First Command Review | You Can Do Better

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First Command™ is a financial services company that targets servicemembers with military network marketing.

First Command Advisors use military veterans to build trust with current servicemembers. The company then uses that trust to sell high fee investment and “whole life insurance” products to those servicemembers.

I do not have personal experience with First Command's products and services, but I have read numerous stories about the company on Reddit and around the web.

You will most likely be much better off investing in your TSP and Vanguard, Fidelity, or Schwab Roth IRA rather than paying extra in fees for investment products from First Command.

You almost certainly do not need whole life insurance. Usually you will be far better off buying term life insurance and investing the savings in an index fund.

Update on 14 December 2021: I received a trademark infringement notice on 14 Dec 2021 regarding the use of a trademark in a domain. It reads:

This domain is illegally using First Command Financial Services's trademarked name in their domain name. This is causing confusion among our client's customers. Our client First Command Financial Services doesn’t own this domain. We request this domain name be unregistered and removed.

Trademark Infringement Notice sent to on 14 Dec 2021

It appears someone doesn't want the information linked to on this page to rank so high on Google. I do not plan to remove this domain name.

First Command™ Whole Life Insurance

First Command™ whole life insurance is usually an unsuitable product for a young servicemember, especially lieutenants, ensigns, and junior enlisted.

The Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a good term life insurance product while you are in the service. You get up to $400,000 of coverage for $25 per month, plus Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) coverage and a $100,000 “death gratuity” in case of your death in the line of duty.

If you have no dependents, you probably do not need any more insurance than SGLI. When you deploy to a combat zone, SGLI is reimbursed. SGLI offers free life insurance when in a combat zone.

If you need more life insurance due to a spouse, children, or other dependents, then look at an affordable term life insurance policy from Navy Mutual, USAA, or AAFMAA.

What To Do Instead of First Command™

Follow this personal finance flowchart for active duty military. You can do all of this yourself.

If you want professionals help, reach out to Military OneSource, resources on your base or post, or contact the Military Financial Advisors Association.

If you need help, there are free services on base available to assist you.

Max your Roth TSP. Max your Roth IRA. Max your spouse's Roth IRA. Invest in low cost index funds. Don't buy whole life insurance. Check out my book, for a step by step guide to achieving financial independence in the military.

Advisors Rely on Trust

First Command™ uses their military affiliation and veteran network to build their client database. They use their retired military rank and connections on bases to sell financial services and products to active duty servicemembers and families.

A fiduciary has a legal and ethical requirement to put your best interest before their own. Always ask if your First Command™ advisor is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), fiduciary, or a registered investment advisor (RIA).

Advisors may receive a commission based on the products they sell. Here's 2 articles from an early 2000s investigation in First Command's™ practices: Taking Aim At Military Scams Kiplinger's and from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Practices at the company may have changed since 2004.

Alternatives to First Command™

Leaving First Command™

There are many anecdotes of real experiences with First Command™ online. Here's one entitled How to Get Out of the First Command Trap.

The author writes: “I'm leaving First Command as well. This post is incredibly helpful, thank you!”

When I was a young Lt, I was seduced by the dark side (re: First Command) because I wanted to get a head start on my finances. As it turns out, First Command is incredibly predatory (anecdotally, and in my opinion). If you want out, here's how to do it:

  1. Cancel your whole life insurance. Seemed like a good idea at the time, I know. Call 1-800-658-9857 for Liberty National if that's who it's through. I had luck with the paper form that I found using Google, then faxed it in (go to your AFRC, they probably have one).
  2. If you have an IRA you want to roll somewhere else, contact that agency and request an in-kind transfer. Vanguard did not require any physical paperwork to accomplish this. If they do require anything, request a 60-day rollover. This means FC will liquidate your IRA into your bank account and you won't have to pay any taxes on it as long as you deposit that amount into an IRA within 60 days. Call Vanguard or whatever new firm you're going with and they can help you.
  3. Get your money out of those high-fee mutual funds. This part is a little bit more difficult, as most financial institutions require a Medallion Signature to process any transfers. Instead, deal with FC and tell them to give you your money. All you have to do is call your advisor (hopefully you get their secretary) and say you want xyz accounts liquidated into the First Command bank account you probably have set up. If you want to send an email, here's what I sent:

“Good morning xxxxx,
First off, thank you for your advice and work with our accounts over the past couple years. (Spouse) and I are very grateful for your help.
That said, we do want to go in a different direction with our finances. I've started the paperwork to transition our IRA and single registered mutual fund accounts. We have the information for our life insurance accounts, so if there's anything we need to do regarding those, let me know.
I'd also like to transfer the remaining balance of the bank accounts (xxxx and xxxx) to my First Command bank account (xxxx). The current allotment through MyPay will probably run through the end of the month, so I'd like to keep the accounts open long enough for the allotment to go through, then transfer it.
Let me know if there's anything else you need from me in order to move forward.

“Your Name”

Once they liquidate your funds, call corporate at 1-888-763-7600, and they'll transfer your money to you. After that, you can invest it wherever you want.

This was all my personal experience, but if you're on the fence about bailing on First Command, please please do some research and/or message me directly and I can help with anything you need. FC is predatory, and there's nothing wrong with admitting to yourself that you were duped. If you have any other tips, please comment and add them!

Reddit Reviews and Experiences

Here is a small sample of the real experiences other military servicemembers have had with First Command™ on Reddit. I could not find one positive review.

Experience with First Command “Stay away from First Command. Stay further away from whole life insurance, it is a waste of money. Research term life insurance and decide if you need it once you’re married.”

Does anyone have experience with First Command? “He's in sales and works on commission. If you want to learn about finances there are plenty of free resources.If you want to make this guy a lot of money than just do everything he says.”

Dumping First Command “Also following, literally in the exact situation. I've discussed it with my advisor and he straight up told me that they only make money by selling people insurance, saying “If we didn't sell insurance to a new lieutenant, we've failed” which to me sounds awfully predatory. I'm in the same boat of wanting to cut ties entirely, but it seems like a huge pain. Let me know how this goes for you!”

Met with a First Command Advisor in Killeen, Texas. “Stay away. You don't need whole life and you don't need mutual funds until you are maxing out your tax-advantaged accounts (TSP, IRAs). As an O-1, this is roughly 50% of your pay, so I doubt you're doing that.”

Cutting Ties with First Command “You're getting hosed.”

Shaking My Head…First Command “Yes, another first command victim…”

I Want to Quit First Command, What Should I Do? “Move your money out of first command asap.”

Another First Command Sucker Alright well as of 24hrs ago I thought I was smart with my finances but after stumbling upon this subreddit and spending some time in here, I've come to the sad and disappointing realization that I've probably lost a lot of potential money over the past few years.

Feeling like a real idiot for using First Command “Long story short, I thought I was doing the responsible thing by using their services. After reading this sub more I realized I made a mistake. What should I do now?”

Leaving First Command – Need Some Help “Trying to leave First Command (finally) after they got me at TBS. Transferring all my money out of their savings and into my main account, trying to liquidate my investments with them, and canceling whole life (yup they got me to buy it).”

What's the problem with First Command?

I hope this information helps you make an informed decision about whether First Command™ is right for you. Please let me know your experiences with the company, both positive and negative, in the comments.

Is First Command™ a pyramid scheme?

First Command™ is not a pyramid scheme. You do not need to recruit additional salespeople under you to buy your product as you would in a pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme.

Are First Command™ advisors fiduciaries?

First Command™ claims on their website to hold all of their advisors to a fiduciary standard in their client relationships. Before doing business with any company, it's important to read real reviews about the company and see if they adhere to the fiduciary standard.

How much does First Command™ cost?

For example, one recommended First Command™ mutual fund is the MFS Growth Fund with ticker MFEGX. MFEGX has a 5.75% front load fee, which means you lose 5.75% of your investments immediately! TSP and most Vanguard index funds have no front load fees. This fund also has a 0.87% expense ratio which is 17x more expensive than a TSP fund or Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI or VTSAX).

First Command is a registered trademark of First Command Financial Services, Inc. Use of the name of the company is allowable under nominative fair use.

16 thoughts on “First Command Review | You Can Do Better”

  1. If this company is anything like it was back when I was naive enough to use it (1980s), take it from a retired vet and DO NOT WALK BUT RUN AWAY FROM THESE RIPOFF ARTISTS. This web page should be printed and posted in every BX and commissary and dorm room lounge in the world. Frankly, shame on every military base who does not have warnings about them as part of their “welcome to the base” orientation. In fact, it should be a lesson in a class in every service’s basic training.

    They charge laughably absurd fees with flimsy reasons and give mostly poor investment advice. You can do far better by contacting a reputable company like Fidelity or Vanguard (etc) directly and speaking to one of their financial advisors and starting your own 401K with them. The only thing I will give them credit for is they got me thinking about investing for my eventual retirement and introduced me to the dollar cost-averaging investment strategy, which is a no-brainer.

  2. For those that signed up for funds under the 50% up front sales fee, is it worth it to move out? Paid the fee but haven’t touched the account in nearly 20 years. . .

    • John,
      Hopefully your account is doing well. I too started under the 50% up front fee. Today, my fees are lower than other similar investment accounts. Over 40 years and I have made $1 million in my systematic investing account. Many of the above comments are from people who are impatient, naive, and uninformed about personal finance. The real trick to investing is TIME and Compound Interest.
      Best Regards

  3. I became a USPA/IRA (First Command) client in 1975. In all honesty I felt somewhat taken advantage of when we made that initial investment in Fidelity Destiny II. Nevertheless the fund did okay but we let that stand as our primary investment with First Command until about 1985. We then renewed our First Command relationships and increased our participation in their offerings. We have always felt our FC agents exercised fiduciary responsibilities and in fact we have retained the same advisor now for the past ~20 years. We are still with FC. Both my wife and I are fully retired. Our investments have been highly successful in terms of providing us financial independence. We have not had a mortgage payment in 10 years and have recently moved to a 2 acre lakefront property where we constructed a custom home. We are very pleased with where our First Command relationship has taken us. The investment and budgetary discipline coupled with their focused planning models worked very well for us. Might we have done better elsewhere? Perhaps; but FC clearly put us on the road to financial independence and was a key factor for our successful arrival at that destination.

  4. I initially heard about first Command from the welcome brief here on Fort Carson. I filled out the form provided by them. They contacted me about a week later. I made an appointment with them and met them at a Qdoba were they bought a meal for me and they talked about what they do etc. They asked me all kinds of questions such as were I and my wife are originally from they got real personable with me with their questions.

    I had to cancel three of my future appointments with them, because of work. I had my second appointment with them today. This time with my wife. My next appointment is on 30NOV21. Some of their advice from today was to not pay off my wife’s car early that is at 2.9% interest rather I’m guessing to invest into First Command which will be mentioned in the next appointment if that happens. I have been taught to payoff your smallest loans than pay off the bigger ones to save money from paying interest, and to get out of debt faster. I felt a little shock when First Command told me to hold off on paying off my debt.

    My wife had a TSP when she was in the Army. She is out now, and still has an amount in it. First Command is going to want here to transfer it over I am sure. They told me if she liquidates it that we will be charged 10%, I already knew this. They also said that they would take out taxes from the amount in her TSP. How can we transfer the money over from her TSP and not have the tax penalty?

    Just a developing story in the works. any comments suggestions tips are welcomed. :)

    • Kenneth,

      As a former service member (Active Duty 13A) and a former First Command client, I would echo a lot of the sentiment here and suggest you steer clear. Most of what they do you can do for yourself, and if you do want an advisor I think there are probably better options.

      That being said, the recommendation to not pay off low-interest-rate debt is sound, if counterintuitive. You can put your own numbers into a calculator on the internet, but assuming $10,000 remaining principal on the car loan and 24 months of payments left gives a monthly payment of m=10000 * 0.029/12 / [1 – (1 + 0.029/12)^-24] = $429.37, with payments totaling $10,304.88 (loans use well defined geometric series equations). If you invested the same $10,000 in a mutual fund with an annual return of 2.9% you would have 10000 * (1 + 0.029) ^ 2 = $10,588.41 in the same period.

      Obviously, there is more to life than a math problem, but in general, if you can expect an investment return greater than or equal to the interest on your debt, the math says you are better off using extra money to invest for the future than paying off current debt more quickly.

      This may come too late to help in your decision, but hopefully, it will help someone else in a similar situation.

  5. I got suckered by First Command. Big Time. I’m so very happy that I finally left them. They sold me whole life, when I was single and had no kids and didn’t need it. And their “premier” SIP investments lagged the market by almost 50% over the 7 years that I invested with them. The advisor convinced me to take out a $25K loan in order to invest more money with him. So incredibly stupid. Fortunately, I was able to roll the brokerage account and IRA into Vanguard with no issues. I still have not been able to get rid of the whole life policy.

    If I could post a pic of their 7 years of returns from my statement, I would. But, the cumulative return on their SIP high-growth fund was actually 53.11% from 2013 to 2019. With a 2.4% cumulative fee. The S&P cumulative return during that time was 95.02%.

    • Jennifer – sorry to hear about your experience. This is exactly why I wrote this article, to help other servicemembers avoid making similar financial mistakes. Thanks for sharing your comment.

      That’s good you were able to escape to Vanguard with minimal damage, but I’m sorry to hear about whole life insurance when you had no dependents and the investments with poor performance. If you want to email me that screenshot I can post it, mmm at militarymoneymanual dot com.

  6. Too bad you claim to know “better” but also have no experience with their services or products. You seem to get your information from reddit as opposed to doing any legitimate research. Looks like you also have a bias based on all of the advertisements you post. I have been a client since I was 22 and, thanks to First Command, I am recently fully retired with a paid off home and income for the remainder of my life. I can’t say that about the other military members I’ve known that follow your “sage” advice.

    Frank C. Borik
    CDR USN (Submarines), (Ret)

    • I have first hand experience with First Command. This is a sales company posing as a financial planing firm. Advisors will sign with military members for free and try and convince them to buy over priced Whole life insurance to make the largest commission as possible. They are trained to manipulate you in to buying This type of insurance. The employees make huge commissions on the policy’s. I would suggest speaking with true professionals for investing and buy insurance if needs on term basis. First Command is not a friend to soldiers.

  7. Does First Command charge military members? I didn’t think they paid fees except for a “yearly management fee ($15?)” and the advisors were paid by the companies.

    • Look at the front load fees on the mutual funds they recommend plus the advisory fees they take out of assets under management.

      • Front loaded mutual funds havent been part of their business since the class action law suit (10-12 years ago?). There pretty much your standard run of the meal financial advising company now. Whole life vs term is a risk choice. If you have an advisor that says anything less, get a new advisor or leave. Have a whole life plan and if whole life insurance makes sense, do it. If not, dont. Its really that simple. Funny how everyone on here is expecting that they dont have to think when going to a person who is asking you for your money.

        • Nonsense. First Command absolutely still sells front-loaded mutual funds.

          What went away were the systematic payment plans where First Command charged 50% up front sales fee to their clients.

          First Command still sells whole life insurance–it IS the centerpiece of their business model–to those who don’t really need it all under the belief that most clients who buy much less expensive term insurance won’t invest the difference so, instead, they push the whole life insurance with the justification the client is less likely to cancel a permanent life insurance contract than they are to stop automatic monthly investments in mutual funds. There may be some truth to that, but it is a deliberate choice by First Command to use their powers of salesmanship/persuasion to push commission-heavy, expensive permanent life insurance instead of using their powers of persuasion to get customers to invest MORE of THEIR money into vehicles that benefit them a helluva lot more–i.e. the mutual funds.

  8. Thank you for spreading the word! This company operates right on the edge of cheating clients outright, freely giving harmful advice if it increases the commissions they earn on client investments. My ex-advisor’s “advice” cost me many thousands in tax consequences, not to mention great emotional distress.


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