First Command News & Media

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 2, 2014

Military Families Spending More on Back-to-School Shopping, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals top cost-savings efforts

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Military families plan to devote more dollars to back-to-school shopping than they did last year, even as widespread concerns about sequestration and defense downsizing continue to prompt many of them to curb everyday spending, according to the latest findings of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

First Command's annual back-to-school shopping survey reveals that roughly four out of five middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) are in the market for school clothes and supplies. Of these families, 37 percent plan on spending more than last year. That's roughly double the 15 percent who expected to spend more in 2013. Just 6 percent expected to do so in 2012.

This surge in consumerism is in marked contrast to the back-to-school spending plans of the broader middle class. The Index reveals that just 12 percent of civilian families expect to spend more than last year.

Back-to-school military shoppers are opening up their wallets at a time when many servicemembers and their families are responding to defense downsizing and sequestration worries through a larger commitment to frugal living. The Index reveals that 42 percent are countering their sequestration concerns by cutting back on everyday spending.

The frugal lifestyle followed by many military families shows through in how they expect to spend money on back-to-school shopping. The top cost-saving methods reported by this year's survey respondents are:

  • Shopping at discount stores (58 percent)
  • Shopping for less expensive supplies (55 percent)
  • Using supplies from past years (47 percent)
  • Spending less on back-to-school clothes (47 percent)
  • Not buying new electronics (47 percent)
  • Buying items in bulk (34 percent)
  • Buying fewer school supplies (29 percent)
  • Using hand-me-down clothes (26 percent)
  • Sharing supplies with other people (11 percent)
  • Fewer items for dorm rooms (8 percent)
  • College children living at home (8 percent)

These cost-saving measures help illustrate the financial strain experienced by military families, where feelings of financial security have been eroding in recent months. The Index reveals that the percentage of military families who report feeling extremely or very financially secure month to month has fallen to a year-to-date low of 36 percent. That's down 16 points from a near-record high of 52 percent in February.

"The majority of military families are not new to implementing cost-cutting measures on purchasing back-to-school supplies, as we've seen for the last several years" said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. "These measures are typical of the way military families are reacting to sequestration and Department of Defense budget cuts. Although they are ready to send their children back to school with needed supplies, they are taking steps to save money along the way."

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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