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NFCC Survey Reveals Unique Financial Challenges Faced by Military Families

May 7, 2024

“Findings underscore the importance of financial education and counseling to help servicemembers and spouses make financial decisions.”

Washington, DC — As we take time to recognize Military Appreciation Month by honoring the service and sacrifices of active duty military personnel and their families, data from the 2024 NFCC Financial Literacy and Preparedness Survey sheds light on the unique financial challenges they face.

The research, conducted by The Harris Poll and sponsored by the Wells Fargo Foundation, found that military households (service members and military spouses) are more likely than the general population to experience financial strain, utilize non-traditional financial services, and have a strong desire for professional financial guidance.

“Military families face unique financial challenges due to their service to our nation,” said NFCC CEO Mike Croxson. “These survey results underscore our commitment to support them with trusted resources to manage debt and build financial strength.”

Key Findings:

• Military households are more likely to report financial difficulties, such as dipping into savings to pay for daily expenses or increased spending on credit cards.
• The study found a higher prevalence of behaviors indicating financial stress among military households than among civilians, such as missed credit card payments (20% and 15% vs 8%, respectively) or transferring debt between cards (23% and 14% vs 7%).
• Military households are more likely to use potentially risky non-bank financial services in the past 3 months like payday loans, prepaid debit cards, and cryptocurrency compared to civilians.
• Military service members and military spouses have a high rate of cryptocurrency use compared to the general population (27% and 28% vs 11%, respectively), highlighting the need for education on potential security risks and disclosure requirements.
• Despite facing financial challenges, military service members and veterans are more likely than the general population to grade their personal finance knowledge an A or B (58% and 64% vs 53% respectively).
• Additionally, military service members and military spouses strongly agree they could benefit from professional financial advice to everyday financial questions (36%and 40%, respectively).

Regarding use of banking and financial services, it is noteworthy that credit card debt is more common among servicemembers and military spouses. There is also a higher level of payday loan utilization when compared to the general population, with servicemembers slightly more than twice the level of the general population and spouses about four times higher.

“Wells Fargo is dedicated to the financial health of our servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The insights gained from this research underscore the critical need for financial education and personalized support and services that may look different than what may exist the general population,” said Bonnie Wallace, head of Financial Health Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “By finetuning our efforts in response to these findings, we’re honored to be continuing these efforts to serve those who have served.”

Military families seeking emergency financial assistance are encouraged to use the resources available through nonprofit military relief organizations. Those who need help overcoming difficulties repaying unmanageable credit card debt or maintaining their household budget are encouraged to contact an NFCC Certified Credit Counselor by visiting or calling toll-free 800-388-2227.

More information about the survey can be found at

About the NFCC

Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is the oldest nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s financial well-being. With 1,215 NFCC Certified Credit Counselors serving 50 states and all U.S. territories, NFCC nonprofit counselors are financial advocates, empowering millions of consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions, and overall money management. For expert guidance and advice, call (800) 388-2227 or visit

Survey Methodology

The 2024 Financial Literacy and Preparedness Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NFCC from January 8 – 23, 2024 among 2,020 U.S. adults ages 18 and older representative of the U.S. general population and 503 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are currently active, enlisted members of the U.S. military, excluding reserve members and those in the National Guard (i.e., “servicemembers”), 256 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are spouses/partners of servicemembers, and 510 U.S. military veterans.

General population consumer results were weighted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, household size, marital status, employment status. Servicemember results were weighted for age, gender, education, and race/ethnicity where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population of active U.S. military servicemembers, based on targets developed from the 2022 Department of Defense Demographics Report. Spouse results were weighted for age, gender, and military branch where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Veteran results were weighted for age by sex, education, income, race/ethnicity, region, size of household, marital status, and active-duty status where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.