WASHINGTON — As inflation affects everything from gas prices to grocery rents, some Soldiers and their families are finding it harder to get by on the budgets they previously set and used. Soldiers of all ranks can seek guidance, assistance, and guidance through the Army’s Financial Readiness Program.
FRP offers a range of online resources as well as free, accredited personal financial advisors to help Soldiers understand the financial landscape and take responsibility for their own personal financial management. Unfortunately, many soldiers are unaware of these resources.
Soldiers and families who know and use these resources are on the path to a lifetime of solid financial health. Through online tools, phone calls to personal financial advisors, and visits to the local Army Community Service Center, help is just a click, phone call, or walk away, and there’s no better time to get started than now.
Designed to be a one-stop shop, this online resource offers calculators to calculate the cost of PCS moves and other expenses; instructional videos on managing debt, spending, and big purchases like cars; a financial self-assessment tool; income tax resources, including links to free military tax advisors and software; and information on how soldiers can find free financial advisors and advisory services. It also includes helpful booklets on how to get the most out of GI bills and how to reduce credit card and other interest rates through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Soldiers are required to undergo financial literacy training at personal and professional milestones in their lives and careers. At Financial Frontline, Soldiers will find checklists, handouts, and videos to help them get their finances in order before they experience 10 key milestones: pre-deployment, post-deployment, PCs, marriage, divorce (if applicable), Transfer to the TSP, promotion, birth of first child, continued payment, enrollment in the Exceptional Family Members Scheme and a disabling illness or disability (if applicable).
Each resource provides an easy-to-understand list of all things a soldier should do before approaching these life events, and standardized curriculum, products, and course completion certificates are available through distributed learning, face-to-face classes, and/or group training. In addition, standardized instruction takes place in defined institutional training courses and professional military training courses.
Upon completion of mandatory training, verification should be entered into the digital training management system with assigned task identification codes. For more information, contact your unit trainer.
FREE PERSONAL FINANCIAL ADVISER
All active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers — and their family members and survivors — are entitled to free, confidential financial advisory services, and this website enables them to find one. Simply click on your state and a list of consultants available for in-person or virtual meetings will appear.
Additionally, Soldiers can speak to financial advisors through Military OneSource, and advisors are also available at the on-site Financial Readiness Offices at the Army’s Community Service or Family Support Centers.
MILSPOUSE MONEY MISSION
This site explains in “spouse-speak” the above milestones and their financial considerations, and provides a list of things spouses should do. For example, after the birth of a child, the spouse should update legal documents, review their soldier’s vacation and pay stub to ensure they are updated and correct, apply for a social security number for the child, and register the child with the defense enrollment eligibility reporting system.
Similar lists for PCS moves, deployments, and other milestones make life easier and finances more manageable. There’s even a MilKids section to help raise financially fit kids, teaching them good values and habits, money-saving tips, and improving their communication skills.
SERVICE MEMBERS CIVIL SERVICE ACT
On the first day of joining the army, soldiers receive legal protection that many people are unaware of. For example, soldiers can apply for a 6% interest rate cap on all pre-service debt (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.) for the duration of their military service and on mortgages for a year thereafter. This applies both to the soldier’s individual debts and to those incurred jointly with his spouse.
Other protections include the ability to cancel cellphone contracts without incurring an early termination fee when a company is posted abroad or relocating abroad, and the ability to cancel rental or car lease contracts when going on active duty, PCSing or posting goes. Soldiers are also protected from being evicted from homes if their duties affect their ability to pay rent, and they may also be protected from foreclosures on their homes. Soldiers are encouraged to check with their financial advisors at their facility about these and other protections, which include free legal advice.
CIVIL SERVICE LOAN DEFAULT PROGRAM
If you join the military and you have a government student loan, the US government will pay it back in 10 years through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. To see if you qualify, use the PSLF self-help tool on StudentAid.gov.
Army Emergency Relief is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to soldiers and families in need through grants, interest-free loans, and scholarships. The grant can be used to help pay for expenses related to groceries, emergency or PCS travel, natural disasters, rental or mortgage issues, temporary housing, utilities, funerals, home repairs, and more. Eligible are active-duty Soldiers, Reserve Army Soldiers and National Guard Soldiers activated under orders of Title 10 for more than 30 days, and qualified dependents.
SUPPLEMENTARY NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT PROGRAM
SNAP is a US government program that provides benefits to eligible individuals and low-income families through an electronic benefit transfer card that can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible groceries at authorized grocery stores. Service members and their families may be eligible. To determine eligibility, visit the SNAP website or call the SNAP Helpline at 800-221-5689.
TOOLKIT FOR ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR MILITARY LEADERS
This toolkit helps leaders and service providers support the economic security of service members by providing information on housing availability, food insecurity, PCS relocations, and financial well-being.
Beginning in late summer 2022, the Army Vantage Data Analytics Platform will provide leaders with a tool to track their Soldiers’ progress toward their financial literacy requirements. After logging in, leaders can access data on their soldiers’ milestones and see how many have completed their training. For example, when a unit is preparing for deployment, the leader can see how many have actually completed their training and checklists.
Those who have not done so may be advised to start and learn about the financial advice options available to them. Executives should ensure they have access to the Vantage platform; Applications can be made on the website.