Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Why Service Members Should Receive Financial Literacy Training
The U.S. military offers incomparable benefits to those who choose to serve — paid health insurance and housing, job security, and tuition assistance to name a few — however, when it comes to financial planning, service members are left largely in the dark.
On May 15 the House of Representatives passed a bill mandating financial literacy training to all service members, a much-needed step toward preparing them for fiscal success. The proposal is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016.
The initiative would provide $400 million over five years, starting in 2016, for improved financial literacy training for troops and closely mirrors recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. The changes aimed at increasing the strength and frequency of financial education are especially important because service members will have to make some substantial financial decisions if the commission's recommendations related to significantly overhauling the military's retirement and health care systems go forward.
As noted in recent reporting, the new plan would require defense officials to include questions related to the financial literacy and preparedness of troops in the Defense Department's annual status-of-forces survey. Service officials would then use that information to evaluate and update the financial literacy training — an important measure to ensure the training is effective.
Additionally, lawmakers added health insurance, budget management, Thrift Savings Plan, and Survivor Benefit Plan into the definition of financial services to be addressed in the training, which are all key aspects of service members’ financial considerations.
The Senate made changes to the bill and sent it back to the House on June 18, so it still must be passed by the Senate to be signed into law, but it marks a concrete effort toward addressing a significant issue.
Currently the military provides only general financial advice, out of concern that unscrupulous financial advisors would steer young, inexperienced service members into inappropriate investments. This is a fair concern, but the reality is that both the need and the desire are present for more training. A 2013 survey compiled by Blue Star Families’ Department of Research and Policy found that only 12% of service members and their families said they received financial education through military training. However, 90% said they wanted more preventative financial education.
While this marks a promising proposal with real potential for improving the financial knowledge and preparedness of service members, it’s imperative to also note the direct impetus for this legislation: high suicide rates tied to financial struggle (see page 5). The sad reality is that many service members have felt so overwhelmed by their financial reality that they see ending their lives as the only escape. This groundbreaking proposal is geared to help reduce the rate of military suicide.
A Financial Planning investigation found that financial stress as a top precipitating factor to military suicide that’s been largely overlooked ever since the military suicide rate began to exceed comparable civilian rates more than a decade ago. Though we certainly can’t expect that this is the only answer to preventing suicide, it is an important way to recognize the needs of our troops.
It’s worth a review of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission proposal (see page 46) for insight on how the new legislation and accompanying resources could help service members mitigate financial strain. It’s especially noteworthy in that it identifies an additional benefit of the training as retention. DoD estimates that enhanced financial literacy training would reduce the number of service members involuntarily separated due to financial problems. Not only does this bode well for retaining personnel, but it also is projects a savings of $13 million to $137 million annually. Financial literacy is essential not just for the individual service member, but also for the entire Defense Department.
An important aspect of the proposed program is the recognition of the link between financial health and the overall readiness of the military. Training and education at the earliest stages would go a long way in helping to prepare service members for success and, most importantly, prevent the kind of hardship that leads them to contemplate taking their own lives.
This article originally appeared on Military.com.
Inside Forward Operating Base Oqab in Kabul, Afghanistan stands a wall painted with a mural of an airman kneeling before a battlefield cross. Beneath it, a black gravestone bookended with flowers and dangling dog tags displays the names of eight U.S. airmen and an American contractor killed in a horrific insider attack at Kabul International Airport in 2011.
It's one of a number of such memorials ranging from plaques, murals and concrete T-walls scattered across Afghanistan. For the last eight years, those tributes have been proof to the families of the fallen that their loved ones have not been forgotten. But with a final U.S. pullout from Afghanistan possibly imminent, those families fear the combat-zone memorials may be lost for good.
After a string of high profile incidents, the commander overseeing the Navy SEALs released an all hands memo stating that the elite Naval Special Warfare community has a discipline problem, and pinned the blame on those who place loyalty to their teammates over the Navy and the nation they serve.
A group of vets are raising money to pay for a medal the Iraqi government awarded them, but never delivered
In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.
The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.
A small group of veterans hopes to change that.
For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.
The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.