What a Team-Based Approach Looks Like

by Jeremy Walter

As a company, we as advisors work together as one team.  Some clients realize this, others may not – and even though there is a lead advisor responsible for each relationship we have, the whole team is working together behind the scenes as a team to provide that level of service.

This is relatively unique in our industry, and I wanted to call attention to it because I feel it delivers a lot of value to each advisor and ultimately to the client we’re serving.

Practically, this means each one of us has to lay our pride and any selfishness aside and not be a lone ranger.  We don’t have separated books of business.  We formally meet every Monday as a team to discuss each planning case and review each meeting we have coming up, as well as informally during the week as other topics come up.  When clients call in, multiple team members are familiar with the case and can answer questions even if the lead advisor isn’t available.

Why do we do this?  For a number of reasons.  Chief of which, we believe that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 15:22).  Combined, the advisory team has 55 years of industry experience (20, 10, 10, 7, 8).  That’s significant.  Additionally, we each have different perspectives and specialties within the planning realm – all framed by what we believe the Bible has to say about general money principles.  It also is a great way of learning from each other, and as we continue to bring new team members on they are able to see how we operate and learn new technical or biblical skills within the advice we give to clients.

This makes for a significantly better client experience – from both the prompt service of multiple team members and multiple perspectives mentioned above, as well as a confidence that we are placing their interests before the individual interest of a singular advisor and holding each other as an advisory team to that.

Speaking from a personal perspective – I regularly rely on Ron’s holistic planning perspective, Curtis’ technical planning skills, Ryan’s insurance experience, and Jim’s expertise in Medicare planning and annuities.  Without each of these team members, I’m less effective as an advisor.  With them, I’m equipped to better serve and advise each client relationship I’m personally leading.

So next time you’re chatting with one of our advisors, know that a lot of the conversation you’re being a part of was influenced by more than the person sitting in front of you.  We feel this is better for the business and, again, ultimately a better client experience.

15 Year Anniversary

by Ron Bare

May 12th of 2001 – 15 years this past May, I was led by God to take a step of faith and follow a calling of which I only knew the next step. That next step was to leave a large financial services organization and start a new company, then known as Bare Financial Services. Although I always knew I wanted to be part of an independent company, this transition would require leaving behind a strong start to a career and for the most part would be a new beginning. My wife was expecting our second child and as you would expect the importance of providing for my growing family caused me to consider the risk in such a step.

Now looking back these past years, I am amazed to see how God has worked to help me build a trusted team of advisors and staff to serve a growing and wonderful community through what is now known as Bare Wealth Advisors. Our mission “To help our clients intentionally align wealth with their God-given purpose” was not the initial vision behind the new company – however, over time this is clearly the calling that God wanted to show me in taking that first step back in 2001.

One thing I have seen and learned often over these past 15 years is that when Biblical truth is the basis for financial decision making, you are building upon a firm foundation. This foundation is essential when life brings us things we don’t always see coming. Whether this be a sudden economic downturn (2008), unexpected job loss, or even a financial windfall, one thing that has emerged is that a financial plan built upon Biblical truth is unshakeable.  It can help us navigate through both good and difficult times. Sometimes we need to go through hard times so we are more prepared to handle abundant times more faithfully.

According to God’s word, wealth is a tool that God provides. In 1 Timothy, God tells us to be careful to not trust in wealth which is unreliable, but put our trust in God who is completely trustworthy. We should be generous and ready to share with those in need – while finding balance to provide for our families and enjoy the blessings God has given us. Wow, did you get this!   – if we put our trust in God and focus on others who are in need, we are more free to enjoy what God has given us! Perhaps this is the secret Paul talks about in Philippians when he talks about learning to be content.

From my experience, many of us either spend too much time worrying about what could happen or feel guilty for having more than we need.  What we should be doing is being focused on growing our trust in God and being ready to share with others. This takes the focus off ourselves and frees us to truly live the abundant life Jesus mentioned in John 10:10.

Working alongside each of our clients and learning and applying these principles is what makes it a true honor to serve this community over the past 15 years.   It is my hope we will be able to continue to serve the community for many, many more years to come! Thank you so much for your trust in Bare Wealth Advisors and we will continue to work hard for you the next 15 as well. We care about you, as well as the money entrusted to you, and our team looks forward to speaking with you soon!

5 Ways to Build a Strong Financial Foundation

by Ryan Kurtz

5 Ways to Build a Strong Financial Foundation

If we think back over any time in history, we can think of different economic storms that have come.  From The Great Depression to the World War’s to the more recent memories of the economic difficulties of 2008, many of us now wonder, when will the next “storm” hit?

We hear people talking about Social Security not having enough to continue and the federal government approaching $20,000,000,000,000 of debt.   We wonder, what can I do to protect myself?  We can’t predict when or if future economic storms will come, but here are 5 things a business, government agency, or family can do to have a strong financial foundation no matter what the future holds.

  1. Have a plan for your spending – Make sure you know where your money is going each month/year with a spending plan. With this in place, you can see if you are spending less than you earn.  Having margin at the end of the month is the foundation to any good financial plan.
  1. Keep emergency savings – Most financial advisors recommend having 3-6 months of living expenses for a family or operating expenses for a business set aside for unexpected expenses. This can help tame down the feelings of panic that come on us when a car for a family or piece of machinery for a business breaks down and we have additional unexpected expenses.
  1. Avoid and eliminate debt – During times of economic downturns having no debt at all is the best place to be financially. If you can, try to avoid borrowing when possible and if you have debt, make sure you have a plan to eliminate it.
  1. Set long term goals – If you do not have clearly defined long term goals it is very easy to get sidetracked when difficult times come your way. Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziggler has said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”.
  1. Be continuously generous – There are many ways to be generous. It could be with our time or with our resources.  Being committed to being generous no matter what the economic environment is around us may not seem to help our financial bottom line, but often can give fuel to our soul during difficult times.

These are all practical things that can be done to help you sleep well at night knowing that your financial house is on a solid foundation.  What I didn’t tell you is that each one of these is a financial principle straight out of the Bible, God’s Word.  We believe that standing on the Word of God during good and bad financial times is the best way to build strong financial house that can weather the storms that come our way.  We can rest knowing that we have done everything that we can practically and leave the rest in God’s hands.  After all, everything we have is His.        

Psalms 24:1 – The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

Here is the list again with the corresponding verses.

  1. Have a plan for your spending.

Proverbs 27:23 Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds

  1. Keep some emergency savings.

Proverbs 21:20 – Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.

  1. Avoid and eliminate debt.

Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

  1. Set long term goals.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

  1. Be Continuously Generous.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paying Taxes with Thanksgiving

Paying Taxes with Thanksgiving
by Jeremy Walter

“A sign of good stewardship is paying taxes with thanksgiving.” – Ron Blue.

We may have just lost most of our readers one line into this article, but bear with us – while we do believe this is an extremely difficult concept to embrace, we also believe it’s a Biblical truth.  We’ll examine specific Bible passages shortly, but first off, we’ll lay out a couple of straight-forward contextual points regarding taxes.

First, there are a lot of taxes that we pay as citizens of the United States: income, sales, estate, inheritance, gift, property, Social Security, and capital gains are all a solid start to the list.  So when we mention taxes, we’re thinking about more than just the marginal income tax we all pay.

Secondly, there is a fundamental and systematic difference between tax evasion and tax reduction.  Tax reduction is a legitimate financial goal.  Tax evasion isn’t just illegal; it’s immoral and would violate Biblical commands.

And lastly, we want to point out the direct correlation between income and incomes taxes due.  Ron Blue used to counsel clients that if they truly would like to reduce their tax liability, the most straight forward approach to doing so is to reduce their income.  Not many people were excited to do that.  As difficult as it is to grasp, a higher tax bill is almost always indicative of higher income or appreciation, both of which would be favorable gifts from God.

Tax reduction, although a worthy goal and smart stewardship, should never be the tail that wags the dog in your overall financial and stewardship planning.

Remember, true stewardship is the ongoing recognition that we are temporarily managing assets that ultimately belong to God.  This would include our ability to receive income.  True stewardship would see that income, from whatever entity it comes from, as ultimately coming from God.  This recognition of God’s ownership is hugely important to paying taxes with thanksgiving.  Why?

How we manage money – including the payment of taxes – is a direct reflection of our integrity.  God uses money as a tool in our lives, to test and to mold us in preparation for other non-material aspects of our present and future lives.  Luke 16:10 says “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Jesus himself speaks directly about paying taxes, as recorded in Luke 20:25 to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  Similarly, when the Jewish tax collectors came to collect the temple tax in Matthew 17, Jesus also said to Peter to pay it so as to not cause trouble.  In a sign of God’s provision to honor such an act, the tax for both Jesus and Peter is paid from a coin that Peter pulls out of a fish’s mouth after Jesus tells him to cast a fishing line into the lake.

Paul also addresses this in Romans 13:6-7 when he states to “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

We don’t need to look too far in our culture to find perceived reasons to pay less than our legal obligations to our government: “everyone else is doing it,” “I don’t want to support an irresponsible government,” “It’s a non-productive use of money,” and “I disagree with the government” are all commonly stated opinions.  But none of them hold up very well in light of what we’ve talked about above.

Ron Blue actually says, out loud, with each quarterly tax estimate he pays: “Thank you, God, for providing me the opportunity to pay this tax.”  How can he get to this point?

He says that the secret to paying taxes with joy and with thanksgiving is to stop thinking about the money as OURS, and truly believe and act that it is God’s.  If we do so, and if we believe that He has placed our current tax laws and government in place and expects integrity from us, this actually becomes possible.  We’re able to see his hand of provision in our lives.  It doesn’t mean we don’t do effective (and legal) planning to potentially reduce our tax liability, but it does mean that we can pay taxes free of guilt or shame and actually bring honor to God in our ability to do so.

 

Securities America and its representatives do not provide tax advice; therefore it is important to coordinate with your tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

5 Ways to Grow Your Gratitude

5 Ways to Grow Your Gratitude
by Jeremy Walter

Take thirty seconds, right this moment, and look around you.  What do you see with your eyes, process with your mind, and evaluate in your heart?  Seriously, if you haven’t done so, stop reading for thirty seconds.

As I write this on a snowy Tuesday morning, I see the following: snowflakes falling outside, a steaming cup of hot coffee, a parking lot that my car is parked in, an office with heat, a pen and notebook, a laptop computer, and a cellphone.

My eyes provided sensory input, which my brain automatically converted into meaning, and I now have a conscious choice of how my heart can evaluate the results.  For most adults, these first two steps happen without any conscious effort on our part. The third step, what we choose to do with the results, is the soil where our attitude begins to take root.  In fact, this third step should even be thankful that those first two items happened in the first place!

Most of the time, I’ll process my above list of things without thinking too much about it.  But, as I’m doing right now, when I do take time to think about it, it’s pretty remarkable how much I have to be grateful for.  Snow (at least amounts under two feet) is beautiful.  Having a reliable car for transportation is a luxury most of the world doesn’t have.  The snow outside can be seen as a beautiful scene and not a life-threatening event because I have an office that has functioning heating controls.  I was taught to read and write, which has enabled me to learn and communicate in this world.  One laptop has access to more information at my fingertips than generations before us could even dream about.  My cell phone functions, all at once and at a fraction of the combined cost, as a WalkMan, digital camera, walkie-talkie, voice recorder, AIM instant messenger, alarm clock, scrapbook, phonebook, library, calendar, weather station, calculator, atlas, and television.  Oh, it also makes phone calls to any other phone in the world.  Effortlessly.

But just as easily, I can see whether that will mess up my schedule, a drink that got cold, a sedan that doesn’t have four-wheel drive, a building that requires keeping clean, a journal of unorganized thoughts, a laptop that doesn’t have the newest features, and a phone that needs charged once a day.

So what?  Well, I believe that God cares a lot about our attitudes (maybe even more so than our actual behavior, and certainly more than our possessions).  Stewardship means that we’ve been entrusted with temporary possession of someone else’s rightful belongings.  And just as God loves a cheerful giver (1 Corinthians 9:7), he also loves a grateful and thankful steward (Psalm 118:24, Colossians 3:17, Ephesians 5:20).  In our culture, it’s all too easy to just want the next thing, to look at the next step, to dwell on what we don’t have.  Instead, I think God wants us to realize what we do have, and express thanks for those blessings (James 1:17).

Below are 5 ways I’ve found personally beneficial in cultivating the soil of our heart to grow gratitude.  (Disclosure: I don’t have this perfected or executed every day.  Writing this post is just as rich of a reminder to myself as it is hopefully to you reading it.)

Verbally express one thing each family member is thankful for at mealtime.
We started doing this a few years ago with our kids, currently aged 6, 3, and 1, and it’s been so fun to see what the older two find meaningful.  It’s a great builder of perspective for other people, and it sets a good model to our kids that praying isn’t just about asking God for things, it’s also expressing thanks for what he’s given.

Write out one thing you’re grateful for in the morning.
A practice I started a number of years ago is my 3G routine (back when 3G was actually considered a good speed for my previously mentioned cellphone).  I write out the Gospel, expressed in one sentence, one opportunity I can Give in some function of my time, talent, or treasure that day, and one specific thing I am Grateful for.  Putting gratitude into writing helps make it more concrete, and also, if you keep track of what you’re writing, is a neat exercise to look back upon.

Brainstorm an all-inclusive gratitude list.
A mentor challenged me to do this many years ago as a way of building perspective, and it’s something I’ve heard of many other people doing as well.  Give yourself 15 or 20 minutes and just start writing or typing all things in your life that you’re grateful for, large or small.  It’s amazing how many things we never give conscious thought to as a blessing in our lives.  Bonus feature: sharing your list with a spouse or close friend.

Read the news and express gratitude for positive things happening.
A lot of media is loaded with things that are certainly not things we’d consider worthy of gratitude – in fact, oftentimes they require prayer of intervention more than anything else.  However, reading with an eye towards gratitude can bring some things to light that we might have otherwise missed out on.  Feeling doubtful on this concept?  Challenge yourself then to read the news specifically searching out the good amidst the ugly – the grand openings, the miraculous births, the non-fatal accident, the latest cancer-fighting research.

Ask God for a grateful heart.
Maybe this seems silly to include, but I think it’d actually silly not to include it.  God wants to give us good things, and sometimes we just need to ask him for them, including our attitudes (John 16:24).  In fact, we can enact all the self-discipline in the world to cultivate better attitudes, but without God’s help, we won’t make much headway (Psalm 127:1).

There are plenty of other ways to grow our gratitude, certainly ones I’m not aware of that may be far better than my list above.  Find what works for you, and keep at it.  Share your gratitude with those around you, as well.  We can honor and worship God by our attitudes, especially our attitudes towards what he has entrusted to us.  As parents, there are few things more frustrating than when our kids act entitled to what we’ve given to them as gifts or as provision.  As stewards, there’s few things more worshipful than expressing thanks to the Giver of all that we have.

Qualified Charitable Distributions

Qualified Charitable Distributions

In the past, we have helped several of our clients make distributions from their Traditional IRA accounts to charities.  The past several years, Congress waited and would then temporarily (and sometimes retroactively) pass laws that allowed these Qualified Charitable Distributions, which satisfies an account owner’s Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) in a given tax year without being taxed on the distribution.

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, which reinstated the IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution permanently.   This gives you the opportunity to make a gift of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a public charity(s) without incurring a tax bill on the distribution.  For clarity sake, this distribution and gift cannot be then claimed as a deduction for tax purposes.   

Who qualifies?

Owners of Traditional IRAs (not SEP or Simple IRAs) who have attained the age of 70 ½ (on the date of distribution) may distribute directly from their IRA to a charity up to $100,000 per year and exclude the contributed amount from their gross income for tax purposes. This amount can be counted towards the IRA’s annual required minimum distribution.

Who can receive IRA distributions?

The IRS has stated that any organization who is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions can receive these Qualified Charitable Distributions, but there are some exceptions including a donor-advised fund, a supporting organization, a private foundation, and any distribution in connection with a charitable gift annuity.

If you are interested in doing a Qualified Charitable Distribution or know of someone who is, please contact our office to schedule a meeting to discuss the concept in more detail with your specific account and objectives.

How Much Is Enough?

by Ryan Kurtz

This is a question that is asked over and over to financial advisors by their clients.  “How much money is enough”?  Most of us want to know what we need to do to plan to “have enough” for our lifetimes, but how much money is enough?

Amounts are very important to us; from “How much will my annual income be?” to “How much money I will owe in taxes this year?” amounts of money for different things in our lives are important.  So, what is the amount of money that is enough for us?

When John D. Rockefeller, who at the time was one of the richest men in the world, was asked how much enough is, his response was, “Just a little bit more”.  He must have been a very greedy wealthy man, right?  When you have as much as he did, why would you need more?

In Luke 19, we are told a story of a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus.  In the story, Jesus told Zacchaeus that he was going to his house that day.  After welcoming Jesus happily to come to his home, Zacchaeus stopped and talked to Jesus about amounts of money.   That is a very interesting response to Jesus telling him He is going to his house.   Zacchaeus then goes on to tell Jesus that he will give ½ of all he has to the poor and give back to anyone he has cheated 4 times what he cheated them.  After telling Jesus these amounts, Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Salvation has come to your house today”.  One chapter before, in Luke 18, Jesus comes across another rich man who asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After a little discussion Jesus answers with an amount, “Sell ALL you possess and give it to the poor”.

So here is my question.

If Zacchaeus gives half of all he has to the poor and salvation comes to his house and one chapter before Jesus tells a rich man you need to give all you have to the poor to have eternal life, what’s the deal?  Why are the amounts different?  How much IS enough?   How much did Zacchaeus have left after he gave to the poor and paid back those he cheated anyway?  Ten dollars?  Ten million dollars?  We’re not told the amount but it’s more than the rich man who gives everything he has away and has nothing.  So, why are the amounts different?  How much is enough?

In Genesis, God commanded man to “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth”.  Does that mean its ok for my wealth to grow?  I mean it does say to be fruitful.  He says the same thing again to Noah in Genesis 9, to “be fruitful and multiply”.  In Jeremiah 29, God tells his people “not to decrease”.

So when John D. Rockefeller says that enough is “Just a little bit more”, that sounds a little bit more like a word from God who commands us to be fruitful then a word from a greedy rich man, doesn’t it?

I believe God’s heart for all believers in Him is to increase in every way possible.  Not to increase just for the benefit of increasing, but to increase for the benefit of being a blessing to others.

I believe God is looking for faithful people who will manage everything God gives them not just to see how much money we can accumulate in our lives, but to use it to be a blessing to others and accomplish all God has for the money and resources He has entrusted to each of us….No matter how much that is.

It’s amazing to me that even when standing before the Lord He will take into account all I have and what I have done with it.

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’   Matthew 25:34-36

So how much money is enough? Should I give half of what I have away like Zacchaeus?  Should I give all I have away like the rich man was told to do?

Here’s my definition.

Enough is when we have an amount of money or possessions that takes our trust off of God and places our trust in our amount of money or possessions, when that dollar amount is crossed, that is when we have enough.  For the rich man in Luke 18, he wasn’t able to handle one penny before that line was crossed, for Zacchaeus it seems his line was crossed at around half of all he had.  What amount is that for you?

I believe God’s heart for us is to be able to continue to increase in every way, including in our bank accounts, relationships, in our businesses and never cross the line to taking our trust off of Him. That has been God’s heart for His people since Genesis 1, continued increase in every area of our lives while always acknowledging with our lives and actions, the One who brings the increase.   I believe then, we can all live the most fulfilling lives possible and most fully advance the Kingdom of God during our time on earth.

So, how much is enough?  I hope for you, if you can handle it, “Just a little bit more.”

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