TAMPA, Fla. - A new website launched this week by the Florida Department of Financial Services reveals some startling statistics about military families.
They spend about half their income on debt, approximately 10% higher than civilian families. Only 39% have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Almost one-third owe more than $10,000 on credit cards.
"All of those factors together really highlighted that we need to make sure there are some tips and tools available," explained Florida Department of Financial Services Spokesperson Jessica Eilerman.
The website, " Financial Frontlines ," aims to combat the chronic problem with a variety of free resources which address the major challenges faced by military families.
In 2009, John Pickens launched a similar website from Clearwater, offering free counseling services at www.veteransplus.org after witnessing a daily financial strain during his 40 years with the Veterans Administration.
"We noticed that there was a severe lack of literacy in this population," Pickens said. "They didn't know how to do budgets. They didn't understand what a credit score means to them."
Pickens blames several issues, including a lack of financial education paired with predatory lenders that target military families who move every few years.
The problem gets worse, he says, as more reservists face deployment, forced to leave their primary jobs.
"And often times, the person who was deployed was the one paying the bills at home," Pickens said. "Sometimes you have issues with families where they're struggling to make ends meet."
Financial Frontlines teaches 7 steps to help create a budget. It also offers military-specific programs for loans and investments, as well as tips on how to avoid identity theft and predatory loans.
"Service members themselves and their family members can access it when it's available to them, when it's convenient for them," Eilerman said. "CFO is very committed to try to help protect those individuals who work so hard to protect us and our safety."
To find out more, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/FinancialFrontlines/ .