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Proposed Commissary Cuts Worry Middle-Class Military Families, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals two thirds of career military consider commissaries to be an important part of overall compensation and retirement benefits

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Pentagon plan to slash taxpayer support of commissaries is meeting with widespread resistance from members of America’s career military, who say the budget-cutting move would cause their foods costs to rise and compel them to spend a larger portion of their middle-class incomes on groceries.

The latest results of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveal that roughly two-thirds of military families in pay grades E-6 and above (that is, senior NCOs and commissioned officers) with household incomes of at least $50,000 identify commissaries as an important part of their current compensation as well as future retirement benefits. And three out of four respondents say that eliminating this taxpayer-subsidized benefit would negatively impact their families. Top concerns include:

  • Cost of food would increase (65 percent)
  • A larger portion of the monthly household budget would go to groceries (60 percent)
  • Grocery shopping would be less convenient (26 percent)
  • Would need to give up other activities (24 percent)

Notably, 18 percent of middle-income servicemembers worry that losing their commissary benefit would make it harder to save, which has been one of their top strategies for dealing with the coming wave of military budget cuts. When asked how they are preparing for sequestration, roughly one third of survey respondents (34 percent) indicated they are increasing the amount they are saving.

Worries over commissary cuts come at a time of increasing concerns over the broader impact of sequestration on household finances. When asked how sequester cuts are impacting their families, February survey respondents identified a number of compensation-related issues. The Index reveals that 31 percent say they are impacted by reductions in personal expense benefits, a broad category that comprises housing, clothing and food. That’s up six points from January.

“Commissaries are an important benefit for not only lower-income, junior members of the military, but also our higher-ranking men and women in uniform who earn solidly middle-class incomes,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Our survey respondents estimate that they spend almost half of their monthly grocery shopping dollars at commissaries. Not surprisingly, over seven-in-ten say they feel unfavorable to the proposal to eliminate taxpayer- subsidized commissaries. Clearly the proposed savings for the federal budget comes at a cost, one that may mean far-ranging impacts for the near- and long-term finances of America’s career military.”

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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