Survey: Unique Challenges of Military Life Call for Tailored Family Financial Readiness Solutions

Written by Mike Senecal, Edited by Lillian Guevara-Castro, Published June 20, 2024

Three-quarters of Armed Forces Bank‘s retail employees have a connection to the military. That tells you something about the bank’s commitment to serving active-duty and veteran military members.

The Armed Forces Bank website states, “We express through our own service our appreciation for the uniqueness that comes with the military way of life.”

Armed Forces Bank welcomes service people, veterans, U.S. defense personnel, families, dependents, and all who wish to further the bank’s mission regardless of military connection.

Founded in 1907 as Army National Bank and headquartered in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, today’s Armed Forces Bank promotes strength through unity by reaching out to financial consumers with products and services designed to help them succeed.

Part of doing that involves knowing more about the concerns of its constituency. Armed Forces Bank recently commissioned a survey to understand the challenges military families face in keeping households stable and financially strong.

Released in May 2024, the “Military Family Financial Readiness Report” examines financial product usage, the importance of homeownership, challenges faced, provider satisfaction, and preferred resources to assess how military service impacts financial habits.

Tom McLean, SVP and Regional Military Executive, and Jodi Vickery, EVP and Director of Military Consumer Banking, host the bank’s “Militarily Speaking” podcast, which highlights nonprofits serving the military community and the profound social challenges some current and former members face.

McLean and Vickery applauded the new survey as expressing the bank’s continuing commitment to service people.

“There’s a connection between financial readiness and the challenges of frequent relocations during a military career,” McLean said. “This survey ensures we’re hitting the mark and addressing what’s important.”

“It reveals the story of a military life in charts and graphs,” Vickery said. “It formalizes things we have believed and have been acting on. You see that in the evolution of our products.”

Products to Handle Sudden Financial Challenges

The survey’s product usage data suggests that military families can improve their financial planning and wealth-building strategies. Respondents’ intense desire for homeownership points to its status as a crucial aspect of the American Dream.

With an economy buffeted by inflation, consumer uncertainty, and high interest rates, many bank customers grapple with low income, debt, lack of knowledge, and unexpected expenses.

Respondents also highlighted low fees as the most essential aspect of a bank’s services, even ahead of customer service, online banking features, interest rates, and branch accessibility.

For the third year in a row, the Armed Forces Bank team at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Washington, sponsored USO Northwest’s Operation Popsicle at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Rainier Elementary School, distributing 648 popsicles to delighted students.

Armed Forces Bank’s Access Freedom Checking Account fits the bill with no monthly fee or minimum balance required. The account includes an early paycheck deposit service, free overdraft protection when linked to a savings account, and no-fee access to 38,000 ATMs.

“Consumers without a lot of discretionary income don’t want that chipped away through bank fees,” Vickery said.

Credit access is a key to financial flexibility. Armed Forces Bank’s Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card gives customers an inside track to the wealth-building potential of greater liquidity.

With a credit limit between $300 and $3,000, no application fee, and no over-limit fee, the card automatically reports activity to three main credit bureaus.

“When users charge recurring expenses and pay them off monthly, they start to build some good history on that credit report right out of the gate,” Vickery said. “They’re setting themselves up for success as other financial or borrowing needs arise.”

The bank’s Access Loan provides a source of longer-term credit for families looking to make a big purchase, pay off debt, fund home improvements, or cover unplanned expenses.

The Access Loan looks beyond credit scores to find other reasons to connect families with needed resources.

“We look broadly at financial behavior to get a full picture of a person’s credit risk,” Vickery said. “That allows us to extend credit to more people than a traditional bank or a credit union might.”



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