Can Financial, Estate Planning Help Young Troops?

Jun 11, 2014

Most of those truly noble and brave souls who choose to serve in our military realize at some point they have to take a hard look at the future for themselves and their families. Still, they make that sacrifice. After returning home, many find themselves in brutal financial straits. One soldier we spoke with explained it this way, “It’s a vicious cycle and the harder I tried, the deeper in debt I became.” He’s not alone.

First, there are the “here and now” crises for military families. That’s followed by thoughts for the future and ways to ensure their financial situation, once repaired, will never again result in sleepless nights. The problem for many is they have no idea of where to turn for help. Despite the military contracting with hundreds of financial planners each year, they are limited to providing only financial education. They are prevented from offering solutions over fears that they may attempt to sell their own financial products, which could further jeopardize one’s finances. It makes sense, but then again, it makes no sense: they need help and turn to those who have the much-needed insight and for their efforts, they learn how to improve their approach to money matters via a “one size fits all” program.  Meanwhile, their home is in foreclosure and the debt is closing in.

Military advocates have known for years the importance of troops to find and incorporate solid financial strategies and that will benefit them both now and in the future. Interestingly enough, once they’re out from under the debt, they’re ready to begin planning for the future. What’s not surprising is that again, they aren’t sure who to contact. They’re already familiar with the role of future planning – as they have to put those mechanisms in place as part of their military preparedness. Past that, many have no idea of who to call to update a will or change a power of attorney. Many are unsure if they even spoke to an attorney as they went through that process of creating a will and other estate planning tasks.

But it gets worse. The number of military suicides is on the rise. Financial problems and uncertainties about their future finances is a huge contributing factor. Sadly, many say they’re worth more dead than alive. They’re referring to the insurance policies provided by the military of $400,000. These policies aren’t nullified due to a cause of death being suicide. Not only that, but their families receive an immediate payout of $100,000. Our soldier, who asked not be named, explained it this way, “We have three children – young children. I couldn’t see a way to support them next week and the thought of planning for the future would keep me awake at night. I did consider suicide. All I saw was the money being able to help my wife raise our kids and put some away for retirement.”

Fortunately, he met with a financial planner, one he chose versus those provided by the military, and was able to pay off much of his debt in faster manner than he was doing on his own. That encouraged him to make plans for the future. Now, with proper powers of attorney, a current will and other important estate planning tools at the ready, he and his family are moving forward with greater confidence.

“Honestly, I hadn’t even considered estate planning in a serious way. I’m only 34. I was lucky. I found the right people who showed me a different path. My dad kids me now and says I’m better prepared for retirement than he is.”

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