Salute to Spouses Blog

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Money tops worries of military families

A new survey shows military families are worried about money.

No kidding.

The Military Family Advisory Network conducted a recent study that showed the stressors toping military families worry list are financial problems associated with health care, education, child care and frequent moves.

After my husband retired, multiple civilian friends asked us if we missed what they dubbed the “cash flow” from Uncle Sam – housing allowance, access to commissaries, discounts from retailers, deployment pay.

Yes, those are all very nice perks. And yes, it would have been very hard to live the military life without them. But that is the point. Life as a military family is expensive. Deployment, and keeping the home front running as we pay for extra childcare and professionals to fix broken items our spouses would normally handle, can be enormous.

If you have a child with health issues, it can be hard to find a doctor on base or in the military system that can treat them. There are often long waiting lines for appointments. We personally gave up on taking our son to a dermatologist when we were told the wait was over one year long. Visiting a doctor outside the military health care system is costly.

Some communities outside of military bases have the best schools, others have the worst. When you PCS, sometimes you suddenly have to find a way to squeeze private school tuition into an already squeaky tight budget.

The same with child care. It’s hard to find a place you trust, and that you can afford on short notice. The best child care facilities are often the most expensive. As this cost fluctuates with each move so does your stress level.

And with each move, there are added expenses the military is not going to cover. Simple niceties like curtains and rugs might have to be repurchased at each location. Furniture and belongings are ruined in moves and if you think you are really going to get those replaced at full price you are going to be disappointed.

Small costs add up as you make your way from one duty station to the next: snacks on the road, extra gas, flat tires, none of these are covered in the reimbursement costs. More than once we have begun our PCS journey with just enough money to make it to the next destination.  

Because of the extra costs of being constantly flexible and constantly able to move our lives at the drop of a hat are so high, many military families cannot afford to build a savings safety net or even buy enough food.

About 22,000 active-duty troops used food stamps in 2013, the last year for which data were available, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office Report.

This is not the way people defending a nation should live.

Military families are stressed about money. Yes we are.

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