saves Pledge, an important step in creating a plan to reach their savings or debt reduction goals. After all, savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully for things like emergencies and retirement.

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Five Money Moves to Make By Your First Duty Station

By Alecia D. Blair, Military Saves Communications & Outreach Manager, AFC® Candidate, FINRA Foundation Fellow

As a new recruit after basic training, there's a lot to learn about your branch of the military, job or MOS (military occupation specialty), and first duty station. How well (and how quickly) you learn these skills can impact your military career.

Equally important is how well you learn to manage your financial fitness by creating healthy savings habits. Here are five money moves you should make by the time you get to your first duty station to set yourself up for success.

1. Understand your benefits and LES (Leave and Earning Statement)

When it comes to money and the military, ignorance is not bliss. From Tricare to your housing allowance, understand the full range of benefits available to you and use them wisely to save money.

Do you understand how to read your LES? If not, here are some guides to get your started. Be sure to address errors with your installation's Finance Office. After all, the first step to saving money is to make sure you're receiving your pay and benefits correctly.

2. Find your Personal Financial Counselor

Did you know that many installations offer FREE, confidential financial counseling to service members and families? It's true! This service is expensive in the civilian world. Seek out your financial counselor and the guidance he or she has to offer to help you get your financial house in order. Find your installation's contact information here to get started.

3. Come up with a savings plan and set some goals

Now's the perfect time to take a hard look at your income and expenses and create a realistic savings plan or budget. Check out and for great information on how to create a spending plan.

Once you've created a spending plan, add a new line item to it to pay yourself first (and save automatically), rather than treating your savings as an afterthought. What will you save for? Work with your Personal Financial Counselor to identify at least one savings goal and commit to it by taking the Military Saves Pledge. People who Pledge and create a savings plan are twice as likely to make good progress meeting their savings needs.

One possible savings goal is retirement, and a big change is coming to military retirement next year. Between Jan. 1- Dec. 31, 2018, the new Blended Retirement System (BRS) goes into effect, and service members with fewer than 12 years of service (as of December 31, 2017) will be required to make an irrevocable decision--to opt into the BRS or stay in the legacy retirement system. Educate yourself on the BRS, then, take informed, decisive action in 2018 to meet your retirement savings goals. Learn more here.

4. Steer clear of needless debt

It might be tempting to run out and buy a new car or new furniture at your first duty station, especially when you get paid twice a month. And yes, retailers will want to sell you their goods and services--your paycheck is as reliable as Uncle Sam! But proceed with caution. Spending without a plan can leave you with dangerous debt. Instead, save for your big purchases. If you find yourself in a financial jam, stay away from the trap of payday loans and look for help from an alternative, such as a military relief agency. Build and nurture your credit. Here's how.

5. Sync up your savings plan with your career and personal plans

Every promotion, deployment, temporary duty (or TDY) and Permanent Change of Station (or PCS) move is an opportunity to stop and assess your own financial fitness. Could you save 1 percent more now that you're a newly-pinned Specialist? Could you add $50 more per month to your emergency and transition funds and $50 more per month to pay off debt during your upcoming deployment? A change in your military career is often a great opportunity to bring positive change to your financial situation.

Are marriage and children in your future? If so, saving ahead of time will make these huge life changes a lot less stressful. Weddings, managing the expenses of a household and the needs of a baby offer big financial challenges for young military families. (Did you know that the average cost of a wedding is more than $30,000, according!) Save for life's special events ahead of time so that you're able to enjoy them more.

And before you jump into parenthood, consider the expenses of raising a baby and begin saving. Ask yourself if your household income and savings comfortably support a family. If not, set this as a savings goal and begin working towards it.

Military Saves has your back as you start your career in the military. Follow these five steps to set yourself up for financial fitness now and throughout your career.

Social Media Content

Share the following messages with your Facebook & Twitter followers. (Right click on images to save and use.)


Understand all of your military benefits & use them wisely to save money: via @militarydotcom #SavingsTipTuesday

The first step to saving money is to make sure you're receiving your pay & benefits correctly: #SavingsTipTuesday

Take advantage of FREE financial counseling that might be offered on your base. Start here >> #SavingsTipTuesday

Set goals and make a plan for your money. @MilitarySaves can help: #SavingsTipTuesday

Analyze your income & create a realistic savings plan. Visit & USAAEF.ORG for help. #SavingsTipTuesday

When creating your spending plan, make sure to pay yourself first>> h/t @militarysaves #Savings Tip Tuesday

Steer clear of needless debt, and instead save for large purchases>> h/t @militarysaves


Millennials make up nearly 3/4 of service members in the military: @FINRA_Investor @militarysaves #SavingsFactFriday

5 Things Millennials need to know about retirement>> via @CNNMoney #SavingsFactFriday

#Retirement will cost close to $2M for today's #millennials>> via @USAToday #SavingsFactFriday

Millennials 21-34 hold an estimated $1.1 trillion in consumer debt>> via @businessinsider #SavingsFactFriday

Other Posts:

Millennials: Did you know you're entering your prime investment years? Here are some apps to help: via @usatoday

The #BlendedRetirement System goes into effect next year. Learn more here: h/t @militarysaves

Check out tips from @AmericaSaves to build and nurture your credit >> http://bit.ly2pRhLDo

Preparing for parenthood? Plan & save for those first year expenses!

Learn how to save more in your twenties. 7 Savings Tips for Young Adults: h/t @militarysaves

Saving for retirement, a car, a college education? Take the @militarysaves Pledge to maximize your saving!

Start an emergency fund by saving $10/week or $40/month to save $500 by the end of the year

Opening a #mySocialSecurity account is quick, safe & easy. Get your account today at @SocialSecurity

Relevant Resources

Military Saves Resources:

Young and in the Military: Five Tips for Financial Success

Three Things Generation Y Needs to Consider About Retirement

Millennials--What the 2015 National Financial Capability Study Reveals

Millennials--Don't take a Vacation from Your Money Goals this Summer!

Financial Strategies by Generation

How to Build Wealth When You're Not a Homeowner

Seven Savings Tips for Young Adults

Having a Baby? Time to Start an Emergency Fund!

Planning for College Expenses

Do you know the credit score basics?

Five Ways to Raise Your Credit Score in Less Than a Year

Get Out of Debt

Other Resources

America Saves:

More Millennials are Living at Home

Retirement #LifeHacks for Millennials

FINRA Investor Education Foundation:

Control Your Credit

Everyday Finances

The USAA Education Foundation:

A Saving Strategy for Millennials

3 Must-do-Money Moves for Military Millennials

Military OneSource:


8 Small Steps to Jump-Start Your Savings

Tip of the Day

  • Check out these "6 Tips to Help Reduce Credit Card Debt" at

Saver Stories View all »

Making Saving Automatic Leads to Personal Success

Ryan’s savings journey started when he was an active duty airman. Frequent deployments and temporary duty assignments gave him the opportunity to save. By the time he transitioned out of active duty, he had built up a healthy rainy-day fund and had started to aggressively save for retirement.


Involving Kids in Family Finances


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

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.”