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Military families spending tax refunds to shore up household finances

May 17, 2022

FORT WORTH, Texas – Career military families are using 2022 tax refunds to improve their household finances through saving and investing, paying bills and cutting debt.

First Command’s 11th 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:

  • Bumping up general savings (37%). Almost one-third of families say they’ve been putting their tax refunds into general savings for more than three years.
  • Paying monthly bills (30%).
  • Paying down debt (28%). Roughly half of survey respondents who are paying down debt indicate that they are focused on credit cards. And 40% are paying down personal loan debt.
  • Contributing to an investment account (27%).
  • Home improvements (27%).
  • Prepaying major bills (24%).
  • Building an emergency fund (23%).

Military families who work with a financial coach are strongly committed to investing in their financial future. They are more likely than their do-it-yourself peers to put tax refund dollars into general savings (53% versus 33%) and paying down debt (47% versus 24%). And they are less likely to spend their refunds by splurging on certain consumer purchases, such as:

  • Vacations (3% of those with a financial coach versus 25% of those without a coach).
  • Home improvements (10% versus 30%).
  • Dining out (0% versus 15%).

“This year’s survey results reflect a long-term trend of military families using their tax refunds to invest in a healthier economic future,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “That trend is particularly notable among those who work with a financial coach. These families are already focused on careful money management, so they are more likely to avoid the temptations of consumerism and instead capitalize on opportunities to build up their finances. Working with knowledgeable and trusted financial advisors, service members and their spouses are developing sound money behaviors that help them to control household spending 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, 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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