Survey: Millennials in the military gain a financial advantage

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Michael Hogue/MCT
Michael Hogue/MCT

Survey: Millennials in the military gain a financial advantage

by: Emma S. Hinchliffe | .
USA Today | .
published: February 27, 2015

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) —  Serving in the military may have financial benefits other than a salary.

Active-duty Millennials are more financially secure and prepared than their civilian counterparts, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Navy Federal Credit Union.

The survey measured financial literacy, readiness for a financial emergency, goals related to loans and debt, and self-confidence in personal finances among 300 active-duty Millennials and their spouses and 1,011 civilians ages 18 to 34.

Millennials who serve in the military are more likely to think they are on the right path toward meeting their financial goals and to be satisfied with their current financial situation. For example, 84% of military Millennials feel they are on track to pay off their debt over the next five years, compared to 68% of civilians.

Military Millennials are also more aware of their finances: 68% have checked their credit score in the past year, compared to 37% of others surveyed. Those in the military are two times less likely to use a payday loan and two times more likely to pay attention to a household budget.

The two groups also have different financial priorities; 66% of civilian Millennials think it is very important to purchase a car, compared to 50% of those in the military. Military Millennials are more likely to prioritize paying off debt, building up savings and saving for retirement.

So what gives active-duty Millennials this financial advantage?

"Their life circumstances put them in a place where they need to strive for financial independence faster than other Millennials do," says Maritza DiScullio, vice president for member research, intelligence and development at the Navy Federal Credit Union, which serves all Department of Defense and Coast Guard personnel.

"You're more in a preparedness mindset vs. your more everyday Millennials, still figuring things out," adds Mary Beth Storjohann, a military spouse and financial planner specializing in clients in their 20s and 30s.

Because of this reality, the military often helps its servicemembers to become financially literate and make responsible financial choices by offering education about available benefits and resources, among other guidance. For civilians to reach the same level of financial confidence and security, employers may need to adopt the military's approach.

"If employees took a bigger hand in educating their employees, that would be a first step," Storjohann says. "Military Millennials are a lot more aware of their benefits."

Although serving in the military does seem to be a surefire way to gain financial responsibility, the survey results show potential for other Millennials to find that same security.

"I look at them and think that this is the potential that non-military Millennials can reach," DiScullio says. "There are a lot of reasons why military Millennials are where they are, but that doesn't mean that non-military Millennials can't be there as well."

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