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After a critical injury, a military family’s financial planning helped them thrive

2019-02-28 05:00:00

Jennifer and Nathan Nelson were already ahead of most Americans. Within five years of their marriage, they have laid a solid financial foundation.

She was in the early stages of a career in distribution sales, with Nathan gaining rank and prominence as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force.

"Our philosophy was to plan that 'what if' now. Don't wait for it to happen," said Jennifer.

For the Nelsons, & # 39; what if & # 39; in 2013. While Jennifer was pregnant with their first child, Nathan was seriously injured in a missile strike during his third tour in Afghanistan. He spent the next two years recovering in the hospital. During this time, Jennifer gave birth to their daughter and oversaw the family's move to Tampa, Florida, where Nathan was undergoing rehabilitation. She quit her job, sold their Washington home, and became Nathan's full-time caretaker.

"A lot of people we know live from hand to mouth and when there is a serious injury they don't know how to survive and thrive through it."

Jennifer Nelson

Their careful planning was critical to their ability to survive financially. Prior to Nathan's injury, they paid off $ 20,000 in student loans over five years, accrued six months in emergency savings to cover rent, utilities, and food in the event of unexpected events, and paid cash for their car. They chose their dream neighborhood to live in, but practically bought a fixer-upper at a reasonable price that they could gradually make their own.

But even for a couple like the Nelsons, who had emergency savings and paid off their debts, navigating such a challenging period was challenging. Many families without a plan struggle daily with financial decisions and the stress that often accompanies them.

As the nation recognizes Military Savings Week this week, the Nelsons provide an example of how military health care providers can find the financial aid they need to plan.

Like a fellow at the Elizabeth Dole FoundationJennifer and 2,500 other military health professionals have access to financial planning tools such as Prudential's Financial Wellness Portal, which has helped the Nelsons and others make smart decisions about how to budget and allocate their finances.

“I like the connectivity of the platform. You can link a lot of your accounts to it, '' said Jennifer. "Every month I can see how much I'm spending and how much is left, and it's charting a four-month trend. It's a great educational resource."

That planning has come in handy when the couple has had to overcome the unexpected. For example, Nathans wheelchair tires need to be replaced about once a month. Although they are covered by government insurance, one day there was a malfunction in the delivery system and the order was delayed. This required Jennifer to allocate a lot of money in advance. But for others who don't have the emergency savings or don't have access to budgeting and planning tools like the Financial Wellness Portal to help them there, that same situation is much more challenging.

“A lot of people we know live from hand to mouth and when there is a critical injury they don't know how to survive and thrive through it,” said Jennifer. "Everyone's finances are unique. But there is a discipline that goes with it and if you take ownership of where you are, you end up on a different playing field."

Now the Nelsons are both back to work. Jennifer is now an award-winning real estate agent, which allows her to use her sales skills and gives her the flexibility to be a caregiver and mother. And Nathan works for an elected official.

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