Financial Advisers a Trusted Ally for Military Families

A new rule will reduce guaranteed lifetime income from the military’s pension by 20%, but financial advisers are keen in helping service members offset the potential losses.

Career military families working with financial advisers are about twice as likely to contribute to the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) as their colleagues managing finances on their own, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index. The firm reports that 56% of middle-class military families working with financial advisers participate in the TSP.

These findings come ahead of the new Blended Retirement System that will apply to military personnel beginning in January 2018. It will reduce the guaranteed lifetime income from the traditional military pension by 20%, according to First Command. That reduction will be offset in part by automatic and matching TSP contributions.

“These survey results suggest that financial advisers can play a critical coaching role in the new military retirement system by encouraging service member families to participate in the TSP,” says Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services. “The current above-average participation rate is a compelling indicator that financial advisers are putting the long-term financial interests of career military families ahead of their own. Financial advisers do not earn fees or commissions for recommending the TSP. We see the results of this client-first commitment in our own company, where 68% of active-duty clients are participating in the TSP. This compares to government data showing an overall 45% participation rate. We are confident that financial advisers will play a key role in helping service member families make the most of the TSP and in turn the Blended Retirement System.”

The First Command study indicates that retirement planning is a top concern for many military families. About three quarters of career service members have viewed online training to explain their options under the new retirement system. The firm notes most military families indicate they are likely to consult a financial adviser regarding their retirement system options.

Survey results from the fourth quarter revealed that service members who work with a financial adviser were also more likely than those without an adviser to contribute to retirement and savings accounts. Those with a financial adviser reported roughly $35,000 more in accumulated savings and retirement funds than their do-it-yourself colleagues. Current holdings for the two groups were $137,665 and $102,398, respectively.

“Financial advisers are effective coaches, encouraging service members to focus on positive money habits today so they can feel more certain and sure about tomorrow,” says Spiker. “They are already helping many career military clients understand the new Blended Retirement System and take the kinds of positive actions that will help them feel more confident in their long-term pursuit of financial security.”