Week 52 – Lasting Treasure

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

~ Mark 8:36

Nothing can make up for the loss of one’s soul. Yet how many of us regularly exchange our lives for much less than the whole world? For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (1 Timothy 6:7). For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18b). That is why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.(1 Corinthians 13:13).

As we bring a closure to this subject on financial management, what is the overall view of God and finance? Let God’s perspective determine our values. Only by viewing life through the lens of eternity can we see our lives and our assets as they really are. Life is short and eternity is long. Money and possessions do not last, but what we do with our money can count forever. Having an eternal perspective helps us to deal with earthly ups and downs, stock market highs and lows and the wanting to always acquire more and more stuff.  If I am concerned about God being glorified, then I am less concerned about hoarding, being comfortable, or keeping up with my neighbour.

The Bible reminds us of the brevity of our lives.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

~ James 4:13-15

Since life passes so quickly, we cannot afford merely to spend our lives on earthly pursuits and we certainly do not want to waste our lives. We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal. We will choose to focus our lives not on temporary wealth, but on God. God offers us treasure that lasts forever: a relationship with Him that begins here and continues for eternity in heaven. What will we benefit if we give up on what really matters to get a few more possessions? Nothing is worth more than knowing Jesus.

Questions:

  1. What will you gain if you own the whole world but lose your soul?
  2. What should be our main motivators for our life strategy?
  3. What is the overall goal of everything we have said?

Week 51 – Do Not Miss the Miracles

I have often wondered what it is going to be like to stand before the Lord. I wonder whether I will hear Him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:2).

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages!

Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

~ Mark 6:31-44

What do I learn from this message?

#1 Spend Time Alone with Him.

The first step to financial planning is to be alone with Jesus and listen to what He has to say. Unless you hear God’s voice, you cannot take a second step of effective planning.

#2 Do Not Be Married to Your Plan

Jesus had a plan to go with His disciples to a quiet place. However, when He saw the needs, He had compassion on the people and responded to their needs. Be sensitive to God so that you will not miss God in your planning.

 #3 Seek the Mind of Christ

His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35). This advice seemed practical and logical but it was not in accordance with what Jesus intended at that point. Some of the professional advice that came from our friends and expert may sound logical but may not be godly.

#4 Obedience is Critical to Success

The disciples argued a bit but eventually obeyed. Therefore, we too need to submit to God in our planning process. If God says to give, I give. If God says to pay off a debt, I do it. If God says to decrease the lavishness of my lifestyle, I do so.

#5 Follow Our Father’s Plan

As much as the disciples did not see how the people were going to be fed through the five loaves and two fishes, we too may not be able to see how we are going to meet our financial goal. Faith planning may require us to do it without full understanding, just like Noah’s building an ark and not fully understanding what God was going to do.

#6 Do Not Miss the Miracle

However in verses 51 to 52,

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.

They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

What a tragedy! Just a few hours earlier they had seen an unbelievable miracle and had participated in the miracle and verse 52 says, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. So do not miss the miracle just like the disciples. Take your first step, then the second step, then the third step. Be faithful with regards to what He has given you and You will hear Him say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:2).

Remember, Jesus did not perform miracles just to meet human needs, though that was important. He wanted each miracle to be a revelation of Himself, a sermon in action. For the most part, the people were amazed at the miracles, appreciated the help He gave them, but failed to get the spiritual message. They wanted the gift but not the Giver, the enjoyment of physical blessings but not the enrichment of spiritual blessings.

Questions:

  1. What has Jesus fed you when you have been spiritually hungry lately?
  2. If you went to a solitary place with Jesus, what would you talk about?
  3. What do you learn from this article?

~ Adpated from “Master Your Money – By Ron Blue”.

Week 50 – Wills and Trusts

A will is a legal document that sets forth how an individual’s asset will be managed and distributed upon one’s death. The will leave the asset specifically to named individuals known as beneficiaries. You must be witnessed by at least two witnesses. These witnesses can be any majors (above 21 years of age) except for the following:

  • Spouse of the will
  • Beneficiaries of the

The maker of the will must be of sound mind and of legal age. You may wonder is it worth the effort and money to engage a lawyer to write a will. My advice is you should consider leaving the drafting of wills to professional. Wills are too important and too technical to leave to an amateur’s effort.

When writing your will, be mindful of the type of estate you own and how that estate is titled. Wills do not transfer property that goes by other planning devices or by operation of law.

Remember joint tenancy which automatically provides that the surviving tenant becomes the legal owner of the assets regardless of what a will says. It may be important to know what your assets are and not affect your will. Prior to your death, your will is revocable – it can be amended, altered, or revoked a number of times. Therefore, the date on which the will was drafted should be clearly specified.

Only the latest will shall be legally enforceable. At death, the will becomes irrevocable.

Dying Without a Will

will

Notes:

  • Legally adopted children but not illegitimate children have succession rights on the death of an intestate under the Intestate Succession Act.
  • The Act does not apply to the estate of any Muslim or affect any rules of the Muslim law in respect of the distribution of the estate of any such person.
  • No distinction is made between relatives of the same class whether of the paternal or maternal side.
  • Full blood relatives take before half blood relatives of the same class.

Source: Financial Life Coaching Pte Ltd (Used with permission.)

Trust

A trust is a legal arrangement involving three parties: the grantor, the trustee and beneficiaries. The grantor is the one who sets up the trust. He is the owner of assets that are being transferred to the trustee. The trustee can be an individual or an institution. The trustee is responsible for managing the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust.

The advantages of setting up a trust are:

  1. Competent management of assets (trustee can be a professional institution.)
  2. Protection of assets.
  3. Confidentiality.
  4. Avoidance of probate.
  5. Flexibility.
  6. Tax benefits (estate duty imposed is minimised.)

In conclusion, if you have not prepared an estate plan, now is the time to do it. Gather information, make plans and set up an appointment with an attorney to review them. Communicate your desires to your family and loved ones.

Remember that your last will and testament is your lasting opportunity to share your love for the Lord and with your family and friends.

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

~ Revelation 2:10

Questions:

  1. What is a will?
  2. What happens if I die without a will?
  3. What is the advantage of setting up a trust?

Week 49 – Power of Attorney

What is the purpose of executing a power of attorney and why do people need it? A power of attorney has been defined by the Supreme Court of Singapore as an instrument created by a person who entrusts someone to act on his behalf. It is a legal document voluntarily entered into by two parties and duly certified by a notary public, usually a lawyer.  The first and second party in the power of attorney are: the principal and the agent, respectively. In the power of attorney, the principal appoints the agent to perform a task in a legal capacity in his lieu.

The power of attorney empowers the agent to act upon any legal circumstance necessary of the principal, mostly if the latter cannot conduct with others, his legal affairs in person. This scenario happens in most cases, when the principal is gone from his domicile or away on a business trip for a lengthy period; or worse, if the principal is ill.  The designated agent can handle an individual’s legal and financial affairs in the event of an accident or health problem that causes the person to be unable to handle them. It is one of the simplest and cheapest ways of continuing the management of your affairs in the event of incapacity. The Power of attorney is effective only while the principal is alive, but it can specify estate planning actions to be taken if the client becomes disabled. One action among many would be to continue or begin a charitable gifting strategy.

Your power of attorney may be as broad or narrow in power as you wish. You may authorize the individual whom you select to manage your financial affairs to virtually handle all financial matters or you may be very specific about what you want the person to handle. The selection of your agent needs to be done carefully because that person may be given authority to collect, invest, and disperse money. If a professional is used, fees may be involved.

A most common use for the power of attorney is when the principal enters into a transaction such as the purchase of a real estate property.  The agent, by virtue of the power of attorney, deals with the company, or owner of the property until the sale is consummated. Thus, the agent pays for and signs all the legal documents necessary (such as purchase application form, contract to sell, deed of restriction, etc.) for the business venture between the principal who is the buyer, and the property owner who is the seller. Normally, the power of attorney is revocable or can be cancelled at any time. As such, the principal has only to accomplish the revocation of the power of attorney and again, have the cancellation duly certified by a notary public. The power of attorney also becomes null and void upon the death of the principal.

Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of executing a power of attorney?
  2. Why do people need it?
  3. Why is the selection of your agent important?

Week 48 – Estate Planning

  1. My estate is too small.
  2. It is too expensive.
  3. I do not have enough time.
  4. I am not certain about what I want to do.
  5. I view planning negatively because it is indirectly related to death.
  6. I am too busy.
  7. I do not bother to plan my finances at all.

Objective of Estate Planning

When you develop a proper estate plan, your family members would have been spared the frustration and the additional cost of court battles just to divide your estate. So your objective is to ensure the maximum value of the deceased’s assets and wealth is distributed according to his or her genuine wishes. You want to provide for ease of management and administration of estate, care of immediate family e.g. guardianship, provision for children and charity. How then would you develop an estate plan to ensure that your beneficiaries get the maximum value from your estate?

You can adopt the following strategies:

  1. Minimise Your Estate Duty

Giving gift while he is alive or setting up a trust or a hold company.

  1. Minimise Administrative Cost and Inconvenience

Writing a will is a critical component that will shorten the court procedure and hence reduce the administrative and legal cost.

  1. Appoint A Capable Executor to Manage Your Estate

Appoint someone who is trustworthy, financially competent and have you and your beneficiaries’ interest at heart to administer and distribute your estate upon your death.

  1. Appoint Trustworthy Individuals As Guardians

In case where some of your beneficiaries are minors, you need at least two legal guardians. The role of the guardian is to hold your assets, invest or use any financial resources in the estate for the benefit of these minors.

There are five procedures to develop a sound estate plan:

  1. Ascertain How Much Assets You Own
    1. Itemise your assets.
    2. Ownership of assets.
  2. Determine How You Want Your Estate Distributed 
  1. Decide in the Means of Transferring Assets through:
    1. Gifts.
    2. Set up a trust.
    3. Specify the beneficiaries such as life insurance policies, CPF saving and annuities.
    4. Right of survivorship – for joint ownership of property and joint bank account – ownership of assets automatically goes to the surviving owner.
    5. Will.
    6. Trust.
    7. Intestacy Law.

There are many other technical aspects of estate planning that are beyond the scope of this article. Both financial planning and estate planning need to begin at an early age. They are dynamic in nature and having to procrastinate in either area is poor stewardship.

Questions:

  1. What are the reasons given for not planning?
  2. What strategies can I adopt in estate planning?
  3. What procedure do I need to develop in order to provide a sound estate plan?

 

~ Adapted from Personal Financial Planning by Koh Seng Kee, Fong Wai Mun