Penny Marchand isn’t about to grab a client by the lapels and start waving a Bible in his face; in fact, she says, many of her clients would probably be surprised to know how active she is in her church. “The last thing I’m going to do is push Christianity on anybody,” says the principal of the two-person Cambridge Financial Group in Tucson, Arizona, a firm that focuses on fee-only planning for middle-income clients. Yet when she’s working with Christian clients, their shared perspective can “add wonderful dimension to the planning process,” she says. “People are excited to have a planner who views the world through the same glasses they do, and you can use a vocabulary that’s a little more succinct”–particularly when you’re talking about issues like stewardship and charitable giving.
Money is a tough subject for many of Marchand’s clients, especially the clergy, who tend to feel uncomfortable about setting aside money for themselves. The key, she says, is to teach them to “see money as a kind of partner in the operation, instead of an enemy or something that’s causing them to stumble,” she says. “If you can show them that that they can be of greater service to people in their older years if they have enough money to support themselves, that can make a real difference.”
While Marchand isn’t a raving fan of Christian mutual funds–she tends to use SRI funds if a client is interested in screening a portfolio–there’s another religiously oriented investment vehicle that’s recently caught her eye: church bonds, which are issued to finance the construction of churches. But she doesn’t buy the bonds for their holy aura, she says; she buys them because they have great interest rates and a low default rate. Thus far, she’s purchased the bonds from regional churches, but is currently looking into a national organization, the California Plan of Church Finance (www.cpcf.com), to tap into a wider collection of church bond choices that can be laddered to mature in different years. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful find for a lot of my clients,” she says. –Karen Hansen Weese