As the first signs of Spring make an appearance, you can be sure that MMBB works hard to serve you in every season.
With this first issue of Tomorrow in 2017, we are pleased to welcome, Rev. Marvin A. McMickles, Ph.D as our guest writer for the year. He opens a series on aspects of leadership and financial preparedness with the article, “A Biblical Lesson for Christian Leaders.” We look forward to Dr. McMickles sharing from the wealth of his rich and extensive ministry and accomplishments.
Last year we revealed our excitement as we launched the first phase of a leading-edge technology designed to provide state-of-the-art services to our employers and members. With the article, “MMBB Technology Solution Enhances User Experience for MMBB Members and Employers” we offer an update on the next phase that is scheduled to roll out in 2017.
In the fourth quarter 2016 issue, we began a three-part series on Debt Management. Part two in the series, “Three Steps to Effectively Manage Your Debt” features sage wisdom on the benefits of constructing a budget and how it serves as a foundation for getting a handle on spending and paying off debt.
When was the last time you checked your beneficiary designations? Many MMBB members have never indicated their beneficiary preferences or need to update their beneficiaries. In “The Importance of a Beneficiary Form,” we underscore why this simple step can help to avoid confusion later and allow you to determine how your account(s) will be distributed. Be sure to read it and take the necessary course of action to be certain we have a record of your wishes on file.
As the deadline to file your 2016 taxes approaches, we include a few helpful reminders for Federal Income Tax returns in the article, “Tax Filing Season is Here Again.”
In this season of Lent, we observe the holiest time on the Christian calendar. May you reflect during this time on the suffering and sacrifice of our loving Savior, and the transforming power of the resurrection.
It is our privilege to serve you.
Louis P. Barbarin, CPA, Chief Executive Officer
By Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, Ph.D.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52 (NIV)
I can remember it as though it was only yesterday, even though it was more than fifty years ago. It was my first sermon after I had acknowledged my call to preach. I do not remember how I came to preach on this particular verse.
Perhaps it was assigned to me by the pastor of our church who had arranged for this preaching moment. Maybe it was a Sunday school lesson from many years ago that stuck in my mind, waiting for just this moment to assert itself. Maybe it was an act of the Holy Spirit that was seeking to set its seal upon my heart early in my ministry. Whatever the cause or motivation might have been, this was the verse that formed my first sermon as a young preacher and has informed my life ever since: Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
From that day until this day I have used the four principles set forth in Luke 2:52 as a basis for honing my life, my leadership skills, and my relationship with God. This passage occurs at the very end of the birth narrative and the early life of Jesus. It begins with his miraculous birth in Bethlehem, his confirmation by Simeon and Anna in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the family’s return to Nazareth. Twelve years have passed, and the family returns to Jerusalem for what would have been the Bar Mitzvah or coming into manhood of Jesus. As anxious as he was to “be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), he returned to Nazareth with his parents and grew not only into manhood, but more precisely into the Messiah who would save the world from its sins. The four areas of his growth and maturation should be a standard for us all as we engage in ministry in any form.
Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. His growth was continual and ongoing. The patterns that we see in Jesus during his three years of active ministry were being formed in him during these eighteen years of growth and development. His growth was both physical and intellectual. His growth was both in his relationship with God and in relationship to the people around him. His intellectual growth was not merely a matter of human knowledge, but of insight into the human condition and compassion for every human being. His growth in stature was not merely of growing up in age and size, but growing out into a sense of personal responsibility regarding his words and deeds. His character did not take shape in a day, he increased over the years and carried those practices with him into his adult life.
Jesus not only increased in matters of personal formation (body and mind), but he also increased in matters of spiritual and social formation as well. He increased in favor with God and with his fellow human beings. The two Greek words involved are “Sophia” or wisdom that is not of this world but comes from a relationship with God, and “Charis” which carries the sense of a divine influence in one’s heart that reveals itself in one’s life. Jesus had a mind influenced by the teachings of God, and a heart for other people that was shaped by the influence of God upon his own heart.
Here are four ways in which Christian leaders should be formed. First, we should constantly add to our intellectual knowledge some deeper or higher grasp of those matters that Paul says “Pass all understanding” (Ephesians 3:19), and about which Jesus said in Matthew 16:17 when he said “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Albert Einstein said “Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Abraham Lincoln said, “We must not pass off as progress what is only change, and as wisdom what is only knowledge.” Leaders are continually seeking both knowledge and wisdom, both facts and increased faith and faithfulness.
Leaders should lead the way in self-care. Far fewer clergy would face burn-out, strokes, disillusionment, and a host of habits and addictions if they would simply heed the example of Jesus and take care to grow and nurture themselves physically. Crowded calendars may suggest a successful ministry, but when it comes at the price of pre-mature death or chronic sickness, one is left to wonder if that price was too high. Preaching three times on Sunday or every day during the week in some revival setting may bring the accolades of people and perhaps even financial reward. However, such a lifestyle will eventually bring exhaustion and the depletion of energy and creativity. Think of how many times Jesus slipped away to rest and be restored. As Mark 6:31 reminds us, we should regularly “come apart and rest for a while” before we fall apart altogether.
At the same time, Christian leaders should enjoy honest and healthy relationships with those among whom they work and who they seek to lead. People should be convinced of our integrity. There should be no question about our morality. We should both embrace our responsibilities, and invite accountability by those who observe us on the job. We should not only speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), but we should be willing and able to receive the truth when it is being spoken to and about us. Leadership in the church is not rooted in tyranny, it is modeled on love and compassion and a godly example. That is what I have been learning for the last fifty years from Luke 2:52.
One of the things that mark the fundamental difference between leaders in the corporate world and leaders in the church is that leadership in the church absolutely requires that we be in favor with God. No set of executive skills can substitute for a close relationship with the Lord of the church. If Christian leaders are too busy for prayer, Bible study, personal devotion, and time in worship where we are not preaching but occasionally hearing a sermon, then we are too busy. Mastery of the budget or of the newest techniques for managing membership data is a poor replacement for being close enough to God that we can say along with Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:9-10).
There is something that mature church leaders should do to be in favor with God, and that involves managing our financial affairs in a godly manner. First century AD Israel did not put much emphasis on savings and investing, probably because the vast majority of them lived in what most of us today would call poverty or deprivation. However, with whatever they had they were challenged to tithe a portion of their goods to the Temple or the synagogue so that the needs of those worse off than themselves could be met. They were challenged to leave a portion of their crops unharvested, so that the poor could come and glean their fields without cost. Jesus would have been well aware of those practices, and that is probably why he spent so much time urging his followers to use their financial resources wisely.
I have long lived by the 4-step process of financial management, and I urge other Christian leaders to consider something like this for themselves. Step One – tithe one-tenth of your net income to the church. Step Two – save one-tenth of your income for investment and long-term financial security. Payroll deductions such as occur with an MMBB program are the simplest and most efficient way to accomplish this second step. I have been involved in this second step process for 40-years, and as I approach retirement I am glad that I did. Step Three – maintain a three to six-month emergency fund for unexpected expenses that does not involve your long-term savings and investment program. Step Four – learn to live and pay your daily expenses on 80% of your net income. Living within our means is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that celebrates possessions, material goods, easy access to credit, and immediate gratification. I find great comfort in Paul’s admonition to “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8). This does not mean avoid debt; it means pay your bills on time!
Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, Ph.D is President, Professor of Church Leadership, and Director of the Program of Black Church Studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, NY. He was elected to be the 12th President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in 2011. From 1987-2011 he was Senior Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church of Cleveland, Ohio where he led the church in establishing a ministry for people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. It was the first church-based program of its kind in the entire country! From 1976-1986 he served as pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey. While there he served as president of the New Jersey Council of Churches from 1982-1986. Dr. McMickle has taught homiletics at several institutions including New York, New Brunswick and Princeton Theological Seminaries. He is the author of numerous books, sermons and articles in print and is a sought after preacher and speaker.
By Rev. Dr. Patricia L. Hunter CFP®
Part one of our series on successfully managing your debt addressed establishing your financial goals. Part two will focus on developing a budget. MMBB understands the struggle of pastors and church workers whose income is often not sufficient to meet living expenses.
Managing your financial decisions is especially important so money does not get in the way of your calling to serve God. But successfully managing your debt and achieving financial wellness does not have to seem like an elusive goal. Start with creating a budget, the second step to effectively manage your debt.
Developing a budget is a crucial component of financial success and the first step toward taking control of your financial life. Budgeting allows you to see first-hand what you have vs. what you can spend. A budget also helps you to choose how to spend your money, pay off existing debt, save and most importantly, plan for the future. If you have never successfully created a budget, one of our Certified Financial Planning™ professionals can walk you through the process step-by-step.
To develop a budget, start by identifying all your current household income sources. Income is not limited to just salaries, annuities and social security; don’t forget to include honoraria from speaking or preaching events, weddings and funerals. Now that you have an idea about how much money is coming in, you need to know where your money is going. Who do you owe and how much? It is not uncommon for Americans in general and clergy in particular to have over $20K in non-mortgage debt . That kind of debt can make your dreams seem out of reach. Be sure to review bank and credit card statements, your checking account register, annually and quarterly paid expenses such as insurance and Social Security taxes. It is important to know the interest rate you are paying on your debt and to carefully review your statements.
Non-Discretionary vs. Discretionary.
One key factor to controlling your expenses is the idea of discretionary “optional/want” expenses vs. non-discretionary “must/need” expenses. The essentials or “must” expenses (housing, utilities, food, child care, insurance, auto) need to be paid. While the discretionary expenses as the name itself suggests, are optional. Remember to use your discretion before incurring such expenses (dining out, luxury items,vacations, movie tickets). Your current discretionary costs should be thoroughly reviewed. If cash flow is tight, or if not enough is being saved in an emergency fund or for retirement, then look for areas in discretionary spending to cut expenses—fewer meals out, make coffee at home, or a less expensive gym membership. Controlling or making intentional cuts in the discretionary spending can lead to significant changes in overall expenses each year.
Review and Adjust.
Once you have identified your sources of income and made a budget of your discretionary and non-discretionary expenses, set some realistic goals to reduce costs and increase the amounts being saved for long-term goals. Review your spending and saving on a monthly basis to track your progress. If you are not where you want to be, adjust your plan accordingly. You may need an additional source of income if there are no more options for cutting expenses. We have to learn to make very difficult choices regarding money if we want to reach our financial goals. One way to keep yourself motivated is to remember to celebrate your savings and expense reduction milestones with your family and friends.
Developing a budget you can fine tune as life unfolds will allow peace of mind when it comes to your finances. Once you have your budget on track, you can now focus on consolidating and reducing debt. In the last part of this series, we tackle steps to eliminating expenses.
For assistance with managing your debt or other financial concerns, contact one of our Certified Financial Planner™ professionals at firstname.lastname@example.org . or 800.986.6222.
Last year we announced the implementation of the Ariel online financial and retirement/ benefits solutions. These innovative solutions will enhance MMBB’s ability to provide state of the art financial services, increase operational efficiencies and reduce cyber risk.
In 2016, two of the five components that make up the A technology solutions were introduced. The Outreach Portal https://plans.mmbb.org/ is a tool available for potent members and employers to learn more about MMBB and our plans and services. It is a public website that has link to our primary website https://www.mmbb.org. and it also stands alone as a microsite. A microsite is a website subsite that is distinct and separate from a primary website with content created for a specific audience or pupose.
The Online Adoption Portal, https://signup.mmbb.org/ is designed for employers to sign up for MMBB benefit plans. The online adoption process may be completed with or without the assistance of an MBB representative. Employers are able to utilize electronic signature capabilities and determine whether they pre-qualify for plans based on a series of key questions. Overall enrollment time is considerably reduced and the process is greatly simplified. This allows employers to offer MMBB plans and services faster than ever before.
With the full implementation of the Ariel technology solutions MMBB Financial Services will continue to grow our ministry and services as a premier provider of retirement benefit plans. From adoption to enrollment to administration we look forward to providing even greater efficiency for employers, members and MMBB staff.
In 2017, we plan to introduce the three remaining portals. The Administrative Portal will allow MMBB service and benefits staff to work together seamlessly with employers and members in an interactive environment that will give us the ability to view their screens and immediately assist as necessary.
The Employer Portal will provide MMBB plan employers with numerous capabilities including the ability to add new participants individually or as a group and manage an employee’s eligibility automatically. Employers will have access to online billing, invoicing, and tracking of contributions; and, the ability to track the status of contracts and prospects throughout the enrollment process.
The Member Portal will allow our plan members to access plan details, enroll online, designate beneficiaries and dependents, and access retirement planning tools. Members will also have the opportunity to customize statement preferences and the portal will include useful information to help members get the most out of their plans. All of these features will be available on a single website with a single login and password.
Look for more information on this exciting new technology in future issues of Tomorrow.
For Biennial registration visit: http://americanbaptists2017.weebly.com/
Join MMBB Financial Services at the Biennial Mission Summit on June 30-July 2, 2017 in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon Convention Center. Visit our booth and enjoy the following events:
Friday, June 30, 2017.
12:00PM – 2:00PM. MMBB Member Luncheon
(by invitation, spouses welcome)
3:00PM – 4:00PM. Learning Opportunity:
MMBB Financial Wellness—Know Your Benefits
Saturday, July 1, 2017.
11:00AM – 12:00PM. MMBB Annuitant Reception
(by invitation, MMBB Booth)
3:45PM – 4:45PM. Learning Opportunity:
MMBB Financial Wellness—Personal Financial Planning
Opportunities to schedule a session with an MMBB CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional are also available.
Be on the lookout for your invitation containing more details about MMBB events.
MMBB needs your help. Currently, many of our members do not have a beneficiary form on file.
The importance of having a designated beneficiary is especially crucial when it comes to estate planning. The funds that an MMBB member has accumulated will pass to the named beneficiary outside of Probate. Probate is the legal process through which the estate of a deceased person is administered. It involves a court process by which a Will is validated and assets are distributed. When a beneficiary has not been selected for your retirement account, your accounts are usually distributed as per state law. A beneficiary form on record is considered a contract and those beneficiary designations supersede your will.
Durable power of attorney.
It is also wise to send MMBB a durable power of attorney (POA). This document gives a designated person the authority to handle specific health, legal and financial decisions on your behalf. Like a trust, a durable power of attorney can be written so that the transfer of responsibilities occurs immediately or at some point in the future if the member becomes incapacitated. Until that point, a person can choose to continue to make decisions on his/her own.
MMBB recommends you review your beneficiary designations to avoid unnecessary confusion later.
To declare a beneficiary or to make any updates to your current beneficiary form, go to MMBB.org/beneficiary.. For security reasons, please send your beneficiary form(s) via fax to 800.986.6782. or mail to (MMBB Financial Services, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1700, New York, NY 10115-0049.) If you are unsure of what form to use, email email@example.com or call us at 800.986.6222.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is not legal advice nor should it be used as a substitute for legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for any legal advice.
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of last year’s tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You’ll need these records whether you’re preparing your own return or paying someone else to do your taxes for you.
The filing deadline for most individuals is Tuesday, April 18, 2017. That’s because April 15 falls on a Saturday, and Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C., is celebrated on Monday, April 17. Unlike last year, there’s no extra time for residents of Massachusetts or Maine to file because Patriots’ Day (a holiday in those two states) falls on April 17 — the same day that Emancipation Day is being celebrated.
Filing for an extension.
If you don’t think you’re going to be able to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you can file for and obtain an extension using IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Filing this extension gives you an additional six months (to October 16, 2017) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an extension electronically— instructions on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions.
Filing for an automatic extension does not provide any additional time to pay your tax! When you file for an extension, you have to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay this amount by the April filing due date. If you don’t pay the amount you’ve estimated, you may owe interest and penalties. In fact, if the IRS believes that your estimate was not reasonable, it may void your extension.
Special rules apply if you’re living outside the country or serving in the military and on duty outside the United States. In these circumstances you are generally allowed an automatic two-month extension without filing Form 4868, though interest will be owed on any taxes due that are paid after April 18. If you served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, you may be eligible for a longer extension of time to file.
What if you owe?.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not filing your return because you owe money. If your return shows a balance due, file and pay the amount due in full by the due date if possible. If there’s no way that you can pay what you owe, file the return and pay as much as you can afford. You’ll owe interest and possibly penalties on the unpaid tax, but you’ll limit the penalties assessed by filing your return on time, and you may be able to work with the IRS to pay the remaining balance (options can include paying the unpaid balance in installments).
Expecting a refund?.
The IRS is stepping up efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud. New, more aggressive filters that are intended to curtail fraudulent refunds may inadvertently delay some legitimate refund requests. In fact, beginning this year, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on all tax returns claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit until at least February 15!
Most filers, though, can expect a refund check to be issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a return.
Clergypersons and churches should keep in mind there are specific rules they need to address when filing Federal taxes. We encourage you to use our convenient 2016 tax return guides prepared especially for clergy and churches.