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Let’s pretend you’ve just received orders to the East Coast and you have 30 days to PCS. You bring what you have and hope you’re prepared enough for the move. Now, let’s pretend that the week you arrive, there’s a hurricane. It floods your garage, tosses a trampoline through your window, and drops a tree onto your only vehicle.

That is called unpredictability, and it’s most inconsiderate.

Hurricane 2018

What if you could go back 30 days and do it all over again, knowing then what you know now? Would you do things differently?

I bet you would.

That’s called preparedness. It’s your best defense against unpredictability.

Whether you plan on completing a short military contract or retiring after 20 years, you probably have some idea of how you want to live your life once military life is over.

But let’s say that, out of nowhere, all your plans are jarringly halted. Are you prepared for what could happen should life steer you awry?

I’m not referring to life insurance or savings accounts. Those things are important—vital, even—but they’re limited. What I’m discussing is your own foundation. There is no replacement for being able to stand and land on your own two feet when life goes rogue, because it likely will.

So, gear up! It’s time to build a foundation.

What if the military suddenly decides not to renew your service member’s contract?

This happened to my friend several years ago. Her husband was up for reenlistment when papers were mishandled and confusion ensued. Ultimately, his chain of command opted to release him, leaving their family of six scrambling to reconstruct their lives. It was stressful, to say the least. They’re still trying to get out from under the weight of it, but they’re doing it.

Now, pause for a moment and consider that your service member’s career is not bulletproof. My husband sustained an injury while overseas, and it nearly cost him a PT test. It shouldn’t have—there are measures on how to handle these things—but it did nonetheless. As you may know, after two consecutive failed PT tests, you’ll be chaptered out of the military. Remember that humans, while fallible, are the ones in charge. It isn’t the best basket to put all of your eggs in.

What if your service member is seriously injured today?

Just last night I was on the phone with my cousin from back home. I learned that he’d been struck by a car while on the job. In all, he’ll be missing work for more than a year and will need to relearn how to stand and walk again.

He just purchased land, built a house, and became a dad again to twins. While there’s no perfect time for this, it couldn’t have happened at a worse one. But, that’s how these things tend to go. My hope is that he’ll heal fully and maybe even return to a job he loves, but only time will tell. Fortunately, his wife has been a career nurse and is able to help sustain their family through this very difficult time.

The odds of being injured as a service member are much higher than one may think. Military.com wrote an article revealing the statistics of service member injuries and, as it turns out, they’re more likely to be hurt during training and drills than while serving overseas.

This warrants our heeding.

What if someone chooses to be unfaithful?

I understand that this may be a sensitive subject for some, but it’s a necessary discussion.

Years ago, I used to work the “front lines” of a Wells Fargo that was located in a heavily saturated military community. We had just about every branch of service living in the area. I cannot begin to share with you all the stories of woe that came to my window. It seemed that just about every few days I would hear of how someone left without notice, someone else closed cards, someone couldn’t access funds to feed their children, or a spouse depleted all of their money.

All of it.

You don’t want to end up stranded or stuck in a toxic environment because you feel you have no acceptable options.

For all of the reasons listed above and more, I recommend that, on top of your joint account, each of you have an account separate from your spouse. Not just because of possible infidelity, but because of the financial freedom, trust, and independence both of you will experience. This is also especially beneficial for dual-income households, as it tends to lend itself to the values of teamwork, communication, and trust.

What if your service member dies unexpectedly?

When my husband in-processed at our first duty station, he told me about his new platoon sergeant and what a great guy he was. He was excited to get to work in the company of a mentor and positive influence. But it would be short-lived.

Shortly after, we learned that he’d been killed in a home invasion. We were shocked. Details aside, we didn’t expect to be a part of a military funeral so soon. The military lost a stand-up guy that day.

Just this past summer my husband lost two of his buddies, and it left so many of his comrades stunned. No one saw it coming. They were young and seemed healthy, but each of them had a sudden health issue that took them from us too soon.

May they rest in peace. We offer our most profound condolences to their families.

 

 

No one can say how one’s journey is going to be, but there are things we can do to, at the very least, provide a safety net of our own for when we fall. None of us are immune. We must have the hard conversations and make the big choices. We must, for our family, prepare and plan not only for things military, but for life outside and concurrent to our military path. We must, so that we when the wind gets knocked out of us, we can get back up again.

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3 Comments

  1. Rita Wiley

    This is so helpful and necessary to be prepared for the curve balls of life that are so much more unpredictable for military family. Thank you for your insight, awareness and love of military families and the daily challenges they face!

    Reply
  2. maria

    Thank you, for sharing your life experiences and your insightful observations. You are right we must be good stewards of our finances. Good financial planning creates a margin that helps us avoid what we call emergencies. When we have a margin our emergencies become just minor inconveniences. Our planning today will have a positive or negative outcome in our future. It is common sense, however discipline is what it takes to prioritize and prepare for the future. Thanks again

    Reply
  3. Elisa

    Thank you for your comment and support! While military life comes with a whole new set of challenges, there is much we can do to combat them and maintain some control.

    Also, while this piece was not centered around finances, per se, it is interesting that simply saving is not realistic and does not work for lower enlisted/single income households as it does for say, someone who is deemed middle class. But that is another topic entirely and it may just be a piece I work on down the road.

    I love hearing your thoughts!

    Reply

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