As the lazy, hazy days of Summer come to an end, we find ourselves returning to our normal routines. It’s the perfect time to reevaluate and put your financial house in order. To help you on your way, in this issue we’ve included articles that are both informative and educational.
First, we bring you the second article from our guest writer Rev. Lauren Lisa Ng, Director of Leadership Empowerment at the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. In her article, Financial Planning Isn’t Just About the Future , she encourages readers to look to the past and be empowered in the present as tools for achieving long lasting financial health in the future.
Next, The Value of a Pastoral Relations Committee presents an effective method for strengthening communications between the pastor and the congregation. In the article, readers will learn how to form a Pastoral Relations Committee and understand the important advisory role it serves in the church’s ministry.
Effective Ways to Pay Off Seminary Debt is an important article for our young pastors and anyone else who is struggling with student debt. It contains helpful information that will aid in creating a plan to reduce and eventually pay off seminary or student debt and move toward financial wellness.
In What To Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft , we outline the steps that you should take if you discover that your identity has been compromised or stolen. The article also describes the various types of identity theft and how they are perpetrated.
Finally, Starting a Business in Retirement discusses the potential benefits of continuing to work after retirement. There may be benefits to your physical and mental health as well as the opportunity to earn supplemental income.
At MMBB we’re here to offer you wise guidance on your path to financial wellness.
It is our privilege to serve you.
Louis P. Barbarin, CPA
Chief Executive Officer
By Rev. Laura Lisa Ng
The funny thing about the future is that it always seems so distant. As a kid, I could barely conceive of young adulthood even though I was desperate for the freedom it promised. As a young adult, I couldn’t fathom older adulthood with all its responsibilities and expectations. And as an adult who’s now past 40, retirement seems like a figment of my imagination, graciously brimming with afternoon naps, pickleball matches and trips around the world.
My generation and those that come after may be especially averse to planning for our future. Experts say it has to do with our desire to be in the moment due to the rapidly changing world around us that offers no constants or security for what lies ahead. Climate change, anyone? They also say we value actions that lead to immediate results. Some call this impatience. I prefer to label it a sort of penchant for accelerated causes and effects.
These tendencies can make us seem like unlikely students of long-term financial health practices. After all, “the future” is an abstract concept, highly volatile and uncertain. It’s hard to picture it, much less prepare for it!
This is why I’ve decided financial health and planning isn’t really about the future as much as it is about our past and our present. You’ve heard the advice about what you’ll need for retirement, about diversifying your assets and squirreling away enough cash to get you through a financial dry spell. It can feel overwhelming and out of reach, especially if we’re living paycheck to paycheck as young clergy. So let’s do what our generation does best: let’s look at things through the lenses of then and now and see if the future may become a little less intimidating as a result.
I recently attended an MMBB workshop where we were asked to consider our “money story” in the form of movie genres. When we think about our experiences with money growing up, would we describe them as a comedy? An action thriller? A drama or maybe even a horror film? Whatever it was, it’s affecting how you see and deal with money today. Knowing your money story – and that of your partner or those with whom you make financial decisions – has direct impact on your financial wellness.
For example, I’m married to an entrepreneur whose money story is that of an action flick. He had very little financial stability as a child which contributes to his generous appetite for risk as an adult. My childhood, on the other hand, ran like a monotonous period film. My family was fiscally conservative and didn’t take major risks. These
distinct money stories are now playing out under one roof but knowing how to articulate and unpack them informs our ability to make joint decisions toward combined financial goals.
What’s your money story? How might it predispose you to make certain choices? How might it cause you to see things differently than someone else in your household? Knowing your story can be helpful but remember you are merely informed by it, not bound by it.
How can we take decisions about the big, formidable future and turn them into easily digestible, bite-size steps? My friend and leadership consultant would say, “Do the next right thing.”
It’s easy to feel paralyzed by a multitude of decisions that may lead to a multitude of outcomes. But if we succumb to this paralysis, we risk not doing anything at all. Try taking it one step at a time and do the next right thing such as:
Assemble your team of trusted “advisors.” This might include your partner, a parent, a friend, or a professional financial counselor. Don’t make financial decisions in a vacuum. Oftentimes others can see things we ourselves cannot.
Think about how to best invest your dollars. How can you move expenditures to investments that return rewards and don’t have diminishing value? MMBB offers ten investment options for you to consider.
Finally make that call to MMBB to take advantage of their personal financial consultations with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, a service offered to all members as a benefit of membership.
Don’t let the idea of the future paralyze you. Be empowered in the present and do the next right thing for the sake of your long-lasting financial health.
Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (NRSV)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Our God is both timeless and intimately in step with us at every point in our lives. Don’t get hung up on what you could or should have done in the past. Your Creator knows your money story and has always been at work within it. Don’t be paralyzed in the present. The Spirit is your advocate as you boldly take on the next right thing. And don’t worry about the unforeseeable future. Our Lord Jesus is with you, even to the end of the age.
I encourage you to look to the past and be empowered in the present as tools for achieving long-lasting financial health for your future.
An ordained minister with the American Baptist Churches, USA, Lauren Lisa Ng serves as Director of Leadership Empowerment at the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. In this role, she convenes a team of experts in the field of Christian leadership and cultivation.
Lauren earned her Master of Divinity from American Baptist Seminary of the West and her BA in English and Creative Writing from Oberlin College. She was ordained in 2005.
Her 20+ years of professional experience include serving as Network Strategist for the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), serving on development staff with American Baptist International Ministries, as an Advisor for American Baptist Women in Ministry, as a Board Member of ABHMS and, a Trustee of Bacone College. Lauren also served for 5 years as Associate Pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco. Lauren is married to Daniel Kushner and together they have three children, ages 12, 10 and 8.
How do you improve communication between the pastor and the congregation? One of the most effective methods for strengthening the lines of communication is the formation of a Pastoral Relations Committee which can bring value to both the pastor and the congregation.
What is a Pastoral Relations Committee?
A Pastoral Relations Committee is usually comprised of three to five people in addition to the minister. The goal of the committee is to give support to the pastor and facilitate healthy communication with the congregation. The Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the pastor and also advocates for the pastor’s leadership.
In their advisory role, the Pastoral Relations Committee contributes to the church’s ministry by sharing the concerns and hopes of the congregation with the pastor. The Committee also acts as the primary support group for the pastor by conveying the needs and functions of the pastor to the congregation. For a church with a large staff, this committee can function as a Church/Staff Relations Committee, providing a liaison between all church staff and the congregation.
Why Have a Pastoral Relations Committee?
A Pastoral Relations Committee:
1. Fosters spiritual health and connection between the pastor, congregation and staff
When the body of Christ has a healthy way to share expectations and issues of concern, the life of the church is lifted up, and the congregation is likely to be more connected and engaged as a whole in the ministries of the church. The committee also offers an arena to address misunderstandings before they become more serious problems.
Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) states that “…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint…makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love.” This reminds us that there are multiple ways for a congregation to reach out but the church is meant to be one ministry in Christ with diverse means of touching lives.
2. Offers wide-ranging support to the pastor and church staff
Every pastor needs to have confidence that there is ongoing support for their leadership and a real understanding of the high level of stress they experience. The committee provides a supportive environment for the pastor – and their family. This is critical because a frequent cause of stress is negotiating the time and tension between pastoral duties and private/family life. This committee serves as the space that the pastor and pastoral staff can honestly state their needs and concerns.
3. Provides an avenue for regular communication
When communication between pastor and people is consistently conveyed and the pastor feels supported amidst the stress of the multiple responsibilities he/she handles, the church is able to focus and respond to ministry needs with far greater impact and scope.
The Functions of the Committee include:
Select Committee Members Carefully
Both the pastor and congregation need to have input in selecting the committee, but it is essential that the pastor has a good relationship with all members. The pastor needs to be able to share with the utmost trust, safety and confidentiality – to “remove their robe” without judgment.
Committee members need to be:
When the Pastoral Relations Committee partners with the pastor, meets regularly, remains focused on good communication and brings an open spirit, they provide long-term value to the church’s ministry.
Excerpts from this article appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Church Executive Magazine.
Today many people struggle with student debt, but it can be especially difficult for those who have gone to seminary and are not in high paying positions as they serve in churches or faith-based organizations. The statistics can be daunting but also, in a way, reassuring, because they show that millions of people are in a similar situation.
According to cnbc.com 1 , there are over 44 million Americans with student debt. That means that roughly one in four American adults are paying off student loans. The average amount owed by recent college graduates is $37,172 and for seminary students, the amount is even higher. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to pay down your student loans and MMBB Financial Services can show you how.
First and most importantly, you need to know what you owe, the interest rate, minimum monthly payment and the length of the loan. It’s not uncommon for people to have multiple student loans, which can make it difficult to keep track of how much is owed. If you’re not sure about the details on your loans, for Federal Loans you can visit the National Student Loan Data System website (https://nslds.ed.gov). For private loans you will need to contact the original lender or ask your school to help you track down the information. You may also be able to find it on your credit report.
Once you gather all the information, you’ll want to create a debt reduction plan. Be consistent, while it may at first appear discouraging, with a steady plan you will reach your goal of paying off the debt. Here are some effective strategies to assist you:
Making an extra payment at least once a year can help pay off the debt faster and in turn reduce the amount of interest paid. Make sure the lender knows the extra payment is to go toward principal, not the next month’s payment. If a pastor receives anniversary gifts from the congregation a lump sum could be paid on the student loan to reduce principal. The gift is taxable income but will reduce the principal and the interest one has to pay.
Resist getting another educational degree solely to defer paying on existing educational loans. Interest is accruing while loans are in deferment.
Refinancing student loans is an option, but one needs to consider the total interest paid particularly if the length of the loan is extended. With a refinance it
is possible to get a lower interest rate. Make sure you shop around and read the small print. There are online student loan prepayment calculators (www. makelemonade.co) that may help you figure out how much interest you can save.
Do not neglect funding your retirement accounts while paying off seminary debt. Having a budget and sticking with it will help with bill paying, saving for retirement and establishing an emergency fund.
You suspect that someone has stolen your personal information. You are not alone. Recent identity theft statistics confirm that increases in this crime continue at a staggering pace. According to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll2 nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft.
That same survey indicates nearly 15 million consumers experienced identity theft in 2017. Similarly, the Javelin Strategy & Research 2018 Identity Fraud Study 3 revealed that the number of identity theft victims reached a record high of 16.7 million U.S. consumers, the most since Javelin began tracking identity fraud in 2003. The study found that despite industry efforts to prevent identity fraud, scammers successfully adapted to net 1.3 million more victims in 2017, with the amount of stolen funds rising to $16.8 million.
State laws defining identity theft vary, but the crime usually involves impersonating another person or using their personal information for financial gain. The most common types of identity theft according to the Federal Trade Commission, the government agency that maintains a repository for identity theft complaints, fall into six major categories:
1. Employment or tax-related – a criminal uses someone else’s Social Security number and other personal information to gain employment or to file an income tax return
2. Credit card fraud – a thief acquires someone else’s credit card or credit card number to make fraudulent purchases
3. Phone or utilities fraud – the criminal uses another person’s information to open a wireless phone or utilities account
4. Bank fraud – the fraudsters gain access to someone else’s personal information to take over an existing financial account or to open a new account in someone else’s name
5. Loan or lease fraud – a borrower or lessee steals another person’s information to obtain a loan or lease
6. Government documents or benefits fraud – the criminal uses stolen personal information to obtain government benefits.
What should you do if you discover that you have been a victim of identity theft? If someone has been opening new accounts in your name or running up fraudulent charges on your credit card(s), they are working as fast as they can to use your information before you realize what has happened.
Here are 7 things 4 you should do immediately if you suspect that your information has been compromised:
1. Lockdown the problem account. Unauthorized charges on a financial account are often the first red flag that identity theft may have occurred. You maybe contacted by your bank about unusual charges or see them on your statement. In that case, the first step is to contact the financial institution, dispute the charges and ask to lock down or close the account.
2. Scan credit card and bank statements for other unauthorized charges. Review your other accounts and scan old statements for charges you don’t recognize. Don’t forget to review dormant or infrequently used accounts as well. If you find unknown charges, call the financial institution to alert them of the problem and request the account be locked down or closed.
3. Review your credit reports for mystery accounts. Request copies of your credit report from all three major reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – and look for any accounts that you may not recognize. By law, you are entitled to at
least one free credit report from each agency each year. While plenty of websites and creditors promise free credit reports, the official site to request them is AnnualCreditReport.com.
4. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. Create a paper trail to document the theft. Start by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the reporting process, you’ll receive a recovery plan and even prefilled letters and forms that can
be used to file police reports and dispute fraudulent charges. The official website is http://www.identitytheft.gov.
5. Sign up for a credit monitoring service. If your information was accessed in a data breach, you may be offered complimentary credit monitoring. These services watch credit reports for suspicious activity and send alerts whenever an account is opened.
6. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Follow up with the credit bureaus and request a fraud alert be placed on your account. Initially, a fraud alert lasts 90 days, and it notifies any institution that pulls your credit report that your identity may be compromised. The alert should prompt creditors to take an extra step to verify the identity of the person opening the account. You only have to request a fraud alert from one of the three major credit bureaus and that one should notify the other two. Placing a fraud alert on an account is free.
7. Adjust your account settings. Sometimes, identity theft is restricted to a single incident, but it can also be an ongoing issue. Once your personal information is compromised, you need to stay vigilant. Regularly update passwords to online accounts, delete any personal information from public profiles on social media and other sites, and check with your financial institution to see what security measures they offer. Some banks offer text alerts if a transaction exceeds a certain limit, so you can quickly contact them if an unknown or large purchase comes through.
There are also additional resources available to assist you, should you become a victim of identity theft. IdentityTheft.gov (http://www.identitytheft.gov) is the website where you can create an identity theft report and recovery plan. It is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a U.S. government agency which ensures that banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly, can provide information on how to dispute an error on your credit report (www. consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-dispute-an-error-on-my-credit-report-en-314/).
Finally, it is critical to safeguard your personal information at all times, whether it is on paper, online, or on your computers and mobile devices. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are four important practices to protect your information:
Heightened awareness and following the guidelines provided in this article may make you less of a target for identity thieves and cyber criminals.
2 How Common is Identity Theft? https://www.lifelock.com/learn-identity-theft-resources-how-common-is-identity-theft.
3 https://www.javelinstrategy.com/press-release/identity-fraud-hits-all-time-high-167-million-us-victims-2017-according-new-javelin, 2018
4 Excerpted from https://money.usnews.com/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/2018-06-22-things-to-do-immediatley-after-your-idenity-is-stolen
Times have changed and perceptions about retirement have changed. Retirement today lasts longer than it did for previous generations and life expectancy has dramatically increased. Becoming your own boss later in life isn’t an uncommon choice for retirees.
Research has shown that continuing to work after retirement could be beneficial to your physical and mental health. Continuing physical activity in retirement is crucial. Whether you choose to work full or part time or even volunteer, engaging in some sort of work often contributes to maintaining mobility and stamina. Staying engaged in work also helps retain mental sharpness, which can lessen the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s and ward off the signs of aging according Forbes Magazine.
You are not responsible for anyone else’s financial security. Becoming an entrepreneur was scary when you were younger, perhaps you had to provide for a family and needed a steady source of income and benefits. Now that you’re retired, you may not be responsible for anyone else, except maybe your spouse, so you can take the risk of owning your own business.
You can work flexible hours. As a business owner, you decide when you want work. So, you’re able to travel or spend time with loved ones whenever you want.
You can supplement your income. With your own business, you can choose to do something you love and generate additional income.
You foster social interaction. One of the most difficult adjustments for retirees is not seeing coworkers and colleagues every day. If you worked in an office, you spent a lot of time with those people and formed social relationships. Having your own business could allow you to enjoy some much-needed interactions with other
Once you’ve decided to start your own business, you’ll want to determine what business opportunities are available for retirees? One of the best advantages of starting a business in retirement is that you get to decide what you do. You can build it around activities that you love doing.
Before getting started, ask yourself the following question: What interests me enough to spend time and money on it? There are many business opportunities out there. Here are just a few ideas: consulting and coaching, errand running, landscaping, organizing, online selling, pet sitting, sewing, tutoring, conducting tours, researching, writing and event planning.
Most of the ideas listed above require little money to get started. You won’t need to buy a lot of supplies or rent office space. Just like you budgeted for retirement; you need to set up a budget for starting your business. Most importantly, you don’t have to make your business a full-time job, you can work as much or as little as you want.
Consider the startup costs. Don’t use your retirement fund to start a new business. If your business were to fail, you wouldn’t have a nest egg to fall back on.
If you know that you want to start a business later in life, and you know that there will be upfront costs, start a savings account specifically for that purpose before you retire. That way you can start your business without jeopardizing your future.
Research the viability of your business. You may think that your idea is great, but other people will
be able to tell you if it would work. You need to be aware of trends in the industry and the market for the type of business that you select. Having others weigh in, especially those with entrepreneurial experience will help you to be realistic about your idea and its potential for success.
Create business, financial and marketing plans. You need to know how much money you have and what you can do within your budget. Also, how are you going to get the word out about your business. These are questions that you need to be thinking about and answering before you start.
Learn about any local, state or federal regulations. Depending on where you live, you may be required to comply with specific laws pertaining to your business. You should contact the department of revenue in your state for information.
Start small to lessen financial risk. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Try to manage expenses through business cash flow and minimize the need to take on debt. If you can’t afford something that you need for your business, save up for it until you can pay cash.
Consider legal and financial risks to your personal assets. Consult with an attorney to see if it is wise to legally separate your business from your personal assets through the creation of an LLC or other business entity.
Allow time for your business to grow. Don’t give up if your idea doesn’t take off immediately and don’t get discouraged if you face obstacles.
When starting your business, don’t be afraid to
ask for help or advice. Talk to former colleagues, family members, or even business leaders in your community. Consider taking classes or workshops on starting a business at a local college or online. This will help you learn more about becoming a successful entrepreneur and you’ll also discover how many people are willing to support your new career.
What makes the business opportunities that we mentioned more attractive for retirees is that they are relatively inexpensive to start and can be operated as part-time, home-based businesses. Owning and running your own small business can keep you motivated, happy, and healthy for years to come, as well as provide a source of supplemental income.