How stressful is it to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces? The longest war in U.S. history has not yet reached a conclusion, and it coincided with another long war. Relatively few planners have firsthand experience with that kind of stress.

Yet most have scars from working with clients on the financial battlefield. Even (or especially) affluent clients can feel under siege trying to build or preserve savings, control high-spending spouses or children, minimize taxes, cope with an unexpected job loss, prepare for college costs, assist ailing parents, etc. The stress of the financial battlefield combined with the stress of those whose workplace is an actual battlefield seems unimagineable.

Of course, the vast bulk of the nation’s fighting forces endure both those burdens with tiny checking accounts and often minimal sophistication on handling money issues and protecting themselves from those who would do them financial harm.

In a Financial Planning special report this month, senior editor Ann Marsh explores just how significant financial strain is in the high rate of military suicide. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that active-duty troops who never even deployed comprise 50% of military suicides. Clearly, other factors are compromising their good judgment. Studies by the military and others repeatedly cite financial stress as a major contributing cause of their despair.

Fortunes will never be created overnight (without inappropriate risk) for those with especially modest income or savings, but all planners know that even a few savvy moves can go a long way. Identifying nonessential spending and ways to reduce costs, along with establishing a budget, are huge first steps for those who have never done it.

Can you help protect those who help protect us? As you work to attract and retain paying clients, could you add even just one active-duty service member or veteran pro bono? To ensure the propriety of such an initiative and to create an element of trust, perhaps start by coordinating with a nearby VFW hall or Veterans Administration facility if you don’t live near a military base, and stipulate that advice will be offered, but no products will be sold. Planners are not doctors, but they can contribute to saving a life. 

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