Saluting our Vets through Fintech

Thea Garon, CFSI & Christine Mortensen, Bunker Labs

It’s no secret that military veterans often struggle to readjust to civilian life after they have completed their service. Among other challenges, these men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country often struggle to manage their daily financial lives, maintain resilience in the face of life’s ups and downs, and seize opportunities for a brighter future. Frequent deployments across the globe have made it challenging to maintain relationships with financial institutions or for spouses to hold down a steady job. For many veterans – the majority of whom enter the military at a young age and whose financial needs are largely covered on base – leaving the military can require navigating a complex and unfamiliar financial marketplace, with many unexpected perils and pitfalls along the way.

For these reasons, active duty service members and veterans are often less financially healthy than the overall population: according to CFSI’s research, only 35% of active military service members are financially healthy, compared to 44% of civilians. In order to make ends meet, many current and former service members turn to credit cards; they are almost twice as likely to carry credit card debt from month-to-month (58%) than civilians (34%). CFSI also found that, due to damaged or thin credit histories, service members are three times more likely to take out payday loans, which can further damage their credit scores and lead them into a cycle of debt.

That military service members face so many challenges after making so many sacrifices for their country is unacceptable. Fintech entrepreneurs have an opportunity to help these brave men and women lead financially healthier lives. And some innovative entrepreneurs are doing just that: Todd Connor, a former Navy Lieutenant, founded Bunker Labs in 2014 to empower military veterans as leaders in innovation. Today, Bunker Labs operates in 15 cities across the United States and supports over 375 entrepreneurs through training courses, networking events, and mentoring programs. Bunker Labs has contributed to the success of entrepreneurs like Sandra Edwards, an Army veteran and Founder and President of Wheelz On Time, a rent-to-own tire financing company. And entrepreneurs like Chris Rentner, former Navy Reservist, Founder and CEO of Akouba Credit, a company that providers digital end-to-end commercial loan platforms to community banks.

Veterans have sacrificed so much for our country. It’s time we repay them by supporting those aspiring to start businesses and by designing high-quality financial solutions that can help them lead financially healthy lives.

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The Financial Solutions Lab is looking for innovators – like Todd, Sandra, and Chris – who are committed to improving the financial health of Americans. We are particularly interested in fintech startups and nonprofits that are reaching underserved Americans, including military service members and veterans. If you have a product that might fit the bill, apply for a spot in the Lab today. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur looking for your next big idea, this is it.

If you are a veteran looking for guidance on how to launch or grow your business, check out Bunker Labs and the amazing resources they offer. Bunker Labs provides educational programming, mentors, events, and thriving local networks to help military veterans start and grow businesses.

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