First Command Reports: Military Families Commit Tax Refunds to Financial Security

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals top tax refund plans for 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Career military families are using their 2019 tax refunds to improve household finances, focusing on paying bills, cutting debt and building up savings.

First Command’s eighth annual survey on tax refunds reveals that the majority of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who have received or expect to receive a tax refund plan to spend it on shoring up their money behaviors. Key strategies include:

  • Paying monthly bills (40 percent).
  • Paying down debt (35 percent). Seven out of ten survey respondents who are paying down debt indicate that they are focused on credit cards. And almost half say they are paying down personal loan debt.
  • Bumping up general savings (35 percent). Roughly one third of families say they’ve been putting their refunds into general savings for more than three years.
  • Building an emergency fund (26 percent).
  • Pre-paying major bills (26 percent).

This focus on fiscal responsibility continues a long-term trend in which the majority of military families report plans to commit their refunds to fortifying household finances.

“Career service members and their spouses are spending their tax refund dollars on strategies that help them deal with the near-term uncertainties of family life,” said Scott Spiker, chairman/CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Two thirds of survey respondents feel concerned about their job security in the months ahead. And half indicate they feel extremely or very financially stretched month to month. Committing tax refunds to improving family finances is an effective way to address feelings of uncertainty and pursue financial security.”

Notably, feelings of financial security are strongest in military families who work with a financial advisor. And these families are significantly less likely than their do-it-yourself counterparts to dedicate tax refund dollars to:

  • Paying down debt (31 percent versus 45 percent).
  • Building an emergency fund (21 percent versus 41 percent).
  • Pre-paying major bills (22 percent versus 36 percent).

“Military families who work with a financial coach are already focused on careful money management, so they feel less compelled to commit additional dollars to shoring up their household finances,” said First Command President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Steffe. “Through ongoing relationships with knowledgeable financial advisors, military families are developing sound money behaviors that help them feel better about today and financially squared away for tomorrow.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. http://www.firstcommand.com/fbi/

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Financial Planning and First Command Bank, coach our Nation’s military families in their pursuit of financial security. Since 1958, First Command Financial Advisors have been shaping positive financial behaviors through face-to-face coaching with hundreds of thousands of client families.

First Command Financial Services, Inc., is the parent of First Command Financial Planning, Inc. (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Advisory Services, Inc., First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Financial planning services and investment products, including securities, are offered by First Command Financial Planning, Inc. , a broker-dealer. Financial planning and investment advisory services are offered by First Command Advisory Services, Inc., an investment adviser. Insurance products and services are offered by First Command Insurance Services, Inc., in all states except Montana, where as required by law, insurance products and services are offered by First Command Financial Services, Inc. (a separate Montana domestic corporation). Banking products and services are offered by First Command Bank. In certain states, as required by law, First Command Insurance Services, Inc. does business as a separate domestic corporation. Securities products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met. First Command Financial Services, Inc. and its related entities are not affiliated with, authorized to sell or represent on behalf of or otherwise endorsed by any federal employee benefits programs referenced, by the U.S. government, or the U.S. armed forces.


Mark Leach

Media Relations


[email protected]


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