Financial preparation can be a challenge for soldiers

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When Mechel Glass left the military to return home at age 21, everything was different for her. She was unemployed, her friends were gone, and she was almost homeless.

“The army paid for my food, my accommodation and almost everything else,” she said. “I should have had a big nest egg, but I had nothing to show for it.”

Glass channeled this desperation and helplessness to pay the next. She now works for a national nonprofit financial counseling agency, Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Atlanta, and has written a book to help soldiers manage their money inside and outside the military.

While many members of the military do well on financial literacy tests, the average credit score for an active member of the military is 592, compared to 692 for civilians, Glass said. “They also have a higher probability of bankruptcy,” she said.

The military are generally well paid, but the lifestyle can present special challenges. Frequent moves are a major concern for many singles and families. Many military families have bought homes and when they move they can end up with two mortgages or two rent payments.

There is also the stress of fatigue in combat. “The soldiers are going into credit card debt because they fear they will not survive until the next day, so they are looking to have fun and live for the time being,” Glass said.

In fact, nearly half of military personnel with a credit card have reported costly behaviors such as paying the minimum, paying late fees, paying over-limit fees, or using cash advances from their credit cards. , according to a 2012 survey of 1,300 military personnel. members by the FINRA Foundation.

To make matters worse, sometimes the spouse or partner who is deployed may be more financially capable. The civilian spouse may have spent a bounty on a car, but won’t say anything about drowning in debt to risk upsetting an already stressed deployed soldier.

The military has several options for soldiers and families who are struggling financially. But Glass said some soldiers are avoiding military aid because admitting serious debt could lead to a degradation of security clearance or worse. “Some people search for ‘military loans’ online and find sources unreliable. It’s a big problem.

Finances are one of the top five concerns of the military. But it’s also one of the easiest to mitigate as it affects security clearance, said Captain Ron Jarvi, National Guard Resiliency Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program Manager at the National Guard. Cottage Grove.

Soldiers can show they are on the right track, even by seeing a financial advisor, to avoid a downgrade in security or a suspension. “I am not aware of any separation recently due to financial issues,” he said.

Craig Hovland is a personal financial advisor who works with the Minnesota National Guard. He is a civilian contractor who builds relationships with Air Guard and Army Guard soldiers to build trust. “My passion is helping people and building relationships so that they feel free to contact me for all financial matters.”

Confidentiality is important. Hovland will not report a financial problem to a soldier’s commanding officer unless the person is able to harm themselves or others. Meeting with an advisor is usually a free will of a soldier. Soldiers may take other mandatory training on life insurance or savings programs, but advice from a personal financial advisor is usually only a suggestion. “They have to own it. There is no hold by the hand, ”he said.

Its most common visitor is usually a soldier living from paycheck to paycheck where almost all expenses cause a crisis. Sometimes the problems start after deployment when there is underemployment or unemployment.

Staff Sgt. Emmett Klucas, 35, of Little Falls, Minn., Isn’t convinced members of the military face more financial risk than anyone else. “We have access to personal finance advisers, but people aren’t reaching out to them as they should,” he said.

He and his wife went through a tough financial patch before his deployment, early in their marriage. He took out loans for ATVs and other non-necessities and was soon in debt of $ 13,000. With financial guidance from the military and radio host Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method (paying off debts in smallest to largest order) and steadfastly avoiding any new vehicles, they got out of debt.

“We looked around for good role models and made a deal to get out of debt in two years, and we did,” he said.

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