For the past decade, military spouses have experienced an unwavering unemployment rate of 22%, making it one of the highest unemployed demographics in the United States. According to new research, their spouses' military service is also negatively affecting their ability to maximize employer-sponsored retirement benefits, build their long-term financial futures and find careers that offer competitive salaries equivalent to their professional experiences and/or education levels.
The Hidden Financial Costs of Military Spouse Unemployment survey, conducted by Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) in collaboration with Syracuse University's D'Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and First Command Financial Services Inc., shines a light on the impacts of being a military spouse.
“The role of a military spouse is far too often unsung. With an unemployment rate that is two to four times higher than that of their civilian counterparts, military spouses are one of the most unemployed and underemployed sectors of the job force,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We hope this research not only illustrates some of the challenges facing military spouses but spurs change.”
The research results showed that many military families find themselves unable to save for retirement or use some of the most effective vehicles for doing so, including workplace investment plans.
Other findings from the report include:
- 88% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the military lifestyle impacts their ability to find jobs at their experience and/or education level and 90% agree or strongly agree that military service negatively affected their careers.
- Respondents who stopped working full-time are twice as likely to report not being confident in their ability to maintain their standard of living in retirement compared to those who never stopped working full-time.
- 58% of respondents report never or rarely being able to fully vest in their employer-sponsored retirement benefits.
- Many respondents were not confident in managing their long-term investment and retirement savings accounts. The 40% who had a long-term investment and retirement savings account felt they were not at all or not very confident in managing it.
“We are honored to partner with Hiring Our Heroes in this important research initiative,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “In our work as financial coaches to our Nation’s military families, we see first-hand how military spouses are impacted by these unique employment challenges. And as an employer, we are proud to focus on recruiting them as financial advisors and for other key positions in our 175-plus offices worldwide and corporate offices in Fort Worth, Texas. Military spouses are highly educated, possess a strong work ethic, and play key financial planning roles in their own families. They have proven to be ideally suited to help military families make smart decisions and plan for a better financial future.”
“These results show the financial impact of military spouse unemployment is cumulative rather than temporary, impacting the ability to save for retirement over time,” said Deborah Bradbard, Senior Research Associate, D’Aniello Institute for Veterans & Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University.
To help lessen the financial costs of military spouse unemployment, the report includes recommendations for employers, stakeholders, and support organizations.
- Increase remote and portable work opportunities for military spouses so they can grow in tenure, pay, and take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement benefits.
- Consider a federal retirement savings option for military spouses that provides easier management of benefits earned from multiple employers and provide the flexibility to build their savings in ways that meet their needs without penalty.
To read the entire report and for more information please visit Hidden Financial Costs of Military Spouse Unemployment
**The results from this research project were based on responses to an online survey of 4,118 military spouses conducted between February 16 and March 9, 2022. For the purpose of this survey, a “civilian military spouse” was defined as a person who was currently married to an active duty service member, reservist, National Guard member, or a retiree/veteran who had never served in the armed forces him or herself.