What to Look For |
What to Do |
What to Avoid
What to Expect |
Financial problems can manifest themselves in many ways. In most instances, the command will become aware of a Marine’s financial distress when notifications of returned checks or letters of indebtedness are brought to command attention. The problem may have occurred from lack of education and understanding about personal finance. The Marine may also have fallen prey to unscrupulous solicitors and businesses. Marines with financial problems lose time from the unit while attempting to rectify the situation. In many instances, it is not just the Marine, but also the Marine’s supervisor who must take time from the mission to fix the problem. In some circumstances, the Marine may lose security clearance and no longer be able to perform in the assigned MOS. Thus, financial problems can lead to a decline in personal readiness, unit effectiveness, and eventually mission accomplishment.
- Inability to meet essential financial needs such as rent, food, and automobile payments.
- Repeated borrowing from friends and co-workers.
- Notifications of bounced checks or letters of indebtedness.
- Creditors repeatedly calling service member's home and duty section.
- Repeated use of Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) loans and grants.
- Repeated use of advanced pay.
- Poor personal grooming.
- Possessions and life-style in excess of the individual's income.
Indications of financial distress may be noted from changes in a Marine's behaviors. The behaviors enumerated above are most readily apparent to the Marine's first line supervisor or staff NCO. It is, therefore, imperative all levels of command know the warning signs of financial distress and where to refer the Marine for appropriate assistance. The first six indicators noted above, if addressed early, with a sincere attempt to help, are mistakes from which the Marine may recover quickly. Repossessions and foreclosures tend to be longer-term problems that require more time and effort to correct. The last two behaviors noted above, though noted as part of some financial problems, are also indicative of other life stressors.
Addressing a Marine's possible financial problems requires objectivity, understanding, and tact. Getting the facts and determining the seriousness of the problem, to include possible career ramifications, is critical. Only then can proper referrals be made to get the Marine the help needed. Follow-up by the command is also paramount to ensure the Marine follows through with the necessary actions to recover financially.
- Immediate administrative or disciplinary action.
- Judgmental words and actions.
- Solving the problem for the Marine rather than helping the Marine solve their own problem.
- Overly aggressive or unrealistic plans to address the problem.
- Threats, explicit or implicit, of career sanctions.
Financial problems create enough stress in a Marine's life without the immediate threat or assurance of possible administrative or disciplinary actions. Although these actions may be appropriate at times, addressing the financial dilemma the Marine is facing should be paramount. The reality that administrative or disciplinary action may be forthcoming should be addressed, but the emphasis of command efforts should be placed on helping the Marine solve the financial issue in order to avoid the necessity of such actions. As with any counseling situation, the problem must be addressed in a nonjudgmental manner so the Marine understands the command is trying to help, not hinder. Financial problems many times require long-term solutions and behavioral changes, thus overly aggressive plans to “fix” the problem (i.e.; formulating a six month debt liquidation plan that leaves the Marine no financial cushion for emergencies) may exacerbate rather than help the problem, and are generally ineffective. Finally, immediate threats of career sanctions, like disciplinary action, tend to hinder rather than help the Marine recover from the financial misstep.
- Initial agreement from the Marine to any reasonable plan proposed to rectify the problem.
- uick action by the Marine to prove they are serious about fixing the problem.
- Resistance from duty sections that lose productivity while the Marine handles personal issues.
- Resistance from banks and creditors.
- Disillusionment from Marine if necessary administrative or disciplinary action is taken.
The most immediate reaction from most Marines counseled on their financial situation is an automatic and aggressive buy-in to improve their financial situation, especially if they believe it will preclude any type of administrative or disciplinary action. The Marine will act quickly to prove they are serious about improving and reaffirm their commitment to Marine Corps values. Unfortunately, many times the Marine and helping agencies will run into resistance from the Marine's duty section since the Marine will need time away from the section to solve the problem. Depending on the situation, the Marine, helping agency, and command may run into significant resistance from creditors who are not willing to buy into a repayment program (legally they are under no obligation to do so). The Marine will usually, at some point, become disillusioned when progress is slower than expected, especially if appropriate administrative or disciplinary action results.
- Lack of follow through by the Marine.
- Frustration from helping agencies dealing with a non-compliant Marine and a resistant duty section.
- Hostility from creditors when or if the plan starts to unravel.
- Re-emergence of poor financial habits.
After the initial thrust to bring their finances under control, many Marines fail to completely follow through with the process. This may be due to the realization that the solution takes long-term commitment and behavioral changes to spending habits. If the Marine does become disillusioned and does not follow through, the helping agencies and creditors will become frustrated and probably contact the command to see if the Marine's commitment can be reinvigorated. At the worst, the Marine will lapse into former spending habits and the problem with not by solved, but may be compounded by additional levels of debt.
At each of these downward spiraling steps there is an opportunity for a leader to intervene. If you are monitoring your Marine's progress in resolving financial distress you will be in a good position to bring your Marine in and discuss obstacles and solutions to the apparent slip in the initial plan for getting out of financial distress.