Veterans and Financial Health: A Guide for Veterans on How to Budget and Manage Money

  • November 11, 2021
  • By: GreenPath Financial Wellness

When it comes to veterans and financial health, those who have served our nation face the same money problems as other Americans. It is important for everyone to plan for the future and take care of finances. Veterans deserve support and resources to stay on a positive financial footing. Learning how to manage personal finances can benefit every family – in and out of uniform.

Veterans bravely protect our freedoms and keep us all safe and secure – true heroes for who they are and what they do. When it comes to managing their financial well-being and providing security at home, many may need help. Where can they turn and what assistance is available to help manage their money and futures? While many veterans are confident in their ability to meet financial commitments, studies show some questions remain.

Like civilians, military families can benefit from support to keep track of money coming in and going out. A recent study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) showed nearly 70-percent of active service members say they could really benefit from solid advice and clear answers to common financial questions.

About half of veterans (49%) wish they had more information about financial resources specifically for veterans, and a similar amount (50%) feel there are not enough financial resources available specifically for veterans.

NFCC Survey

When considering questions about their financial futures, veterans may ponder:

  • How to start a budget or savings plan
  • How to manage debt
  • How to get approved for loans
  • How to understand credit
  • What home buying programs are available for veterans
  • Understanding student loan debt and how to pay it off

The good news is GreenPath has tools to help veterans as they learn to manage their money. Among them are:

  • Financial assessments
  • Home buyer counseling
  • Credit report review
  • Debt management

Veterans and Financial Health – Education is Key

Another great tool for military service members and the general public is GreenPath’s LearningLab. This resource offers well researched courses and tools to help better understand money for a healthy financial life.

Free Financial Education from GreenPath's LearningLab

Get a better understanding of money with these financial courses and tools.

How to Budget and Manage Money as a Veteran

Buying on the fly can be a challenge for military families. However, when combined with life circumstances and the challenges of deploying or dealing with health issues as a service member, it becomes even more complex.

Every family should keep a budget to track their spending and make a plan to pay off debt. The average military family’s income, housing expenses and transportation costs can be higher and those costs must be accounted for.

Take into account the military’s unique pay structure, which is tied to the length of a service member’s career. Service members can get paid different amounts every pay period based on when they report for duty. Regardless of rank or deployment status, a budget can help prepare the family for any income inconsistency.

How to Understand Your Credit as a Member of the Military

Veterans are often eligible for credit cards and loans. But they may not be aware of the importance of their credit rating, which could impact their ability to get these products in the future. Understanding your credit rating will help you keep your finances in good condition and manage your money better.

In the ever-changing world of finance, understanding your credit is more important than ever. Veterans should be smart about handling their credit and should always keep a close eye on their finances.

Credit management is an important component of your financial well-being, which is why it’s important to understand how your credit scores work. Credit scores are based on information in your credit report.

Whenever you make payments or use your credit cards, lenders can request your most recent credit score before they decide whether to grant you a loan. And if you want to make sure that they’re giving you the best rates available, there are several steps you can take. It starts with making sure you obtain and analyze your free credit report every year.

You can access your credit report each year at no cost from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Visit annualcreditreport.com for your free credit report.

Keys to Debt Management for Military and Veterans

Military families can face financial disruptions due to frequent moves and deployments. Understanding credit reports, interest rates, and how credit cards work can help avoid money complications.

Veteran Expense Management

Military veterans who’ve served honorably are eligible for a VA health care benefit. This means they may be able to access services without paying any out-of-pocket costs after filling out the Health Eligibility Verification form, also called HAVA.

Managing expenses can be challenging without a solid understanding of financial basics and a plan.

Two Veteran Financial Success Stories

Shared here are success stories achieved by military veterans who teamed with the trusted national nonprofit GreenPath Financial Wellness. Read on to see how these veterans were able to manage debt, stabilize housing costs and improve financial health and wellness.

#1 Overcoming Financial Challenges

A recent GreenPath client, a 39-year-old Navy veteran, faced financial challenges trying to pay down more than $14,000 in past due credit card debt. She reached out to GreenPath to let a caring counselor know she was experiencing stress with her household budget, and that the stress also impacted her overall mental well-being and peace of mind. She looked to GreenPath to help manage her budget after unexpected changes with her monthly income, and to understand her options when it came to paying down the debt.

Services Provided

  • A GreenPath counselor looked at her entire financial picture to develop an actionable budget so she could realistically manage debt payments.
  • GreenPath’s Debt Management Plan made it possible to lower the navy veteran’s monthly credit card payments and interest, which gave her the needed funds to balance her budget and build up an emergency savings balance – even with the income loss.

Outcomes

With the Debt Management Plan, the Navy vet had a clear and realistic path to clear out the past due debt.

  • Structure was key, a personalized payment schedule was based on a schedule that worked with her pay frequencies and bill due dates.
  • Getting her finances in gear helped reduce overall stress. After teaming with GreenPath, the client ranked her improved financial confidence as a 9 out of 10.

#2 Stabilizing Housing Finances

A disabled veteran reached out to GreenPath’s housing counselors for guidance with managing the cost of needed home repairs. As a first-time homeowner, the client was experiencing anxiety managing costly repairs along with the mortgage payment and other household expenses. An added stressor was the veteran had previously been homeless and was anxious about falling behind on mortgage payments.

Services Provided

  • A certified GreenPath housing counselor worked with the veteran to understand his total budget, his VA benefits related to his disability, and also helped review his credit report to assess his full debt picture.
  • Together they put the priority on stabilizing housing finances, helping the client meet his goal of prioritizing the mortgage payment, building savings for the home repairs, and providing options to decrease expenses and have more income in the overall monthly budget.

Outcomes

  • All told, the veteran obtained clear next steps to address his housing situation.
  • The client reported he was reassured, appreciated the constructive guidance to stabilize his housing finances and appreciated the positive experience with the GreenPath counselor.
Veterans

Talk to a Financial Counselor

Veterans are encouraged to each out for help when you need it so you can be better prepared for any situation that may come up.

Client Testimonial

“GreenPath was wonderful, and I wish I knew about it a long time ago. The people, the service that I get from it and the explanation of what we’re doing made it good.”

Jerome | Antigo, WI via ConsumerAffairs.com

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