The Truth About Veterans and Money

The Truth About Veterans and Money

It can be tough for you to find a job and many Veterans are in debt—but it's not all bad news.

Money concerns aren't exclusive to one group of Americans—they affect everyone, including US Veterans. Nearly four out of five of you went into the military straight out of high school, and while service may have honed your discipline and select skills, you may not have learned how to manage money, attack debt, create savings or find a civilian job that uses your expertise. What's more, you may not be aware of the benefits offered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including the GI Bill, healthcare, home loans and retirement accounts.

Here are some of the most significant financial issues you and your fellow Veterans face—and why.

The biggest issues
When servicemen and women transition to civilian life, the switch can be jarring. Suddenly, you have to make significant, life-changing decisions in terms of work and career, and you're no longer provided with a structure, purpose or consistent paycheck by the military. Some Veterans may feel overwhelmed at first, or have significant alone time, which can contribute to mental health issues, substance abuse problems—or spending.

Soon after the transition, many young Veterans choose to attend school, begin vocational training or find a job, which can be tough if you lack experience with the process. You may not be accustomed to applying and could need help finding a meaningful position that makes the best of your skills. Some of you may find getting a job difficult with conditions or injuries you sustained during service.

Time spent in limbo, looking for a job or going to classes can mean lost income or accumulating debt; in fact, credit card debt is common, and scammers often specifically target Veterans, knowing you might be vulnerable. Debt can be compounded, too, by impulsive or large purchases (like cars), a growing family, gambling, legal hurdles, medical issues or simply, poor budgeting.

What's more, cash flow problems can be exacerbated by mental health issues like depression, which, in turn, can be made worse by cash flow problems. For some Veterans, mismanagement of money is linked to sleep loss, anxiety and even homelessness.

The good news
Fortunately, there are numerous positives when it comes to Veterans' financial health. For example, while you may have a tough time finding a job at first, your overall unemployment rate is comparable to those who did not serve—and in some months, it's lower. Many of you don't have significant money issues, and in general, older Veterans are in solid financial shape; in terms of household and personal net worth, they often do better than those who didn't serve.

You also have plentiful financial resources available through the VA, military organizations, non-profits and private companies, including:

  • Job training and recruitment programs
  • Financial literacy courses
  • Scholarship and loan programs for school
  • Specialized home loans, health insurance, disability compensation and life insurance
  • Mental health counseling

In regard to retirement, the VA provides a pension for many of you, and the option of joining a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for others. For more information about financial services, visit their website. And, to watch stories of how your fellow Veterans addressed their money worries, visit Make the Connection, the VA's online support system.

Speaking of support, in the following months, keep coming back to Sharecare for proven tips and smart strategies to help you get your finances on track. We'll share ways to attack your debt, make money and start saving, whether you've just re-entered civilian life or you've been one for decades. Watch this space each day for new ideas.

Medically reviewed in June 2018.

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