Monday, October 16, 2006

Planning for Military Personnel

An article entitled "Financial planning challenge looms large for those in military", published by the Dallas Morning News, and made available online by the Boston Globe, on October 1, 2006, examines the broader financial & legal planning needs of members of the military and their families. The article is available online here.

Due to their jobs and stations, the futures of military personnel are less predictable than those of civilians:

"The relative uncertainty is the key thing that does make it critical to plan," said Joseph Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA Financial Planning Services and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. "In the military, we say, `Let's get our house in order before the order comes.' "

Worse, the career of a soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman can end in injury or death.

"You've got to go into a mobilization with that mindset -- just in case, how do I take care of my family to the best of my ability in case I don't come back or in case I don't come back whole?" said Jeff Pugh, a police officer in Arlington, Texas, and a major in the Army Reserve.

The article discusses common concerns and needs of a service man or woman, including debt counseling, direct deposit, electronic payments, savings, and legal documentation. One aspect of such documentation is a "living will", which has received special attention lately in the press. See my previous posting

The article concludes by offering some practical points:

Make sure your bank and credit accounts are joint .
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Draw up important documents, such as your will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will.
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Review your insurance policies.
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Keep saving consistently.

The article further cites Military Money magazine as a helpful source of practical, personal advice for service personnel and their families.

Planning still may not avoid controversy, as indicated in an article by Thomas W. Krause published October 4, 2006, in The Tampa Tribune entitled "Injured Marine's Care Divides Family", available here

The family of a Pasco County sheriff's deputy who was severely injured while serving in Iraq is at odds over who should make his medical and legal decisions.

In December 2004, less than three weeks before Joshua Cooley was called to active duty, he got married. Christina Cooley's lawyer said Joshua assigned her power of attorney before he was sent to Iraq.

Cooley's mother and brother, however, think it would be in his best interest if they made his decisions. The two sides are in court fighting over guardianship.

The guardianship division of the Hillsborough County Circuit Court temporarily assigned Cooley an attorney to make his decisions while the family works out the details. A hearing scheduled for Tuesday was postponed so family members could try to work out a compromise.

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), from a speech in Washington D.C., 1865