Survey Finds Ex-Military More Likely to Have Emergency Funds

Here’s some good news for our nation’s veterans and those who care about their welfare. The financial well-being of U.S. military veterans has improved in recent years, out­pacing the gains of non-veterans, according to new research by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Veterans, overall, reported having less difficulty covering their expenses and bills, had a lower likelihood of experiencing an income drop and were more likely to have an emergency fund, according to the survey of more than 3,000 veterans and more than 20,000 non-veterans.

Even as FINRA Foundation research shows that many Americans struggle to make ends meet, veterans are expressing higher financial well-being, lower levels of financial anxiety and a higher likelihood of having a will, the new survey shows.

Veterans were also 33% more likely to participate in the gig economy and were 12% more likely to use financial technology for planning. Further, veterans were more likely to have a retirement plan, in addition to an employer plan. The study examined the financial capability of veterans over time and compared these gains relative to civilians in 2018. Researchers also analyzed differences among demographic subgroups of veterans.

“The financial well-being of U.S. military veterans is a critical issue that has been largely understudied,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh.

“These research findings provide new insights to inform additional research and policy development to help service providers, advocates, policymakers and others develop better resources, tools and information to improve the financial and health outcomes of veterans.”

How Vets Score on Key Financial Capability Measures

Researchers benchmarked key measures of financial capability from 2015 to 2018 and found that, over time, veterans were:
  • 23% less likely to be underwater on their home (among those who owned a home);
  • 15% less likely to have difficulty covering bills and expenses;
  • 15% less likely to have experienced a drop in income in the past 12 months;
  • 5% more likely to have an emergency fund;
  • 7% more likely to have retirement savings outside an employer plan; and
  • 5% more likely to have savings in non-retirement accounts.
However, in spite of veterans’ apparent gains over a three-year period, survey findings showed that veterans in 2018 were:
  • 28% less likely to be attending a four-year college or uni­versity (among those attending schools);
  • 11% more likely to report having foregone necessary medical treatment; and
  • 11% more likely to report high-cost credit card behaviors such as late fees.

Gender Disparity Issues

There were also gender disparities. Researchers found that relative to male veterans, female veterans in 2018 had:
  • 4% lower financial self-efficacy (belief they can change their financial outcome);
  • 16% higher financial anxiety; and
  • 25% higher financial stress.

Like most things in life, financial capability is a work in progress.

The good news is strong progress has been made by U.S. military veterans across many financial fronts in recent years. To access the full report, data sets, survey instrument and methodology, visit Test how you fare on the Financial Literacy Quiz.

This article was originally published in the  May 2020 issue of BetterInvesting Magazine.
FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the U.S. Its chief role is to protect investors by maintaining the fairness of the U.S. capital markets.

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