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Career Military Coming Up Short in Money Knowledge

May 31, 2022

FORT WORTH, Texas – Career military families have fallen behind the rest of the country in basic money knowledge, underscoring the need to enhance financial readiness for service members and their spouses, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

Results of the 11th annual financial readiness test and survey commissioned by First Command Financial Services, Inc., reveal that middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) earned an average grade of 57. That’s unchanged from last year and remains the lowest in the history of the test. In contrast, general population test takers with similar household incomes earned an average grade of 69, which is also unchanged from 2021.

Eighteen percent of military test takers correctly answered at least seven questions in the nine-question quiz, which is designed to measure basic money knowledge associated with financial readiness. That compares to 40 percent of civilian respondents. Perfect scores were earned by less than one percent of military respondents and seven percent of the general population.

 “Our annual financial readiness test identifies a long-term trend of service member families trailing the general population in basic money knowledge,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “Military test takers scored less than the general population in nine of the past 11 years. These results underscore the critical need to expand our efforts to improve the financial readiness of military families.”

Notably, financial training and education alone is not the solution. Military test takers are significantly more likely than their civilian counterparts to say they’ve completed a financial literacy or education program (73 percent versus 21 percent). But among military test takers who completed one of these programs, just 17 percent correctly answered at least seven questions in the quiz. That compares to 49 percent in the general population.

First Command is committed to improving the financial readiness of service members and military spouses through face-to-face coaching. 

“Education is vitally important, but coaching is where we can bring the greatest value to military families,” Steffe said. “Our Financial Advisors use their deep knowledge of personal finance and military pay and benefits to help families change their financial behaviors. Advisors coach our clients to save more, spend less and reduce consumer debt. Our research reveals that families who work with a financial coach feel greater confidence in their financial future. This is one of the key reasons we waive financial planning fees for active-duty military families. One-on-one coaching helps families bridge the gap in their own financial knowledge by focusing on positive financial behaviors. The result is they feel more confident in their efforts to pursue long-term financial security.”

 First Command is also committed to supporting financial training and education to the military through charitable gifts and hands-on assistance.

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 MarketingInbox@firstcommand.com. https://www.firstcommand.com/about-us/advisor-difference/.

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, First Command Advisory 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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