First Command News & Media

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — August. 31, 2017

First Command Reports: Military families planning to bump up back–to–school spending

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals almost half of middle–class military families expect to spend more this year on school clothes and supplies

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FORT WORTH, Texas – A record number of career military families expect to bump up their back–to–school spending for 2017, according to the latest findings of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

First Command's annual back–to–school shopping survey reveals that 46 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) who are in the market for school clothes and supplies plan on spending more than they did last year. That's the highest percentage recorded in the six–year history of the survey, up from 30 percent in 2016 and 34 percent for the five–year period. Nine out of ten families report that they are in the market for school clothes and supplies.

This projected spike in spending stands in contrast to the back–to–school shopping plans of the general population. The Index reveals that just 17 percent of civilian shoppers expect to spend more than last year. That compares to 14 percent in 2016 and 12 percent for the five–year period. Roughly half of general population families say they will be engage in back–to–school shopping this year.

Notably, this shopping surge comes at a time when many military families are curbing their everyday spending due to continuing concerns about sequestration and defense downsizing. The Index reveals that 41 percent are countering their sequestration concerns by cutting back on everyday spending.

That sense of frugality shows through in how these families expect to approach back-to-school shopping. Survey respondents say they will be:

  • Using supplies from past years (55 percent)
  • Shopping at discount stores (45 percent)
  • Buying fewer school supplies (45 percent)
  • Shopping for less expensive supplies (41 percent)
  • Spending less on back–to–school clothes (41 percent)
  • Buying items in bulk (41 percent)
  • Not buying new electronics (38 percent)
  • College children living at home (17 percent)
  • Using hand–me–down clothes (14 percent)
  • Fewer items for dorm rooms (7 percent)
  • Sharing supplies with other people (3 percent)

“While we are seeing a greater willingness in military families to spend more on back–to–school supplies, the underlying intention to keep household expenditures under control remains strong,” said Scott Spiker, chairman/CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Frugality has become a way of life for many service member families. We first saw belt–tightening behaviors emerge in response to recessionary pressures, and they have continued in recent years as military families face the challenges of sequestration and Department of Defense budget cuts. They are ready to send their children back to school with needed supplies, but are continuing to take steps to save money as a way to deal with financial uncertainties.”

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.

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 Financial Planning 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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