News Release

FINRA Foundation 2010 Military Financial Capability Survey

WASHINGTON — On October 14, 2010, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation released the Military Survey – one of three linked surveys analyzing the financial capability of American adults. Developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, the survey aimed to provide an estimate of the financial capabilities of U.S. military personnel. This statement discusses the results and highlights the methodology of the Military Survey.

The October 2010 news release did not discuss the methodology used to obtain the survey sample, although the Executive Summary (to which the news release was linked) does so in detail. If that release was read separately from the Executive Summary, the methodology could be misinterpreted. The survey was administered between June and July 2009 to 800 respondents, consisting of 700 current members of the U.S. Armed Services and 100 spouses of current members. The respondents were recruited to participate in the survey through a national online research panel (which is a database of over 1 million potential survey respondents pre-screened to reflect a diverse range of demographics) and are not necessarily representative of the U.S. military population as a whole.

As detailed in the Executive Summary, the survey suggests that men and women in uniform face considerable obstacles in maintaining their financial fitness. For example, among those surveyed:

  • many appear to be heavily in debt to credit card issuers, with over one in four respondents reporting more than $10,000 in credit card debt;
  • one in four respondents with checking accounts reported overdrawing their accounts, which typically incurs significant fees;
  • more than one in five (21 percent) respondents used high-cost, non-bank borrowing such as payday or auto title loans in the last five years;
  • among enlisted personnel and junior non-commissioned officers surveyed, over half of respondents reported that in some months, they made only the minimum payment on their credit cards; and
  • only 50 percent of military respondents have a "rainy day" fund for unanticipated financial emergencies.

However, compared with respondents to the National Survey and State-by-State Survey components of the National Financial Capability Study, military respondents appear to outpace their civilian counterparts in:

  • keeping up with monthly expenses;
  • calculating how much they need to save for retirement;
  • shopping around to compare financial products;
  • checking their credit score and credit report; and
  • demonstrating higher levels of financial literacy.

The National Survey randomly dialed nearly 1,500 respondents, with an over-sampling to enable segmentation by selected demographic variables (such as race, household income and education level). The State-by-State Survey queried more than 28,000 respondents through an online panel. While the findings from the Military Survey cannot be directly compared to the civilian population from the National Survey because the two surveys were conducted through different modes (an online panel for the Military Survey versus telephone survey administration for the National Survey), data from the online State-by-State Survey facilitates comparisons between military and civilian populations.

The FINRA Foundation released the National Survey in December 2009 and released the results of the State-by-State Survey in December 2010. During 2012, the FINRA Foundation will conduct a second wave of the military and state-by-state components of the National Financial Capability Study.

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is the largest foundation in the United States dedicated to investor education. Its mission is to provide investors with high-quality, easily accessible information and tools to better understand the markets and the basic principles of saving and investing. In 2006, the Foundation launched a multifaceted program to expand the saving and investing knowledge of military servicemembers and their spouses, including a free, unbiased resource, A proud partner in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign, the Foundation also presents financial education forums at military installations worldwide.