Veterans are used to plans and accountability, but they have unique insurance and financial planning needs. Address them carefully to best serve those who served.
After serving in the U.S. Army as a Korean linguist for five years, and working with military clients on both the insurance side and the comprehensive planning side for more than 12 years, I have gained some valuable insights into military clients. Whether they’re retired or active, working with military clients requires understanding their unique circumstances.
Veterans make great clients. They’re used to plans and accountability. Taking care of their families and preparing for the unexpected are top of mind—priorities that make them more open to the tough conversations that make many clients uncomfortable.
But of course, veterans have unique insurance and financial planning needs. I have worked with many military personnel to execute a transition plan as they rejoin civilian life, and entering the corporate world calls for many drastic changes—both emotionally and financially.
For one, the military offers numerous benefits, including family health care, a pension and low-cost life insurance options on top of a base salary. This can complicate the process of figuring out a comparable salary and benefits package outside the military. In many cases, veterans need help calculating an analogous salary without those robust benefits.
Veterans may also need a bit of financial literacy education, particularly when it comes to investing. During my time in the military, I invested exclusively through our retirement plan—a common approach among military clients. Advisers may need to work with their veteran clients to consider other ways of accumulating. Likewise, pension plans for careers outside the military are all but extinct, so a veteran will likely need guidance shifting their retirement plan to one that takes advantage of the military benefits while continuing to accumulate and plan for retirement from a civilian career.
When it comes to insurance products, veterans and active military members want to make their lives easier, solve problems and accomplish goals. This attitude informs the way I work with them and the product conversations we have. Starting the conversation from a place of solving problems and achieving goals sets the tone for a productive conversation that encourages clients to think seriously about their needs and the products that can help solve them.
Most veterans already have a guaranteed retirement income through their pension plans. Coming out of the military, many veterans are interested in permanent insurance or whole life policies for the sake of supporting their families in the event of a tragedy. In many cases, military members support unemployed or partially employed spouses who have made sacrifices because of frequent relocations. While civilian clients often bristle at the idea of disability insurance and life insurance, veterans and service personnel more readily acknowledge why this coverage is necessary.
My military experience gave me a base knowledge of military benefits, and I have also worked hard to keep up with changes as they happen. Working with military families requires you to make sure they find strategies designed to maximize their government benefits while only paying for necessary products. Be sure to establish trust right off the bat with your veteran clients so they look to you as their “battle buddy.” After all, their long-term success is your shared goal.
Lucila Williams offers securities and advisory services through Lincoln Financial Securities, a broker-dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment adviser.