First Command News & Media

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — November 18, 2014

Financial Concerns Prompt Military Families To Trim Thanksgiving Plans, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals top cost-cutting techniques of men and women in uniform

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FORT WORTH, Texas — TFinancial uncertainty and concern is prompting a record number of middle-class military families to kick off this year’s holiday spending season with a leaner Thanksgiving celebration.

First Command's annual Thanksgiving spending survey reveals that 82 percent of middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) say their Thanksgiving plans will change as a result of the current economic situation. That’s up 20 points from last year. In contrast just 43 percent of civilian families say their plans will change. That’s down eight points from last year.

The latest survey findings from the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveal that active-duty families will be cutting back on Thanksgiving in a variety of ways, including:

  • Reducing travel (32 percent)
  • Sticking to a set budget (31 percent)
  • Dining with immediate family members only (30 percent)
  • Spending less on decorations (24 percent)
  • Spending less on food (21 percent)
  • Go to someone else’s house for dinner (18 percent)
  • Tie: Have a “pot luck” dinner /Go out to a restaurant for dinner (15 percent)

Although changing Thanksgiving plans in response to financial concerns is not new, this is the first year for many military families to plan on having a pot-luck dinner (41 percent) or going to someone else’s house for dinner (60 percent).

This Thanksgiving’s dramatic surge in frugal spending plans comes at a time when many servicemembers and their families are feeling considerable financial uncertainty and concern related to defense downsizing and sequestration. September survey results reveal that:

  • 79 percent expect to be financially affected by anticipated cuts to defense spending.
  • 76 percent are anxious about cuts to defense spending, a record high.
  • 55 percent are concerned about their job security in the coming months, also a record high.

“Our Thanksgiving survey results reveal a striking escalation of the frugal spending behaviors that began with the recession and are continuing with the military budget cuts of sequestration,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Three out of four career military families are anxious about cuts to defense spending, and four out of five expect to be financially affected. We also expect to see these concerns reflected in the results of our seventh annual holiday spending survey now in development. By spending less, cutting debt and saving more, military families are making frugal living a year-around habit.”

About 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. Financial Behaviors Index

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 Bank and First Command Financial Planning, assist American families in their efforts to build wealth, reduce debt and pursue their lifetime financial goals and dreams—focusing on consumer behavior as the first and most powerful determinant of results. Through knowledgeable advice and coaching of the financial behaviors conducive to success, First Command Financial Advisors have built trustworthy, lasting relationships with hundreds of thousands of client families since 1958.


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