Military Times

More than a quarter of military families have less than $500 in emergency funds survey finds

The financial outlook for military families facing an emergency is grim, a new report says.

More than a quarter of all military families — 27.4 percent — currently serving active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard have less than $500 socked away in emergency savings or could have no emergency savings set up, according to the latest Military Family Support Programming Survey released Thursday.

Military retirees who are receiving pensions didn’t fare much better, with just over 22 percent of respondents claiming they have less than $500 saved away for emergencies.

Among veteran families who are not receiving a pension, the numbers are even more dire. Nearly half of those respondents, 49.2 percent, said they had less than $500 in emergency savings, or no emergency savings at all.

When asked what was preventing the families from bolstering their savings account, respondents provided a variety of answers:

“Having three kids. If they aren’t wearing the money, they are eating it,” a Marine Corps spouse said, according to the survey.

“Being based in an area with a high cost of living and no COLA,” an Air Force spouse said.

“Not enough of it, we barely can pay basic bills,” an Army veteran spouse said. “We only have his disability income. I can’t work due to needs of him and kids.”

Military Family Support Programming Survey concluded that enlisted military families and veteran families were the least prepared for a financial emergency or significant loss of income. The survey said most respondents were from the enlisted ranks, with nearly 50 percent within the E-4 to E-6 range.

An E-4 could make a maximum of $32,958.00 annually in basic pay, while an E-6 could make a maximum of $50,065.20 annually in basic pay, according to FederalPay.org.

The survey was conducted online between Oct. 7, 2019, and Nov. 11, 2019 with a sample size of 7,785.

Although the report occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has put an additional financial strain on service members and their families. For families who were slated to PCS, the Pentagon’s stop movement order barring most families from moving has required some service members to pay rent at two duty stations, among other things.

Children Of Fallen Patriots Foundation, a organization that works to assist children who have lost a parent due to their military service by providing them college scholarships and educational counseling, also reported the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on their community financially.

Nearly half of respondents, 46 percent, said they had lost full-time or part-time employment as a result of COVID-19. A total of 340 students, parents of enrolled students and former students responded to the question. Nearly 70 percent of 448 respondents said their schools had not offered financial relief to cover things like tuition, room and board.

The survey was conducted in mid-April.

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