A recent conversation in one of my Facebook groups circled around to the subject of the financial education available to military families, and things got a little heated. Many commenters thought that the military didn’t do enough to provide financial education to the military. Some of those people thought that financial education should be mandatory. It was an interesting discussion.
In my experience, the military is doing a pretty darn good job of providing basic financial education offerings. Even small bases typically offer 3-4 financial education classes a month, unless they are near a larger base that tends to host most of the classes. The base closest to me is offering seven classes this month, including:
- Dollar and Sense (I’m hoping this was some sort of intentional funny and they didn’t call it “dollar” by accident)
- Financial Planning for the Holidays
- Banking Basics
- Effective Planning To Reduce Taxes
- Car Buying Strategies
- First Term Financial Readiness
- Credit Management
In my experience, the problem isn’t that the military isn’t offering these classes. The problem is that no one goes! All the financial education in the world doesn’t do any good if no one takes advantage of it. Last base at which I was involved in the family readiness center, they were lucky to get one or two people at a class for the entire month. Not one or two people per class, one or two people per month. Most of the classes weren’t even held because no one came.
Now, 32% of active duty folks claim to have utilized the financial education offerings, and 11% of spouses claim to have taken the same classes. I think that must include the mandatory sit-in-a-room-and-not-listen-to-the-command-financial-person briefings, or whatever online training is allegedly being used. Because there is just no way that 32% of active duty service members are attending these classes.
Which brings me to this question: Why don’t military families take advantage of the financial education that is being offered? I have a few theories, but most of them only explain why some of the people don’t use the available classes. I can’t think of any decent excuse why practically no one uses the classes.
Here are my theories:
- Commands don’t make it easy for service members to attend,
- Spouses being busy with work or having child care issues,
- The people who need the education don’t know that they need the education,
- (inexplicably) Some people don’t know that these classes exist,
- Some perception of stigma about attending financial education classes.