How employers can help veterans become financially stable


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Though it’s historically been an under-leveraged segment of the workforce, savvy business leaders are increasingly recognizing the critical role that veteran talent can play in executing their talent and business strategies. However, as many organizations have yet to understand the full potential of employing this segment, their employee experiences, work environments and benefits packages have yet to meet the unique needs of veteran talent.

Related: Introducing veteran ready financial well-being programs

Compared to their civilian peers, many service members experienced a unique set of challenges and opportunities in reaching their financial goals during and after their service. On one side, the consistency of military pay, subsidies, education benefits and other programs allows for a more solid footing for financial well-being. On the other hand, however, there is also the impact of relocations, deployments, a lack of employment opportunities for their spouses and, of course, war-related trauma on whether a service member is set up to meet their current and future financial goals. 

Transitioning from military to civilian life isn’t easy. The rigid structure of the military may not prepare veteran staffers for a more independent lifestyle.

Using data from a 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey on financial well-being, the Office of Servicemember Affairs produced a detailed brief, released in April 2019, on financial well-being among veterans. The Office found that “veterans, as a group, experienced somewhat higher levels of financial well-being than the average American. 

But as the brief points out, military life presents plenty of financial wellness challenges, too, the consequences of which may be most manifest when veterans enter into private employment. The analysis also showed that, as for all Americans, debt is frequently a problem for veterans. Financial well-being can be diminished when veterans use short-term credit products, have been contacted by debt collectors, or possess student loan debt.

The consequences of these realities are something that Chief HR Officers and their teams may need to understand and address within their veteran workforce. Here are five of the important areas to keep in mind as you design your support of the financial well-being of your veteran talent.

1. Communication Challenges

With all of these unique concerns in mind, it’s understandable that reaching out to veterans can be in itself a special challenge.

The CFPB has found that service members and their families have often been reluctant to use the financial education resources provided by the military. No one knows exactly why – perhaps veterans find them difficult to access or service members may not want to look vulnerable. In any case, you may want to consider carefully the best ways to target communications directly to your veteran staffers to overcome any hesitancy on their part to take advantage of the program benefits.

2. Generational Differences

The feeling of financial wellness can differ significantly among different generations of veterans. According to Prudential’s 2018 Financial Wellness Census of more than 3,000 adults aged 25 to 70, including military veterans, older veterans are struggling less than their younger counterparts. That makes sense, considering that they’ve had more time to acclimate to civilian life and, importantly, pay down debt.

That said, you’re likely dealing with a workforce that includes a good number of vets who are millennials (or younger). Unfortunately, this group is facing more financial stress than older veterans and their civilian counterparts. More than 40% of millennial veterans report they’re struggling financially as opposed to 32% of non-veteran millennials. New financial responsibilities and the higher cost of living outside the military are often overwhelming. According to the Prudential survey results, only 15% of millennial veterans reported feeling financially secure, and 35% felt pessimistic about their financial future compared to 20% of non-veteran millennials.

3. Debt

Not unlike their civilian counterparts, millennial vets may find paying off debt a major area of financial stress. Nearly 70% of Prudential Census veteran respondents ranked paying off debt third among their financial goals, after building an emergency fund and keeping up with expenses. Veterans in general report high levels of credit card, personal loan and medical debt. 

The CFPB study found that veterans’ perception of their financial well-being drops off significantly more for those with less liquid savings. In addition, perception drops off even more for those who have experienced a poor credit event, such as being contacted by a debt collector or rejected for a new line of credit.

A separate study by the CFPB found that service members are more likely to have taken out an auto loan or credit card, compared to their civilian peers. Additionally, they found a significant number of the younger enlisted service members go into delinquency on these debt repayments or have severe derogatory remarks on their credit records. In fact, they are between two and ten times more likely to have delinquency/default on their credit record after serving than before.  

4. Special Student Loan Repayment Concerns

Veterans may benefit greatly from any employer-sponsored student debt repayment programs. This can come as a surprise to many civilians, who may assume that military programs help veterans with student debt repayment more than employer-sponsored programs would.

While it is true that there are a number of education benefits available to current and former service members, the full benefits may be limited to those that have met specific criteria like time served in a hostile active-combat area or a disability. Like many Americans, wading through the different government-sponsored student debt programs and certifying your eligibility can be burdensome.

For some, it should also be noted that education costs have outpaced the support of programs like the G.I. Bill and the SCRA Interest Cap, resulting in the need for student loans.

There is some good news on this front: In early October, the Department of Education announced some major changes to make it easier to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), including removing several barriers that had prevented military service members from taking advantage. 

5. Navigating Veteran Benefits

Student loan repayment is a good example of how challenging it can be to navigate government-sponsored veteran benefits. As a result, many vets may be missing out on important financial supports. Employers may be able to help through their financial wellness counseling and advisor services.

The Takeaway

Employers can do a lot to help with these transitions and challenges. As you would with all of your employees, you want to make sure you’re helping your veteran workers balance short-term budget considerations with long-term financial goals. A veteran-ready financial well-being program can go a long way to help your veteran employees on their path to financial independence and realize their ambitions.

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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi at Work is offered by Social Finance Inc. SoFi loans are offered by SoFi Lending Corp. or an Affiliate (dba SoFi), licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 . The Student Debt Navigator tool and 529 Savings and Selection tool are provided by SoFi Wealth, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

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Guide to government home loans

Guide to government home loans

Ah, home buying. It’s invigorating! Complex. Expensive, too. This is why the vast majority of homebuyers rely on mortgages to obtain their dream homes.

Conventional loans are the most popular, but government-backed loans are often easier to qualify for and may have lower interest rates and more lenient terms.

The powers that be offer a variety of mortgages and mortgage insurance programs that can keep your down payment and interest rates low. But raking through government websites can be exhausting and far less fun than comparing paint swatches.

So which government home loan might be right for your purposes? Here are the details.

Related: 20 most affordable cities based on cost per square foot of homes


First of all, it’s important to understand that there are many types of mortgage loans.

Home loans range from fixed rate (meaning the interest stays consistent over time) to adjustable rate (interest rates can fluctuate with the market) and from conforming (meeting the amount caps established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to jumbo (very large mortgages).

For the purposes of this article, we’re mostly concerned with the difference between conventional mortgage loans — those originated by private banks and lenders — and government-insured mortgage loans, which are offered by private banks and lenders but backed or insured, by government institutions.

While conventional loans are the most popular type on the market, there are good reasons for borrowers to seek out government-insured loans.

Because lenders covered by government insurance can rest assured that they’ll get something for their trouble, even if borrowers default, government-backed loans are often easier to qualify for than conventional mortgages, and may have more lower interest rates and more lenient terms.

In some cases, government-backed loans or even loans offered directly by the government, can help families secure housing when doing so would otherwise be out of reach.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers government-assisted home loans specifically for low-income rural families who cannot otherwise afford housing.

The government offers and insures a wide range of home loans and related financial assistantships, aimed toward everyone from first-time buyers to those looking to rehabilitate or refinance a residence.

Below, find our brief guide to the most common and well-known government home loans.

The Federal Housing Administration offers mortgage insurance on single-family and multifamily properties, as well as residential care facilities like hospitals, and has been doing so since 1934.

For the everyday consumer, that can translate to a home loan with a low down payment and closing costs, as well as easier credit qualification than with many private lenders.

The FHA backs a variety of loans that cater to the specific needs of the borrower, such as FHA Reverse Mortgages for senior citizens and FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages for those looking to finance home improvements that will increase energy efficiency (and therefore lower housing costs).

However, FHA loans are perhaps most popular among first-time buyers looking for government home loans—in large part because of the low down payment requirement.

Borrowers with FICO credit scores of 580 or more may qualify for a down payment as low as 3.5% of the sales price of the home, whereas some conventional home loans may require 15% or even 20%. (Borrowers with credit scores under 580 are required to put 10% down even with an FHA government-insured loan.)

Most FHA loans do require mortgage insurance, although it’s not quite the same as the private mortgage insurance required in a conventional mortgage when a borrower can’t come up with a certain down payment.

FHA loan borrowers are required to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% of the base loan amount, as well as an annual mortgage insurance premium whose rate is calculated based on the loan-to-value ratio and mortgage term.

Mortgage insurance premium rates range from 0.45% to 1.05% and are lower for those who opt for shorter mortgage terms.

The USDA is another government entity that helps make homeownership more achievable for low-income Americans — specifically those who reside in, or are willing to reside in, rural areas. Two of its most popular programs are the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program and Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans.

Both programs require a minimum borrower credit score of 640, and both require the property to be in an area the department recognizes as rural.

(Generally, towns with populations less than 35,000 qualify, but the USDA offers an interactive map that can help consumers figure out whether or not a community is considered rural.)

The income requirements and application process differ, however. Here are the important distinctions.

The Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a government-insured mortgage that helps approved applicants purchase or improve rural properties.

Because it offers approved third-party lenders a 90% loan note guarantee, borrowers can receive 100% financing with absolutely no down payment, which is a pretty special deal.

Eligibility requirements state that borrowers’ income can’t exceed 115% of the median household income of the area, meaning the loan is directed toward low- to moderate-income families.

Interest rates depend on credit history and lender but are often lower than those associated with conventional loans.

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Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans are offered, as the name suggests, directly from the USDA, making them different from most of the other government-insured loans discussed in this article. These loans provide payment assistance to qualified borrowers to reduce their mortgage payment for a limited period of time.

The program is for low and very-low-income applicants. The amount of assistance offered is based on borrowers’ adjusted family income, but as with Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loans, no down payment is required.

The interest rate on USDA Direct Home Loans can be as low as 1%, and may be repaid over a term of up to 38 years.

Along with meeting the income eligibility requirements — which are lower in this case — borrowers must also be without safe, decent and sanitary housing, and must be financing a property of 2,000 square feet or less in an eligible rural area, as defined above.

Along with home purchase costs, the funds from this loan program can also be used to to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, as well as to cover costs associated with preparing land for dwelling such as drilling a well or installing a septic system.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs insures conventional loans offered to service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses.

VA-backed purchase loans often result in better terms for the homebuyer. Case in point: Almost 90% of these loans don’t require a down payment.

While there’s no minimum credit score requirement on the VA side, the individual private lenders may have their own minimums — 580 to 660 is typical.

VA-backed borrowers may also be able to forgo private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance premiums, as well as enjoy fewer closing costs and lower interest rates than they’d otherwise receive. 

There is, however, a one-time VA Funding Fee, which lowers the cost of these loans to the taxpayer and is calculated based on the specific type and total amount of the home loan. The VA Funding Fee on purchase loans ranges from 1.4% to 3.6%.

The VA also helps those with existing home loans refinance their mortgages in order to reduce their interest rates or acquire cash that can be used toward other financial goals.


Native American Direct Loans are offered directly by the VA to eligible Native American veterans and veterans married to Native Americans.

Like VA-backed purchase loans, those who qualify for an NADL can enjoy a $0 down payment and won’t have to pay private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance premiums.

NADLs also offer borrowers a low, fixed interest rate repayable over a 30-year term. What’s more, the benefit is reusable, meaning a borrower can take out more than one of these loans in a lifetime. The funds can be used to purchase a residence as well as to build or improve one.

As with other VA loans, however, recipients of NADLs may be required to pay the VA Funding Fee. Borrowers will also need to provide documentation proving they earn a high enough income to cover their mortgage payments.

While FHA, USDA, VA and NADL loans are probably the best known, there are even more government housing loans and assistantship programs available.

For instance, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers the Good Neighbor Next Door Program, which offers law enforcement officers, grade school teachers, and first responders a 50% discount on the list price of homes in eligible revitalization areas. 

Participants must live in the property as their sole residence for three full years and sign a “silent second” mortgage for the discounted amount in case they fail to fulfill the three-year requirement.

In addition to its straightforward home loan program, the FHA offers 203k loans, which help borrowers buying older residences finance the extensive remodeling and repairs such properties often require. 

These loans simplify the process by providing one source of funding for both home purchase and home improvement, though borrowers can also take out a loan for home improvement alone.

Finally, keep in mind that state governments may also offer additional homebuying assistance programs that can ease the burden of paying for a house. Check out HUD’s directory of state sites and programs for information.


While government home loans can help low- and moderate-income families establish housing with low or no down payment and competitive interest rates, they’re not the only option on the market — and in some cases, a conventional loan can be an equally savvy money move.

For one thing, many government-backed home loans restrict which properties and borrowers are eligible to participate. Conventional loans can offer the borrower more agency and flexibility.

For homebuyers with credit scores in the “very good” or “excellent” categories and who have a substantial down payment, conventional loans may offer interest rates and terms that are nearly as attractive as those offered for government-backed mortgages. 

And if you can put down at least 20% on a conventional mortgage, you’ll avoid paying PMI, whereas every FHA loan requires mortgage insurance premiums.

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