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Military families' top New Year's resolution: cutting debt

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Getting out of debt, cutting excessive spending and keeping track of financial activities are among the top New Year’s resolutions of America’s middle class military families, according to new research.

First Command Financial Services Inc. unveils this finding in its latest First Command Financial Behaviors Index. The research, based on November survey results, shows that 95 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) have identified one or more financially-themed resolutions for the New Year.

Top financial aspirations of military families for 2015 including:

  • Get out of debt (selected by 37 percent of survey respondents)

  • Cut back on excessive spending (29 percent)

  • Keep track of financial activities (28 percent)

  • Learn to budget responsibly (28 percent)

  • Improve credit score (26 percent)

  • Start saving money for retirement or put more money into retirement savings (25 percent)

  • Use cash or debit more often instead of credit cards (24 percent)

  • Make sound investments in the stock market (24 percent)

  • Learn not to live beyond your means (23 percent)

  • Be financially independent (23 percent)

  • Shop more at discount stores or for discount brands (20 percent)

The November survey results reveal that 70 percent of military respondents feel anxious about sequestration: the 2011 Budget Control Act that authorized an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction, including defense appropriations, over the following ten years. More than half of the survey respondents are concerned about their job security in the coming months. And almost three out of four expect to be financially impacted by anticipated cuts to defense spending. 

Still, middle-class military families are feeling positive about their current finances. The index reveals that half (51 percent) feel they are better off than they were a year ago. Just 8 percent say they are worse off. (Another 40 percent say their personal financial situation is about the same.)

Financial planners are contributing to the more positive outlook. The index reveals that 60 percent of survey respondents who have a financial advisor feel “extremely” or “very confident” their financial situation will improve in the next year. That compares to just 18 percent who do not work with a financial advisor.

“As we look back on another year of financial uncertainty for military families, men and women in uniform who are working with financial professionals are feeling more confident than their do-it-yourself colleagues that their finances will improve in 2015,” says Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Families who work with a financial coach are more likely to spend less, save more and pay down debt in their pursuit of financial security.

“As we move through the new year we expect to see a growing number of active-duty households put their trust in knowledgeable financial professionals and take other positive actions that will help them get their finances squared away for the future,” he adds.

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.