Paycheck Chronicles

On-Base Financial Education: Can't Do Enough

The latest issue of the Financial Planning newsletter has two thought-provoking articles about financial education, financial planning, and financial products as they relate tothe military.

The cover story, Could Financial Planners Help Stem The Military Suicide Rate?, is a distrubing look at how strictly on-base financial educators are limited from helping their clients.  I literally had shivers as I read the this piece, because I know that the situations described are real and that the problem extends far beyond those profiled in the article.

This report highlights the ways in which on-base resources are prohibited from providing any specialized advice, especially in serious situations.  While I (sort of) understand the Department of Defense's concerns about protecting troops, it seems to me that their worries are a little off base.  Perhaps they should be more worried about the subject of Jason Hull's article in the same issue:  Why Soldiers Need Financial Help.

Jason points out that there is an inherent problem when officers and NCOs retire from the military and become salespeople for financial products targeting their former troops.  These veterans have little or no financial training, but they have the respect of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that they formerly supervised.  Is it any wonder that so many inappropriate financial products are sold to young, inexperienced servicemembers?

I have a little experience in the on-base financial education world, and I've often thought there is not enough substance to the programs offered.  General education is great, but some people need more advanced help and guidance.  "Clip coupons" and "keep a budget" aren't really very useful when a servicemember is literally holding on to the end of a rope.

What are your thoughts about the financial education services provided on bases?  Have you taken advantage of any of the services available to you?  Why, or why not?  Was it optional, or were you required to participate?  Did you find then valuable?  What services were missing?  Did you need help that you could not get?

I can't wait to hear your answers.  This is a hot-button topic, and I suspect we'll be hearing more about it in the future.

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