There are myriad efforts, at banks and nonprofits as well as within the military, to teach current and former service members how to manage their finances and steer clear of financial pitfalls, and new programs are regularly announced in the days leading up to Veterans Day.
Whether any of these programs work is another matter.
"The ones I've seen are actually quite good, and the delivery mechanisms are quite targeted," said Gerri Walsh, senior vice president of investor education at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, known as FINRA.
But Dylan Ross, a New Jersey-based financial planning counselor with the Army Transition Assistance Program who works directly with members of the military, sees it differently.
"Pretty much all of the programs are somewhat fundamentally flawed," he said. "They try and pack everything under the sun into a presentation, and they tend to miss the basics."
Military members also face unique challenges when it comes to managing money—dealing with deployments and multiple moves—and are often targeted by predatory lenders. They are more likely than the general population to get into trouble with costly car loans, overly large house payments and other high-cost debt.
Financial education courses that target soldiers early on can help.
For example, Walsh points to a study by William Skimmyhorn, deputy director of the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at West Point, which evaluated the effect of the Personal Financial Management Course. The course was rolled out in 2007 and 2008 and given to new soldiers. Skimmyhorn found that while the education program did not affect all financial behaviors, soldiers who took the course significantly increased their retirement saving for at least two years and moderately reduced their balances on credit cards, auto loans and the like.
"Financial education can improve short-term financial outcomes," Skimmyhorn concluded.