Finances, Jobs Still Top Military Family Concerns

Finances, Jobs Still Top Military Family Concerns

Soldier with daughter
Photo by: U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur

Financial pressures, spouse employment and the impact of military service on family life were among the top concerns for military families, a new survey found.

The 13th annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, published in late March by Blue Star Families, uses data collected between May and July 2022 and includes research from more than 9,300 respondents from active-duty, National Guard and Reserve service members, veterans and their families. 

For many families, financial pressures such as increasing housing and food prices were causing them to weigh the costs and benefits of military service, the survey says.

Though almost three-quarters of active-duty family respondents reported their family financial situation as “doing OK” or “living comfortably,” military families experience additional financial considerations compared to their civilian counterparts, the survey says. 

“Active-duty military families, who usually have fixed family income with additional costs related to their military lifestyle (e.g., PCS costs, travel costs, unreimbursed housing costs related to relocation), end up paying greater proportions of their disposable income to basic necessities,” the survey found. “Just 1 in 7 active-duty family respondents report that their family currently has no financial stress.” 

Rising housing costs are a big challenge. “Houses are too far away, rent is much too high, not enough bedrooms, unsafe areas, need to have big deposits, needed pet friendly housing, we have 5 children, so some didn’t want to rent to us,” one active-duty Army spouse said in the survey. 

Spouse employment is another challenge. It is “the top concern for active-duty spouse respondents for the sixth consecutive year, and one of the top five concerns for active-duty service member respondents,” according to the survey.

Some Army spouses opted for self-employment or operating their own business, particularly as they tried to balance a career with child care and the expectations of military life. “I like interacting with my customers on a personal level, and when I initially began my business, I needed employment that I could juggle around our kids’ schedules,” one Army spouse said. 

Families also worried about balancing military service with family life, the survey found, and issues such as financial security and spouse employment are “significantly related to relationship satisfaction.” 

“Active-duty spouse respondents who were employed, who were sometimes or always able to find child care that meet their needs, and those who were ‘living comfortably’ or ‘doing OK’ financially reported significantly higher relationship satisfaction” than those who could not find work or child care and were not financially stable, according to the survey. 

Strong relationships not only contribute to service member readiness, but they are a protective factor against negative mental health outcomes. 

“Relationship satisfaction is a key component in overall well-being and mission readiness,” the report found. “Current research shows that greater relationship satisfaction can decrease PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, comorbidity with hazardous drinking, and overall risk for suicide.”

Moving forward, the report suggests building resilience among military families by adapting policies that affect families’ financial stability, providing support for service members and their families and supporting inclusion and diversity in the military, according to the report. 

“Building resilience among military families can create a stronger, more cohesive military community that is better equipped to meet the needs of its members and the nation as a whole,” the report found.

Read the full report here.