Military personnel are in much need of financial advice.

Planning for the unexpected is one of the most crucial jobs of a financial advisor-especially, as many advisors are now finding out, when your client is in the military.

Elayne Pisarik of FirsTrust LLC in Daytona Beach, Fla., for example, is one advisor who recently got a crash course in financial planning "combat readiness." Shortly after the war in Iraq began, one of her clients, a 42-year-old pilot in the Air National Guard, was called to active duty. There he has remained for most of the time since the war began.

Because the client lives alone in Atlanta and had to move out quickly, there was little opportunity for Pisarik to get ready for his prolonged absence.

So what followed was months of intermittent e-mails, phone calls and a few meetings squeezed in during the client's brief rotations back to the United States. During this time she was able to set up a power of attorney agreement between the firm and the client, set up automatic bill-paying arrangements and put other things into place to, as she put it, put the client's financial life on "automatic pilot."

One of the difficulties was her inability to get his signature when some of these arrangements were put into place. At one point, she had to plead with a brokerage firm to accept his e-mail in place of a signature on an IRA account he received as a beneficiary in someone's will. If the firm had not finally relented, the client would have missed a minimum distribution and been forced to pay a penalty.

"It's been quite a learning experience for us," Pisarik says. It is, in some ways, basic financial planning-but with extreme emphasis on the planning for the unexpected, she says.

"I think the whole thing pivots around having a set financial plan so you can really think through any unexpected things that might come up," she says.

As a group, military personnel have probably been hit hardest by unexpected events the past year-and-a-half, and are probably among those most in need of a healthy dose of financial advice.

Observers, in fact, say that military people were a ripe market for financial planners even before the war began. They note that the military's enlisted ranks are largely comprised of kids just out of high school who are now getting their first paychecks. Throw in the fact that many come from low-income families and live at bases surrounded by predatory business, and what you have is a population that is in almost dire need of professional financial advice, says Phil Dyer, deputy director for financial planning with the Military Officers Association of America.

"They can get into trouble pretty darn quickly," Dyer says.

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