Despite recognition of the unique demands of life in the Armed Forces community and how they can impact military families’ well-being, there are significant gaps in understanding how Service life shapes the financial stability of Service personnel, their partners and the wider family unit during Service and post-transition to civilian life.

Funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and supported by the Army Families Federation (AFF), a new study by RAND Europe addresses these gaps by exploring the prevalence and drivers of financial instability of military families in the United Kingdom (UK).

RAND Europe conducted a bespoke survey with more than 400 Serving and ex-Serving personnel and their partners, alongside desk research around the existing support landscape, and qualitative interviews with stakeholders from the charity sector, the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government, and other support organisations.

Key findings included:

  • Many Service families reported to have a limited ability to recover from financial shocks
  • Lack of opportunity for partner employment is seen as the greatest barrier to military families’ financial stability
  • Relocation and separation can present financial risks due to short-term out-of-pocket expenses but also disrupt longer-term financial planning
  • While low levels of financial literacy are seen as an important factor shaping families’ financial stability, there is limited understanding of the levels of financial literacy across the Armed Forces community

Linda Slapakova, Senior Analyst, Defence and Security at RAND Europe said: “The key findings of this report show that while the military employment Offer is seen as strong and comprehensive, many military families have difficult lived experiences of it. Despite a steady income, disruptions such as a relocation or the lack of affordable childcare present a challenge to many families’ financial equilibrium. This is particularly acute due to the persistent issues that many military partners face in finding suitable employment and building a career.”

Tom McBarnet, Chief Executive of FiMT, said: “This important research shows that the specific demands and nature of service life can sometimes conspire to undermine the short and long-term financial stability of Armed Forces families and, in some cases, put them at a financial disadvantage when compared to civilians. The report should be shared widely with those involved in supporting military personnel and families, both during and after service, to ensure that they are aware of the disadvantage experienced and the causes of financial instability, and so effective solutions can be put in place.”

AFF Chief Executive, Collette Musgrave, said: “We welcome this report which identifies the unique challenges Service families face, the impact of those challenges on their financial stability, and the need for bespoke support. Partner employment is a key issue for our families, especially those moving overseas, and we look forward to working with the MOD and the charity sector to address the barriers partners can face.”

The study also examines the finance-related support available for military families, the strengths and limitations of this support landscape and opportunities to improve policy and support provision.