Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston | Aug. 15, 2022
WASHINGTON — With inflation affecting everything from gas prices to groceries to rent, some Soldiers and their families are finding it harder to get by on the budgets they’ve set and used before. Soldiers of all ranks can seek guidance, assistance, and advice through the Army’s Financial Readiness Program.
The FRP offers a number of online resources, as well as free, credentialed personal financial counselors, to help Soldiers understand the financial landscape and to take ownership of their own personal financial management. Unfortunately, many Soldiers are not aware of these resources.
Soldiers and Families who know about and take advantage of these resources put themselves on a path toward a lifetime of solid financial health. Via online tools, phone calls with personal financial counselors and visits to the local installation Army Community Service Center, help is just a click, call or a walk away, and there’s no time like the present to get started.
Built as a one-stop shop, this online resource features calculators to figure out the cost of PCS moves and other expenses; educational videos on how to manage debt, spending and large purchases such as cars; a financial self-assessment tool; income tax resources, including links to free military tax consultants and software; and information on how Soldiers can find no-cost financial counselors and counseling services. It also includes helpful brochures on how to get the most out of the GI Bills, and how to lower credit card and other interest rates through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Soldiers who have Army Emergency Relief loans can complete a brief online training session on the Financial Frontline website to reduce the amount of their loans. Read more about AER’s Financial Literacy Program.
Soldiers are required to undergo financial literacy training at personal and professional milestones in their lives and careers. At Financial Frontline, Soldiers can find checklists, handouts and videos to help get their finances in order before experiencing 10 of the most important milestones: pre-deployment, post-deployment, PCSing, marriage, divorce (if applicable), vesting in the TSP, promotion, having the first child, continuation pay, enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program, and a disabling sickness or condition (if applicable).
Each resource provides an easy-to-follow list of all of the things a Soldier should do before approaching these life events, and standardized curriculums, products and course completion certificates are available through distributed learning, face-to-face instruction and/or group training. Additionally, standardized instruction occurs at specified institutional training and professional military education courses.
Upon completion of the mandatory training, verification should be entered into the Digital Training Management System with the assigned task identification codes. See your unit training manager for more information.
All active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers — and their family members and survivors — are eligible to receive no-cost, confidential financial counseling services, and this website allows them to find one. Simply click on your state and a list of counselors, who are available for in-person or virtual meetings, will appear.
In addition, Soldiers can talk to financial counselors through Military OneSource, and counselors are also available at local installation Financial Readiness offices within Army Community Service or Family Support Centers.
This website explains in “spouse language” the aforementioned milestones and their financial considerations, and it offers a list of things that spouses should do. For example, after the birth of a child, the spouse should update legal documents, check their Soldier’s leave and earnings statement to make sure it is updated and correct, apply for a social security number for the child, and enroll the child in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Similar lists for PCS moves, deployments and other milestones will make life easier and finances more manageable. There’s even a MilKids section to help raise financially fit kids, which includes teaching them good values and habits, tips on saving money and how to improve their communication skills.
On day one of joining the Army, Soldiers are granted legal protections that many people do not know about. For example, Soldiers can request a 6 percent interest rate cap on any debts incurred prior to military service (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.) for the duration of their military obligation and one year thereafter for mortgages. This applies to individual debts of the Soldier as well as those incurred jointly with his or her spouse.
Other protections include the ability to cancel cellphone contracts without being charged an early termination fee if deploying or moving overseas, and the ability to terminate rental or automobile leases if one is going on active duty, PCSing or deploying. Soldiers are also protected from being evicted from housing if their duties affect their ability to pay rent, and they may also be protected against foreclosures of their homes. Soldiers are encouraged to ask their installation financial counselors about these and other protections, which include free legal services.
If you join the military and have a government student loan, the U.S. government will pay it off 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 distressed Soldiers and families through grants, interest-free loans and scholarships. The assistance can be used to cover costs related to food, emergency or PCS travel, natural disasters, rent or mortgage problems, temporary lodging, utilities, funerals, home repairs and much, much more. Soldiers on active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers activated on Title 10 orders for more than 30 days, and qualified dependents are eligible.
SNAP is a U.S. government program that provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an electronic benefits transfer card that can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores. Service members and their families may be eligible. To determine qualification, visit the SNAP website or call the SNAP information line at 800-221-5689.
This toolkit helps leaders and service providers support the economic security of service members by providing information on housing availability, food insecurity, PCS moves, and financial well-being.
Starting in late summer of 2022, the Army Vantage Data Analytics Platform will offer leaders a tool to track the progress of their Soldiers regarding their financial education requirements. After logging in, leaders will be able to pull data on their Soldiers’ milestones and see how many have completed their training. For example, if a unit is getting ready to deploy, the leader will see how many have actually completed their training and checklists.
Those who have not can be advised to get started and to learn about the financial counseling opportunities available to them. Leaders should ensure they have access to the Vantage platform; requests can be made on the website.