Hiring Our Heroes’ The Hidden Financial Costs of Military Spouse Unemployment

Military spouses have faced persistent employment challenges, including an unwavering unemployment rate of 22% which increased as high as 38%, according to one estimate, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment creates both short and long-term economic challenges for military spouses and their families. These unemployment impacts aren’t always temporary. Instead, they may be cumulative, resulting in the inability to plan, save, or proactively prepare for retirement.

This report draws insight from over 4,100 active-duty, veteran, and retired military spouses, including those from the National Guard and Reserves.  Respondents were surveyed to examine how their employment and unemployment experiences impact their long-term financial futures.  Based on the results, this report provides actionable recommendations for employers, support organizations, and policymakers to create economic opportunities for military spouses to address the long-term hidden financial costs of military spouse unemployment and underemployment.

Key Findings include:

  • Having two incomes is critical to economic security, yet many military spouses have difficulty finding employment that matches their experience and/or education level.
  • The lack of two incomes creates considerable uncertainty related to retirement.
  • Access to employer-sponsored retirement benefits improves a military spouse’s outlook on retirement if their benefits vest.
  • Many respondents report they do not feel comfortable managing their retirement accounts.

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