By Val Fisk
Step 1: Spend less than you make.
Step 2: Create a will and establish an advanced healthcare directive.
At this afternoon’s session titled “A Woman’s Financial Journey,” representatives from Consilium Associates, a financial planning and investment management firm, spoke with a room full of women about the concerns of a financial journey throughout a woman’s life. Much of the workshop concerned the need that Kelly Gallimore and Kirk Wilkerson have observed for women to receive help in financial decisions after the death of their spouse. They highlighted the work of their nonprofit Women Renewed, which provides free or low cost financial advisement to recently widowed women who could not otherwise afford the service. Toward the end of the session, I finally raised my hand to ask an uncomfortable question:
“What about those of us in the room and the larger number of women represented here at Assembly who are not married and don’t necessarily plan to be?”
After a short pause, I explained further that many among the millennial generation currently in seminary are facing higher amounts of student debt than any previous generation, marrying much later in life or not at all, and thus are attempting to navigate financial decisions alone in a world that feels designed for two-income households with a man as primary earner.
I was overwhelmed by the care with which Kelly and Kirk responded. They recommended two primary steps that every single person should take as soon as possible, no matter your financial status — spend less than you make, and create a will and an advanced healthcare directive. They explained that if and when something does occur, it is important to have made choices for yourself and established a power of attorney so that your financial concerns can be easily managed by another person, whether family member or close friend.
After the session ended, the care continued. A woman who has recently retired from over forty years of ministry approached me. She told me that she took her first ministry job at 27 years old, did not marry until her early forties, and unexpectedly lost her husband after just three years. She offered one large piece of advice: in every negotiation for a position, ask for the equivalent of ten percent of your housing and annuity to be sent to the Baptist Benefits Board for your retirement fund — a tithe of your church toward your future retirement. She also encouraged me to begin now, tithing ten percent into my own savings account out of each paycheck.
Kelly approached me directly to hand over her card and encourage me to reach out with any questions I might have, then asked me to consider getting disability insurance as further protection of my own financial independence.
Sisters of CBF, I will be the first among us to proclaim that we are still in the minority on ministerial staffs. We who are single and young are an even smaller percentage.
I will also be the first to stand up and shout from the rooftops that I feel supported and loved by the CBF. Today was a perfect example of that fact. But unless we continue to establish ourselves by raising our voices — unless we ask the uncomfortable questions that remind people that we exist and require care — we will not have the opportunity to feel the love that CBF has for us.
Praise God for women willing to offer guidance out of their own experiences. Praise God for financial consultants willing to offer free advice to broke graduate students! And praise God for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which gives a place for single, independent young women such as myself to belong in the Baptist world.
Val Fisk is a Masters of Divinity candidate at Truett Seminary. She serves as President of the Truett Women in Ministry chapter and as a Pastoral Associate at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. She is frequently described as the pink-haired person always holding a cup of coffee.