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Military Families Plan to Spend Less and Save More in 2021

February 4, 2021

FORT WORTH, Texas – America’s career military are looking to improve their family finances in the year ahead with a continued focus on spending less, cutting debt and saving for retirement.

The latest results of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveal that 74 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) are extremely or very confident that their household finances will improve over the next year. That confidence is accompanied by a variety of positive financial aspirations, with most survey respondents identifying at least one positive strategy or frugal activity they will pursue in 2021.

    • Improving credit score                                                                                                                                 35 percent
    • Getting out of debt                                                                                                                                        34 percent
    • Starting to save for retirement or put more money into retirement savings                       28 percent                                                                                                                           
    • Learning to budget responsibly                                                                                                               27 percent

Notably, several of these behaviors align with financial challenges being reported by some career military families. Survey respondents say they are experiencing problems with credit card debt (31 percent), overall debt levels (27 percent), spending without a budget (26 percent) and inadequate savings (24 percent).

Many families continue to express financial concerns and uncertainty related to COVID-19. The Index reveals that 77 percent of military families are extremely or very concerned about the pandemic. Forty-four percent of military spouses say they have lost employment or income because of the virus. More than half (55 percent) of military families say they expect to tap into emergency funds in the next 12 months.

Financial advisors are helping many families counteract feelings of uncertainty about the future. According to the Index, 79 percent of active-duty families who have a financial advisor feel confident their financial situation will improve in the next year. That compares to just 38 percent who do not have an advisor.

“Families who work with a financial coach are more likely to enact frugal strategies in their pursuit of financial security,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “We look for a growing number of military families to put their trust in knowledgeable financial professionals as they seek new ways to deal with an uncertain economy and improve their finances in 2021.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. For more details on our research, please email

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Brokerage Services and First Command Bank, coach our Nation’s military families in their pursuit of financial security. Since 1958, First Command Financial Advisors have been shaping positive financial behaviors through face-to-face coaching with hundreds of thousands of client families.

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