Military service members and their families often face particular financial problems. Citi and CredAbility -- one of the leading nonprofit credit counseling and education agencies in the United States -- have teamed up with several veterans' service organizations to help solve the financial issues that can burden these individuals' lives.
In collaboration with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network, the groups have launched CredAbility ReConnect -- a free, online financial education and counseling program.
Bleak statistics show the need for a program to better equip veterans with tools to combat financial hardships. In 2011, the unemployment rate for veterans who have served on active duty since September 2011 was 12.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate is significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.9% that same year. Data from Debt.org and CredAbility show that more than 25% of military families who have credit card debt carry a balance of more than $10,000 and veterans ages 29 or younger have average monthly expenses that exceed their net income by $880.
"Every member of the armed forces has sacrificed a great deal in service to their country -- and, in addition to the challenges of military service, many face tremendous financial pressures as well," said Suni Harford, Citi's Regional Head of Markets for North America in a statement. "These brave men and women receive extensive military training, but far too few of them receive any kind of formal financial education. CredAbility ReConnect was developed to help these deserving men and women build financial capability and achieve long-term economic security for themselves and their families."
The topics covered by CredAbility ReConnect are:
• The financial impact of deployment -- Online courses that help families learn to manage money when a spouse is deployed.
• Easing the transition -- Online courses designed to help ease the financial transition for those who have recently left the military or experienced the death of a service member.
• Budget and credit counseling -- Easy-to-follow plans that help users better manage their money and prioritize spending.
• Debt management plans -- Repayment plans designed to be affordable and tailored to the individual's needs.
• Foreclosure prevention and home buying guidance -- For those who are behind on their mortgage payments or facing foreclosure, certified counselors provide assistance.
Individuals and families who are served by the collaborating organizations are able to access a free custom version of the online program. Members of the armed forces, veterans and their families not affiliated with these groups can access the program at www.CredAbility.org/recon.
This program designed for military families is new, but it is certainly not the first of its kind. Several leading credit card issuers have similar programs and benefits. For example:
• Wells Fargo has the Worldwide Military Banking program, which includes benefits such as special mortgage financing plans and Small Business Administration Patriot Express loans that help members of the military community establish or expand their small businesses. Additionally, Wells Fargo offers a free online financial literacy program called Hands on Banking.
• Bank of America and Chase provide military families with benefits and extensive information about the transitions that can occur in those families' lives.