Each April the United States recognizes Financial Literacy Month in an effort to teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. When it comes to personal finance, many consumers lack sufficient understanding of everything from savings accounts and checking accounts to more complicated topics like mortgages and debt. The goal of Financial Literacy Month is to help more Americans become aware of their financial situation, and to educate them on the ins and outs of personal finance.

Financial readiness is also an important topic to the Marine Corps. In an effort to keep track of the financial health of Marines and families, in 2008 the Secretary of the Navy introduced the Financial Health Quick Poll (FHQP). The FHQP was the first in-depth study of the financial behaviors and attitudes of Marines. Several follow-on studies have been conducted, with the most recent occurring in 2015.

So what are the typical financial behaviors of Marines? What did the latest FHQP uncover?

Overall Financial Situation

Compared to the results of the previous poll, which took place in 2011, there was a slight decline in a Marine’s perceived “overall financial situation”. On average, Enlisted Marines rated their “overall financial situation” worse than Officers did.

Personal Financial Wellness

The FHQP also measured Personal Financial Wellness. Compared to the results of the 2011 poll, financial stress in the Marine Corps has increased. This was especially true for Enlisted Marines who scored significantly lower on Personal Financial Wellness, indicating higher financial stress when compared to Officers. In fact, 22% of Enlisted Marines fell into the “High Financial Stress” group.

High Financial Stress

Many of the Marines who fell into the “High Financial Stress” group shared some common characteristics. Eighty-five percent were in E1-E5 pay grades. In addition, Marines who fell into the “High Financial Stress” demonstrated a significantly lower confidence in their financial management skills and engaged in fewer financial management activities than Marines with “Average” or “Low” financial stress.

Take Control

If you are under financial stress and don’t feel confident in your financial management abilities, the first step to improving your situation is to contact the Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) on your installation. The PFMP offers workshops on more than twenty money management topic areas, including investment planning, financial planning, saving, managing debt and using credit. The PFMP also offers courses on military benefits such as the Thrift Saving Plan and Saving Deposit Plan. Individual counseling by Accredited Financial Counselors and one-on-one coaching on budgeting, debt management, car buying, and home buying is also available. These services are offered to all Marines at no cost.

So what are you waiting for? Contact your local Personal Financial Management Specialist and start feeling more confident about your financial management skills today.