Financial Planner Saves a Soldier’s Life

There is a moving story in Financial Planning Magazine about the connection between military suicides and financial problems. At the center of the story is an Army sergeant who in 2010 was facing over $100,000 in debt and the possibility of losing his security clearance. He sought help, but didn’t get the advice he needed.

I walked out thinking, ‘If I’m dead my family can get $500,000 in life insurance, but I have to kill myself’

Sergeant Stevens had gone to a financial planner on base, one who is paid through a DoD contract. The problem is that DoD directives limit much of the planner’s work to ‘education’. There is no hand-holding or follow-through on a financial plan of action. Sgt Stevens left the office humiliated and suicidal.

Another planner in the same office, Jan Chapman, had overheard the conversation. She knew Stevens really needed help, and followed him out to the parking lot. She offered him more personal guidance and assistance, even though it was outside of DoD regulations.

Stevens, now 38, credits Chapman, a 62-year-old planner in Annapolis, Md., with saving his life.

About 8,000 veterans commit suicide each year. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that financial problems can be a leading factor in many cases.

Ms. Chapman worked with the Stevens family for several weeks, showing them how to negotiate with creditors themselves. It gave the family confidence, hope, and relief. They eventually had to declare bankruptcy, but that’s not nearly as bad as suicide.

But if you’ve been around the military, even a short while, you can guess what happened next:

A short while later, Chapman says, her supervisor delivered the news that she would be let go because of her work with Stevens.

“Do you understand that there would be a dead soldier if I didn’t do this?” Chapman says she replied.

“Yeah, but you were out of your lane,” the supervisor said.

Read the whole thing here.