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Prayer Tips

posted Jun 26, 2015, 8:46 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jun 27, 2015, 7:01 AM ]

Pastors continually look for fresh material for that teachable moment just before the weekly worship prayer time. And parishioners welcome new resources that help them move beyond sending lists of needs to God.

I recently read the wonderful book Prayer, by Timothy Keller, and decided to add what I learned to the prayer resources on my website. This provided an opportunity to add several additional prayer resources, as well as to refresh the things already there.

So whether you are a parishioner or a pastor, here's some fresh material on prayer:

Prayer-time Teachable Moment - the first part provides tips for both parishioners and pastors. The second part adds suggestions particularly for pastors on ways to use that weekly prayer-time teachable moment. 

So whether you're a pastor or a parishioner, this web page is for you.

Blessings,

Tim


Personal Financial Literacy

posted Jun 18, 2015, 4:46 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jun 18, 2015, 4:49 PM ]

If you are just starting in personal finance and a bit overwhelmed about all the "moving parts", take a look at 
Financial Literacy. It's also a great review for more experienced people. Even if you don't need it, your kids and grandkids do. The URL offers an easy-to-read top-level guide covering all the critical moving parts, including things like setting a budget, using credit responsibly, planning for retirement and much more. (Just gave this link a permanent home on my site at Resources/Links)


All the best,
Tim

Funeral Material

posted Jun 9, 2015, 10:56 PM by Tim Isbell

I still remember the anxiety I felt in 1993 when a parishioner died and I needed to lead my first funeral. There were only 3-4 days to prepare. And I had limited experience even attending funerals, and absolutely no idea how to officiate one. So I asked an experienced pastor for a crash course on funeral and graveside services. Thanks to him, I survived... and so did the deceased's wife. Since then I've done several.

It's now 23 years later and I've done several funerals, memorial services, and gravesides. Earlier this year (2015) I did 3 funerals in 3 months, causing me to dust off my funeral and memorial service resources to get them into a shape that I can offer to you. They include an invaluable (to me, anyway) worksheet that frames the pastoral and planning meeting that I have with the family, usually 2-3 days before the service. The resources also include preaching notes for several homilies (short 10-minute Christian messages) suitable for a wide range of situations. To access all of these, just click on Funeral Resources.


Blessings,
Tim

Minister's Housing Taxation

posted May 25, 2015, 7:42 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated May 26, 2015, 1:32 PM ]

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service provides generous treatment of ministers' housing expenses. Essentially, ministers can exclude money from taxation so long as it is spent on housing (but this money is included as income for Social Security tax computation). The exclusion even applies during retirement for money coming from pre-retirement ministry employment (such as money from a defined-benefit program or a 403B plan). Most, maybe all, states offer the same exclusion. This is a very, very generous deal.

For more check out Minister's Housing Taxation.


Blessings,
Tim


Retire to (not from) something

posted Apr 22, 2015, 10:16 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Apr 23, 2015, 6:32 AM ]

"When it comes time to retire, you need to have a purpose in mind. You cannot merely retire from something, you must retire to something." - Howard Hendricks

Today I attended a meeting of licensed financial advisors who are connected by the Kingdom Advisors organization. The leader first asked each of us to introduce ourselves. I said something to the effect that after retiring from a career in electronics and business, and 20 years as a minister, I started building a website in 2010 to resource people. In 2013, I added a section on Personal Finance.  

The main part of today's meeting involved a recorded talk that unpacked "Eight Principles of Effective Wealth Transfer." The third principle stressed the importance of passing along the value of work to the next generation. In our subsequent discussion, someone mentioned an article by Howard Hendricks. I know and like Hendricks' writing so when I returned to my office, I googled until I found an essay he wrote titled "Rethinking Retirement." That's the source of the quote in the first paragraph above.

A few minutes later it occurred to me that I could have followed Hendricks advice and introduced myself much better. The truth is, I retired because the Lord prompted me to stop leading in order to move to his next assignment: a season focused on resourcing others. 

My website, IsbellOnline.org, is a core part of my resourcing. It includes a section on retirement planning because financial resources are an important part of a fruitful retirement. It now has several helpful sub pages, and I'll add more. Hope you find it helpful. Here's the link to the entry page: Retirement.

All the best,

Tim


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More resources for Terminal Illness

posted Apr 8, 2015, 2:36 PM by Tim Isbell

I posted a web page titled Terminal Illness in 2012 that unpacked 2 concepts that help people with a terminal illness, and their caregivers, deal with this situation. Then in January 2014 my mother passed away and I had the blessing of spending the last couple of weeks with her. From this experience I have added 4 more resources to the earlier web page:

  1. Invaluable scriptures
  2. Using hymns or other Christian music
  3. Prayer tips
  4. Understanding the resurrection
While these 2 concepts and 4 resources are designed for Christians caring for or ministering to the terminally ill Christian, I trust that they also provide some help to others. If you are involved in any such ministry, or are yourself terminally ill, I hope you will take a fresh look at the revised Terminal Illness web page.

Blessings,
Tim Isbell




The Huge Cost of Active Money Management

posted Mar 10, 2015, 9:58 AM by Tim Isbell

I just read a Money magazine article dramatically illustrating the huge cost of active money management. If you put $100,000 into a fund with a 1.5% expense ratio and assume a 6%/year return for 40 years, you end up with $560,000 in your retirement fund. That sounds good until you realize that your money manager ends up with $460,000!

You could have had the same 6%/year return from a low-fee generic mutual fund - indeed, data suggests you are more likely to get a higher return than from a manager. Anyway, you could have used mutual funds with a 0.25%/year expense ratio. In that case, you would have $930,000 in your retirement account.

The Money article (March, 2015) is by Robert Zagunis, who attributed the math to Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to be Wrong. Zagunis suggests that his readers go to bankrate.com and run the numbers themselves. So I went to bankrate.com and in the search window typed: Mutual Fund Fees Calculator. It popped up and I plugged in some numbers. That's the source for the graphic on this page (just click to enlarge). Better yet, go to bankrate.com and run your own numbers.

For more on how your investments leak away and what to do about it, click on Reduce Portfolio Leaks.

All the best,
Tim Isbell

Stained Glass Windows

posted Mar 6, 2015, 10:51 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Mar 6, 2015, 10:52 AM ]

Robin (my wife) grew up attending this limestone church in East Toledo, Ohio. Much of what she learned about God came from the architecture of this church.

God used the granite structure, and the 10 steps leading up to the sanctuary to teach a young girl about his stability, strength, and massiveness. Once inside, beautiful stained glass windows, illustrating stories of Jesus, revealed God's loving heart as he came to live among us.

Last fall we learned that the church was scheduled for demolition, so Robin went into action and purchased the windows. Now crated and stored in a warehouse in Minnesota, they are waiting for a church or Christian university purchase them as a way for God to enlighten their building or campus. For more on Robin's story and the windows themselves, click on Church Windows.


Blessings,

Tim Isbell

Financial Tip for Retirees

posted Feb 25, 2015, 8:04 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Feb 25, 2015, 8:27 AM ]

I've known about this concept for years but never got around to implementing it, until now. So I'm passing the tip along to readers. It is a tax-smart strategy for generating a stream of money from your taxable account. While this is useful for anyone, it is especially useful for retirees who need to supplement Social Security beyond what they can do using tax-free retirement accounts.

During the accumulation years, most of us routinely reinvest all dividends and capital gain distributions back into the investment that generated them. This is smart and results in a fast growing portfolio. In taxable accounts, this results in annual taxes as triggered by the 1099's we receive each January. So far, so good.

Then in retirement many of us hit a point where we need to extract a stream money from our taxable account. So we periodically sell shares - while continuing to reinvest distributions! This means we now we have 2 taxable things going on, the taxation on the reinvested distributions AND the capital gains taxation due to the shares we sell to generate living money!

There is a better way: stop reinvesting distributions and start diverting this stream of money into a money market fund or your checking account - and use it. You pay taxes on this distribution stream every year, whether you reinvest it or use spend it. So spend from the stream of distributions before selling shares. 

I've added this concept to both Mutual Fund Distributions and Taxation (a refresher on what all those 1099's mean), and also to Retirement Funding (some advice on how to fund your retirement). Indeed, I've just revised both pages enough that even if you saw them a year ago when I posted them, they're worth another look.


All the best, Tim

Reducing Ministers' Student Debt

posted Feb 10, 2015, 4:47 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Feb 10, 2015, 4:48 AM ]

Student loan debt is a major concern in the U.S., affecting many university graduates for years after they leave school. It is a particularly difficult problem for pastors and ministers because we expect them to have a masters degree (or equivalent) even though most ministry settings cannot pay enough to repay their student loans even in 5-10 years. 

Common outcomes:

  • Relying on the spouse or other family members to pay off the debt - which inherently strains relationships, sometimes to the breaking point.
  • Leaving the ministry after a few years for a higher paying job in order to pay off the debt and support a family.
  • Timidity in preaching/teaching about financial stewardship, which affects the financing of the Kingdom.

So I've spent some time assessing this ministers' student loan debt problem, especially searching for creative strategies to relieve or eliminate it. I circulated a Google Doc on this topic to several of my ministry colleagues for comments and edits. For a look at this research, and to collaborate about this topic, click on Ministers' Student Debt.

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