Thursday, June 16, 2016

Prayer that Powers Summer Stewardship by Moses Kumar

Church giving tends to be lower than normal during the summer. Fewer members are in the pews, and church financial donations may also drop during the summer months for several other reasons.
With school out, some families have more expenses, like increased daycare costs, babysitters and camp fees. Moms and dads might work fewer hours if they have caregiving responsibilities for children who are at home. All of this contributes to less money being available to households.
Vacation expenses eat away at a budget, too. So, some church members may prefer to give in-kind donations to the church. They may volunteer their time at Vacation Bible School or donate food to the summer lunch program as a way to give to the church.
How can we address this decline in needed income to support church ministries? There are different methods to increase giving – like the use of social media, appeal letters and online giving.  Using a mobile giving app allows people to still give even though they are not in the church sanctuary and can be a great way for church members to contribute throughout the summer.
But what I would like to tackle in today’s post is not the “how,” but the “why.”
Why will a person on vacation take the time to use a mobile giving app to make certain they don’t miss contributing their tithes and offerings for that week or month? Why will someone stop to read your post or tweet among the myriad items that come up on their feeds? Why would a member read the appeal letter the church sent via snail mail or email?

Passion for God’s Work
When people ask me whether, in my capacity as Treasurer for The United Methodist Church, I worry about the future finances of the Church, I say, “No.”
My colleague on this blog, Jeff Pelletier of Milestone Church, writes eloquently on Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (CEB)
Another way to read this verse might be to say, “Where your heart is, your treasure will follow.”
People will continue to give to what they feel passionate about – where their heart is. As long as the church remains relevant to the passions of the people, it will be supported by its members.
The question then becomes how do we accomplish this? My answer is always “through prayer.”
Not a prayer in the sense that we ask for God’s blessing on where we see a need and would like to do something. But, rather, a prayer where we attend to God’s message, so we understand God’s desire for the world.
“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)
This is a prayer that requires patience and listening, that allows us to see and feel the world through God’s eyes and heart, and experience the hope and future as God has planned it. Our finances, our presence and our perfection rest not on our needs and abilities but on the desires and power of God.
What we have is not ours. It is God’s. And when we listen for God’s plans for us, our lives and our ministries benefit greatly.
About the Author / 
With more than 35 years of business experience and a lifelong faith, Moses was elected General Secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of The United Methodist Church in August 2008. In this role, he serves as the chief financial officer for the 13 million-member denomination. He is responsible for oversight and administration of United Methodist global financial resources, statistical data collection, insurance products and legal interests of the church, among other areas of administrative ministry. Moses has established and implemented an innovative vision for the services provided by GCFA to increase its servant ministry and responsibilities to the people of The United Methodist Church. He plans to share not only financial insights for growing stewardship, but also experiences and inspirations from the churches he serves.
(reblog from Voices of Stewardship Blog)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

When does it pay to take social security early?

I will turn 62 in a few months and am trying to decide when to start taking my Social Security retirement benefits. Almost everything I read on this topic tells me it's better to wait until my full retirement age or beyond. Is there ever a good reason to start early?

You're right! Most financial planners agree that waiting to take your Social Security retirement benefits is a smart financial move. Why? Because each month you defer, from your 62nd birthday to your 70th, your monthly benefits grow. That adds up to around 6% to 8% higher payments for every year you delay.

Despite the financial incentive to wait, most people (58% of men and 64% of women) claim their benefits before full retirement age, which is currently 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954.

Speeding up the clock isn't always a bad idea. Here are some scenarios where it may make sense for you to collect early.

You need the money: If you're retired and don't have enough savings or a pension to cover your living expenses, you'll probably have to start early. But, if you decide to work, be aware of the earnings test.

If you claim Social Security benefits before full retirement age (and you don't reach 66 this year), you'll forfeit $1 for every $2 you earn over the earnings limit of $15,720 in 2016. It usually doesn't make sense to take benefits early if you're working, unless your income is below the earnings limit.

You have poor health: Having a serious medical problem that is likely to shorten your life is another reason to start your benefits sooner rather than later.

You should consider that the "breakeven point" - the age you need to reach to come out ahead by waiting to claim Social Security - is 78 for someone who claims at 62 versus waiting to 66. If you don't anticipate making it to 78, go ahead and claim early.

However, if you are married or have other dependents at home who depend on your benefit, you may want to hold off because starting early will reduce their survivor's benefits.

You're a lower-earning spouse: If you're married and your lifetime earnings are much lower than your spouse's, you could take your benefit early but your higher-earning spouse should delay. This lets you increase your household income now, while the higher-earning spouse's benefit grows, therefore increasing the survivor benefit.

Skeptical of Social Security: Many people take their retirement benefits early because they fear Social Security will go bankrupt, but this not a good reason to start collecting early.

While it is true that the Social Security trust fund will become insolvent around 2033 - 17 years from now - if no changes are made, that doesn't mean there will be no more money for benefits. It means that the fund is no longer taking in enough money to cover all promised benefits. Thus payment checks are likely to end up shrinking by about 25%.

But, if the thought of losing out on your benefits keeps you up at night, then it may be better to start claiming early instead of holding off for more later.

To see how much your benefits will be affected by your claiming age, use the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new Planning for Retirement tool at

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How To Replace Vital Documents That Are Lost or Stolen

Can you tell me how to go about replacing important lost documents? My wife and I recently downsized to a retirement community, and somewhere in the move we lost our Social Security and Medicare cards, birth certificates, marriage license and passports.

Replacing important documents that are lost, stolen or damaged is pretty easy if you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for each document you mentioned, along with some tips to protect you from identity theft, which can happen if your documents end up in the wrong hands.

Birth certificate: If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born ( for contact information). This office will give you specific instructions that will explain how to order a certified copy and what it will cost you. Birth certificate fees range between $9 and $30.

Social Security card: You can replace a lost or stolen Social Security card for free. If you live in the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington or Wisconsin, you can do it online at If you live outside these areas, you'll need to fill out Form SS-5 ( to print a copy) and take it in or mail it to your nearby Social Security office, along with either your U.S. driver's license, a state-issued non-driver ID card or a U.S. passport (photocopies are not accepted). Any documents you mail will be returned to you. To find the Social Security office that serves your area, call 800-772-1213 or see

You also need to be aware that losing your Social Security card puts you at risk for identity theft. If you find that someone uses your Social Security number to obtain credit, loans, telephone accounts, or other goods and services, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at (or 877-438-4338). This website also provides specific steps that you'll need to take in order to handle this problem.

Medicare card: To replace your Medicare card for free, just call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office. You can also request one online at Your card will arrive in the mail in about 30 days.

Since you lost your Medicare card, you also need to watch out for Medicare fraud. Check your Medicare Summary Notice for services you did not receive and, if you spot any, call the Inspector General's fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 to report them.

Marriage certificate: Contact your state's vital records office to order a copy (see You'll need to provide your full names for you and your spouse, the date of your wedding, and the city or town where the wedding was performed. Fees range from $10 to $30.

Note: Divorce certificates can also be ordered from your state's vital records office (fees range from $5 to $30), and divorce decree documents can be obtained from the county clerk's office in the city or county where the divorce was granted.

Passport: A lost passport also puts you at risk for identity theft, so you need to report this as soon as possible to the U.S. State Department. Go to and fill out Form DS-64. You'll receive an e-mail acknowledging that your report was received. Within a couple of days, you'll receive another e-mail (or letter, if you request that option) confirming that your passport has been entered into the Consular Lost or Stolen Database.

You can apply for a replacement passport at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Many post offices, public libraries and local government offices serve as such facilities. You can search for the nearest authorized facility at The fee for a replacement passport is $135.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.