As I travel the back roads of Missouri, this time of year always catches my attention. After watching the barren fields of the winter give way to the fledgling seedlings grow into tall stalks of deep green, I now see the browning tassels of corn waving in the late summer breeze.
I am amazed at the abundance of corn as the early season geometric patterns of stalks fill in to form a wall of food for the masses. I recently read that around 90 million acres are planted with corn in the US, with 3.5 million planted right here in Missouri, ranking in the top ten.
A lot goes into its production, whether the corn goes to feed cattle, is made into ethanol, or is harvested for its corn syrup sweetness. The farmer cannot just decide he would like to sell a bushel of corn tomorrow; it takes months of planning and preparation of the soil and the seed. Then there is the growing season of multiple months, each day fraught with danger, followed by the actual harvest, storage, and transportation. Before the payoff, we reap the benefit from his hard work to his family and ours.
The same is true for us as well. Most of the time, it takes a while to reach our goals, sometimes years, if not decades. Preparation, education, training, patience, and practice all before a harvest usually come, both vocationally and financially, for most of us. It is vital to plant today because tomorrow’s crop depends on it.
But what do I mean by your harvest? In short, your ability to meet your future financial needs and continue giving to the ministries you currently support. At some point, you will not be able to work in the fields. Just like the summer heat cools into the harshness of winter and the days get shorter, so will most of our ability to “earn a living.”
Whether a planned or necessitated retirement, most of us will see our income shrink and our reliance on what we have planted and harvested grow. The storehouse from previous harvests must sustain us in those years the fields will not produce.
Planning for the bad years (or the after full-time working years) must begin in the seasons of plenty. To keep the harvest season from sneaking up on you, I suggest a simple three-part harvest preparation plan.
STEP ONE – Set a Goal
Every farmer starts with a goal in mind. They must decide how much crop they are hoping to produce. From there, they determine the amount of land needed, the seed ordered, and the necessary resources.
You, too, need to set your harvest goal. For most, it will somehow involve a retirement or semi-retirement date and a number of anticipated resources and objectives. There is a little math involved, but life expectancy tables and retirement calculators are readily available online. Then you will need to list the ministries you are currently supporting and prayerfully consider how you wish to continue giving.
At the Missouri Baptist Foundation, some clients set a goal of leaving a million dollars to a ministry they loved. I am thinking of one couple in particular; neither made big salaries in their lifetimes, and one required advanced care for multiple years. But through their careful planning and sowing good seed, we presented a check to that beloved ministry of over 1.2 million dollars even after they passed.
STEP TWO – Make a Plan
After getting some numbers written down, it is time to go to work. With the goals in mind, you begin to work on achieving them. Where to invest? How much to invest? When to invest? All of these questions don’t always have clear answers. As a general rule of thumb, the best time to start planning was yesterday (the second best being today), and the best amount to start with is “as much as you can.”
You may have to adjust your plan along the way but starting early is always a good idea. Clients with big goals, we are discovering, will need time to achieve them. More people are creating a Donor Advised Fund during their income earning years, allowing them to contribute annually, saving, investing, and growing over time. This tool is beneficial when a person is blessed with an unusual amount in one year (like a business sale) and cannot decide which ministry they wish to bless or remain anonymous.
STEP THREE – Find a Partner
You will need help along this journey, a friend to turn to with questions, and someone you can trust. We at the Missouri Baptist Foundation would love to be that partner. We are not lawyers, tax attorneys, or financial advisors, but we can be part of your team of professionals to ensure you meet your goals. We serve as fiduciary’s, meaning we work for you and your goals. We can also serve as an interpreter of sorts, ensuring you fully understand the language of finance.
If you do not have an estate plan or need help setting one up, we have a unique relationship that allows Missouri Baptists to access high-quality estate planning attorneys at a reduced cost. We can also serve as trustees for those who no longer wish to manage their funds or have no one they can trust. More than anything, we are here to be a resource and answer any financial questions you might have. It all begins with a simple call or email to us at MBF: 800.776.0747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t wait; it is almost harvest time!