Harris Poll Shows Military Service Members, Spouses and Partners Rely on the Gig Economy to Supplement Household Income

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NFCC survey reveals personal financial struggles of active duty military and their spouses, and how they cope with each.

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Men and women in uniform face many challenges and daily sacrifices while serving our country. Financial concerns shouldn’t be one of them.

In observance of National Military Appreciation Month, and in support of financial readiness among military families, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) has commissioned the second financial survey of military personnel in five years. This survey, sponsored by Wells Fargo and conducted online by The Harris Poll in March and April 2019, shows how active members of the military and their spouses or partners are facing today’s financial challenges as compared to 2014.

Although majorities of both service members and spouses of service members say military life makes it challenging to get and hold private sector employment, about half say they had to get primary or secondary employment for additional income, and about the same percentage say they’ve been able to use the gig economy to do so.

“Men and women in uniform face many challenges and daily sacrifices while serving our country. Financial concerns shouldn’t be one of them,” said Rebecca Steele, NFCC President and CEO. “The NFCC is committed to ensuring that members of the military and their families have access to the financial tools and information they need to live a financially stable life. NFCC member agencies are proud to assist military personnel through dedicated military-specific programs.”

Considering the role of supplemental income in military life, the following financial concerns also are influential:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 active service members and 84% of spouses or partners have worries about personal finances.
  • More are worried about meeting basic household needs and debt payments than in 2014.
  • Nearly three in ten active service members (28%) are more worried now than they were 12 months ago about how their finances will affect their future in the military.

Adding to the concerns of active duty military and their spouses or partners, service members today are twice as likely not to be able to pay all their bills on time than they were in 2014 (34% vs. 16%), and 3 in 10 spouses or partners of service members (29%) say they do not pay their bills on time. About 1 in 10 (11% vs. 3% in 2014) say they currently have debts in collection.

Savings and budgeting are also a point of stress shown in the survey. More than half of active duty service members (54%) and spouses or partners (51%) say they do not keep a budget when managing their money, although about 2 in 5 say they have some idea of what they spend (37% and 43%, respectively).

On a positive note, spouses or partners of active duty service members are more likely than the average U.S. consumer to keep a budget (49% vs. 42%, respectively).

“The financial struggles highlighted through this survey underscore the importance of NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus program, which Wells Fargo has supported through philanthropic grants since 2013,” said Darlene Goins, head of Hands on Banking® for Wells Fargo. “The Sharpen program, featuring personalized one-on-one counseling and Hands on Banking for Military financial education resources and tools, helps active duty service members and spouses or partners develop budgets, manage debt, and save for emergencies and retirement. According to a study conducted by The Ohio State University, 67% of Sharpen program participants said the program helped them better manage their money and, on average, participant total debt decreased by $17,000 over 18 months.”

Compared to the general U.S. adult population (70%), active duty military (87%) and their spouses or partners (75%) are more likely to have some amount of money set aside for personal (non-retirement) savings.

The full survey, as well as a summary of key findings, is available at https://www.nfcc.org/clientimpact/ on the NFCC website.

About the 2019 Military Finance Survey

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of NFCC and Wells Fargo from March 20 to April 16, 2019 among 531 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are currently active, enlisted members of the U.S. military, excluding reserve members and those in the National Guard (i.e., “service members”) and 439 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are spouses/partners of service members. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Bruce McClary.

About the NFCC

Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s financial well-being. With a national network of member offices serving 50 states and Puerto Rico, our NFCC Certified Credit Counselors are financial advocates, empowering millions of consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions and overall money management. Make one of the best financial decisions of your life. For expert guidance and advice, call (800) 388-2227 or visit http://www.nfcc.org today.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,700 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 33 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 262,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2018 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

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Bruce Mcclary

Lisa Westermann
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