Skip Navigation

Military families commit tax refunds to financial security

May 12, 2021

FORT WORTH, Texas – Career military families are using their 2021 tax refunds to improve household finances, focusing on cutting debt, paying bills and building up savings.

 First Command’s 10th annual survey on tax refunds reveals that the majority of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who have received or expect to receive a tax refund plan to spend it on putting their finances in order. Key strategies include:

    • Paying down debt (34 percent). Roughly two-thirds of survey respondents who are paying down debt indicate that they are focused on credit cards. And almost half say they are paying down personal loan debt and mortgage debt.
    • Paying monthly bills (33 percent).
    • Bumping up general savings (29 percent). Roughly one in five families say they’ve been putting their refunds into general savings for more than three years.
    • Pre-paying major bills (25 percent).
    • Building an emergency fund (24 percent).

“This focus on fiscal responsibility continues a long-term trend in which we see the majority of career service members and their spouses using tax refunds to deal with the near-term uncertainties of family life,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “That’s particularly notable in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly three out of five survey respondents say they have been financially affected by COVID-19. Committing tax refunds to improving family finances is an effective way to address feelings of uncertainty today while continuing to pursue long-term financial security.”

Notably, feelings of financial security are strongest in military families who work with a financial advisor. They are significantly more likely than their do-it-yourself counterparts to feel comfortable dedicating tax refund dollars to optional or longer-term expenditures, including:

    • Home improvements (34 percent versus 6 percent)
    • Future taxes (30 percent versus 6 percent)
    • College savings (24 percent versus zero percent)

“Military families who work with a financial coach are already focused on careful money management, so they may feel they can comfortably commit extra dollars to important but less-urgent wants or needs,” Steffe said. “Working with knowledgeable and trusted financial advisors, military families are developing sound money behaviors that help them take control of their finances and get financially squared away.”

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.

Share This Story