Parishioners and priests alike have a hard time talking about money issues when they veer out of control. But given the suffering caused by financial stress, do clergy have an obligation to break the silence around money?
The Pathways to Vitality Initiative, a program of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, offers personal financial advising for active diocesan clergy. On a first come, first served basis, clergy can receive one year of free, confidential financial advisement from Certified Financial Planner Lisa Brown.
We met with Lisa Brown to hear more about her work with our clergy.
Lisa Brown, CPA, MBA
Certified Financial Advisor
Lisa Brown, MBA, CPA, CFP, is a fully accredited Financial Advisor at Highfield & Associates in Indianapolis. She personally meets with clergy and their spouses/partners to help them develop custom action plans for achieving financial health. Lisa is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.
Many of us struggle to break out of the damaging cycle of spending and debt.
In a Money magazine article, credit counselors and finance experts endorsed these books that can help. Frugal readers can find them at their local library, through discount booksellers, even at Goodwill stores.
By Debi Keay
We start the new year with fresh inspiration on many fronts. Perhaps this year, you’ve vowed to give your personal finances some needed attention.
Yes! But where to start?
Renovating your financial life is a great idea! Unfortunately, for many, that initial rush can quickly give way to a sense of futility. Desmond Henry, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) in Topeka, Kansas, knows that for many of his clients, getting started is the hardest part.
"Sometimes focusing on lofty money goals like building a retirement nest-egg and paying down hefty student loan debt can feel so impossible to achieve that it actually paralyzes us and we end up doing nothing," says Henry. "Instead, create baby steps and focus on accomplishing small money wins.”
By Nancy N. Fritschner and Rev. John Fritschner
Clergy compensation comprises the major portion of any congregation’s budget. Often when clergy refer to “Clergy Compensation,” they mean something different from lay leaders who often don’t ask questions to fully understand. We will explore the difference between clergy compensation and a clergy package. Understanding the components is very important in preparing an accurate budget.
Specifically, we will look at the composition of “wages”, housing (both housing allowance and church provided housing), SECA reimbursements, 403(b) contributions, pension assessments, health insurance, and other non-cash benefits. We will talk about reporting requirements and where to find helpful resources. We will discuss the different tax structure for clergy and how that impacts their bottom line. This will be an interactive webinar to provide plenty of time for Q & A.
Presented by Nancy N. Fritschner, CPA, and On-Call Tax Consultant for the Church Pension Group, and the Rev. John Fritschner.
The Rev. Jan Oller, St. John's Episcopal Church
Hi Jan -
How do you feel about paying the bills?
I mean your personal bills.
Seriously, take a second and think - how do you feel about paying bills?
Sometimes it depends on how much money you have. If there’s plenty, it’s easier. Let’s be honest.
In my own life, however, I realized that no matter how much money I had, I found paying bills stressful. Even if I had enough to pay these bills, I worried there wouldn’t be enough in the future. This was a lifelong habit (and a family pattern).
So what was I to do? Was I the only person who felt this anxiety? And what could I change?
I read a transformative book called Money as Sacrament, by Adele Azar-Rucquoi. I highly recommend it. It’s out of print, but there are used copies on Amazon. This book by a former Roman Catholic nun changed my experience of bill-paying.
April is financial literacy month and a good time to talk about basic financial statements. It’s easy, when preparing financial statements, to do what has been done in the past. We take out last year’s financial statements and drop in this year’s numbers. But does that statement tell the reader what he or she needs to know? I suggest that we take some time to think about what could make our financial statements more meaningful to the reader.
My approach in providing basic financial statements has four goals:
Goal 1 - Provide complete and accurate financial information to the reader
It is important that the finances of the parish be transparent. All financial activity should be reflected in the statements and not just the general operating account. To accomplish this, we need an adequate accounting system that is properly maintained. This means that all financial information is entered into the system and there are checks and balances to verify that nothing has been left out.
I clearly remember two abrupt religious conversions in my life. The first, when I was 20 years old, was a profound and barely explainable encounter with the love of Christ that put me on a course to be baptized in the Episcopal Church. The second, fifteen years later, was in a ballroom in a hotel basement in Indianapolis. Walter Brueggemann, the prolific Old Testament scholar, was speaking to a conference of the Episcopal Network for Stewardship on the third chapter of Malachi and the importance of the tithe.
In Part I of this article I shared that the financial well-being of the parish is one of the most important fiduciary responsibilities of the Vestry. Therefore, in order to understand the finances of the parish, financial reports need to be organized and presented in a way that is clear and easy to read. The first part of this article reviewed the Income and Expense Report, first looking at Sources of Operating Income. In Part II we will continue that by discussing Grouping Operating Expenses. Then we will discuss the Non-operating Income and Expense Reports, as well as the Four Important Questions Vestry Members Should Ask. In addition, you may wish to view the ECF webinar entitled “Fearless Finances”.
By Jerry Keucher
Vestries are the fiduciaries of the parish corporation. Whatever word we use — fiduciaries, stewards, trustees — we mean the ones responsible for the good management of something that doesn’t belong to them. The parish has been put into the hands of the current vestry, and the current vestry is responsible for it. Vestries discharge their fiduciary responsibilities by trying to make sure that they hand on to their successors a parish that is stronger and more viable than it was when they took office.
The financial well-being of the parish is one of the most important fiduciary responsibilities of the vestry. No vestry can fulfill its responsibility in this area without regular monthly financial reports. The report the vestry should receive every month is a statement of income and expenses-- that is, what money came in from what source, and what it was spent on.
Many vestry members do not have a financial background and may feel intimidated by a discussion of numbers. If that describes you, this article is intended to give you a basic grasp of the concepts, which are not difficult. If you find the financial reports you receive at vestry meetings mystifying, it might be because the reports are not organized and presented in a way that facilitates understanding. The purpose of the accompanying spreadsheet is to give your Treasurer a format for a financial report that is easily understood. In addition, you may wish to view the ECF webinar entitled “Fearless Finances” held on October 2016 that discussed the topic of this article.