This week is Military Saves Week. Have you heard of Military Saves? You may have seen flyers, banners around your installations. You might have even been somewhere where a Military Saves Conference was being held. Earlier this week I was sitting at a table for Blue Star Families, a fabulous organization for which I do most of my volunteer work, at a Military Saves event in the DC area. It was only the first day, but I was bummed to not see as many young people as I had hoped. Although, it should be noted that frequently this area, especially the location I was at, isn't the frequent stomping ground for young service members. I know they are here though. That is really who I think we should be focused on. I would say, that just from regular conversation in life, most young people do not thinking about retirement and the future. Military Saves is about much for than that, its about debt reduction and saving in general (which let's face it is hard unless you are in a two income household).
Getting Military service members to save and invest in the future has been a difficult task over the years. First reading about the statistics in this Military.com article, it was a shock to me. Mr. Air Force happens to be investment/retirement minded, almost entirely thanks to his Dad, who is also very investment/retirement focused. It takes commitment and resolve to accomplish it. Many people that I've met with have expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of money we Military members get paid. I guess maybe if you were just looking at numbers, and thinking about CEOs and Dr's and what not, we don't. But, I think if you were to consider what we get, great health care, a housing allowance that usually covers rent, plus some (at least it always has for us), and some of the other things we should be so lucky. I mean we make enough for me to stay home, raise three children and live quite comfortably. We go on dates, vacations, buy clothes and are great. We don't own a home, but that's not in our cards right now. That's not the season in life we are in. I could write a whole post about the misconception that owning a home is everything. Young people falling all over themselves to own homes, instead of "throwing away money on rent", because they think its what they are supposed to do.
Happily, articles are reporting that as of last year more service members are participating in the TSP. As long ago as 2011, we were seeing a record increase in Service member participation in the TSP, about 40%, and with the option for ROTH accounts being available to most Service members, last year, savings is happening all around. Kate, who writes for Military.com (whose articles I love, btw), released a great article about planning for your future, what she would tell her younger self about saving. It's been in the works for several years to modernize the TSP program, make it more accessible (in the realm of thought for younger service members) for those with no real experience or knowledge about investments and retirements. Here's hoping that automatic enrollment for service members (as it has been for Federal civilian employees) comes along soon. As it is TSP is taken right out of your paycheck before you even see it, which I think is helpful. I think you would have more service members taking part in thinking about their futures if they didn't have to think about enrolling themselves. Its very similar to my thoughts on the National Association for the Air and Army Guards (EANGUS). If you attend the conferences (which we did for several years), most of those that attend are in their 40s +. I would wager most younger members of the Guard (both branches) don't even know what EANGUS does. They do all that lobbying that makes our lives better. Why aren't more young people involved in that?! The same goes for investing in your future. The after....Military life won't be forever.
Have you heard of Military Saves? Visit their website and take the Pledge! If you have heard of Military Saves, did you attend an event, have you signed the pledge? What are you doing to change your future?
Visit Military saves online.