Suicide won't solve your family's money problems

When I was at Fort Bliss, Texas, I received the privilege of serving as a casualty assistance officer for two families. One family lost a Soldier to a car accident, and another to suicide.

Despite the title of this blog, that suicide didn’t result from money problems. However, I did learn a lot from the civilians who worked at the casualty assistance office there about suicide in the military.

Among other triggers, money tends to come up as a significant contributor to many of the suicides that we see in the military (and probably outside the military as well). Maybe not the strongest reason, but strong, and common.

I once asked one of the more senior civilians at the casualty assistance office, while talking about money and suicide, “Of the families who receive the $500K, about how many have nothing to show for it soon after?”

In the U.S. Military, the family of a member who dies on active duty receives $500K in cash within a couple weeks of the passing of the member; $400K in life insurance plus $100K in death gratuity.

If the member was married, the surviving spouse receives an additional life-time cash annuity called the Survivor Benefit Plan. It’s a monthly amount calculated as what the member would have received had he retired at 30 years of service.

In response to my above question, about 80% (she said slightly more than 3 of 4 families) have nothing to show for the half-million within 90 days, and many of them call back trying to compel the military to fork out even more money. What does this tell us?

If you lack the skill to manage $1, then you lack the skill to manage $500K. What’re you doing with what you have (i.e., your resourcefulness versus your resources)? That’s a better question.

Lack of money represents a symptom, with poor money habits as the cause. Address the cause. More money addresses the symptom and that likely won’t fix the issue for long. Killing yourself probably won’t fix the underlying cause either.