Faith-based strategies for financial-planning clients
Faith-based strategies for financial-planning clients
Cathy Jackson, CKA • East Fallowfield, PA
Beacon Financial Group, LLC • NEXT Financial Group, Inc.
Read full biography below
Proactive Advisor Magazine: Cathy, please talk about your objectives in serving clients.
My primary goals for my clients are to help them become better stewards of their finances and to help them develop a holistic financial plan that will lead to better financial outcomes in the future. This is particularly true of clients who are preparing for retirement or already in retirement, who often have significant concerns about their readiness for that phase of their lives.
I think I bring a unique perspective to helping clients in this way. I have worked in management roles in the business world, was deeply involved in pension administration, managed many of the operational aspects for an advisory firm, and have over a dozen years of experience as a full-service financial advisor. All of these roles have contributed in their own way to my experience and skills, which cover operational, back-office, planning, strategic, and client-facing qualifications. Most importantly, however, I simply enjoy working with people—seeing them become more educated about their finances and better prepared in their financial lives for the future.
What is your perspective on the faith-based aspect of your practice?
My faith is an integral part of my life, my family, and how I relate to people in all ways. It is only natural that this perspective carries through to my advisory practice. I am a Certified Kingdom Advisor, which means I have been trained in delivering financial advice from a biblical worldview and helping people responsibly steward their financial resources. I have also established a nonprofit organization, Beacon of Knowledge Ministry, which is committed to financial education for individuals who are seeking a faith-based perspective on managing their finances.
To me, this is all about family values and helping clients put their faith into action. When I am getting to know a client, it goes well beyond money. It’s about understanding where their values lie and what inspires the decisions they make. When meeting with couples, it is especially important to understand their individual perspectives and where their thoughts and feelings converge and differ.
How do they feel about the role of money in their lives? Apart from their finances, what are their goals, especially from a faith-based perspective? What were the circumstances of their upbringings and the attitudes they may have inherited from their parents? You may have one spouse raised in a household that was very frugal and saved for the future, where the other never had to worry about wanting for anything. How do you merge these two backgrounds and values in developing a financial plan that can work for the couple and their family as they pursue their important life goals?
While a prospective client may be a person of great faith, they do not always realize how financial stewardship and biblical principles can work together. There are more than 2,300 biblical verses that address either money or possessions, and a great deal of wisdom and inspiration can be found in the Bible. I believe my training in this area has elevated my practice to a higher level of understanding of Christian financial stewardship. I find it very gratifying to be able to assist clients from all walks of life and differing belief systems, but most of my clients are interested in this faith-based perspective and approach to financial planning.
Describe your approach to financial planning.
I use a holistic and goals-based approach to financial planning. I work with clients to develop all aspects of each client’s comprehensive financial plan that will usually include examining budgeting and household cash flow; goal-setting; college planning, where needed; retirement planning; insurance needs, including health care and long-term care; asset allocation and investment planning; estate planning; and charitable giving. I use a disciplined process that incorporates sophisticated financial software. Whether a client is still in accumulation mode or ready to seriously plan for retirement, my belief is that a solid game plan is the key to ultimate success over time for wealth management and attaining one’s financial and life objectives. Further, all elements of a comprehensive plan need to work together, being mindful of principles of efficiency and tax considerations.
Typically, I will meet with a new client or new client couple three times in the process after an initial “get to know each other” compatibility meeting. These three meetings are essentially (1) fact-gathering and discovery, including finding out about their current financial situation, investments, and risk profile; (2) presenting and having an in-depth discussion of initial recommendations; and (3) finalizing and implementing the plan. I ask all clients to complete a detailed asset-allocation questionnaire. For retirement-planning clients, the plan will include elements such as a Social Security analysis and recommendations, a review of long-term-care options, and retirement-income planning, including identification of potential income “gaps.” We then regularly monitor clients’ portfolio performance and how they are tracking toward their objectives and will have periodic review sessions.
What is your overall investment planning philosophy?
Each client’s investment plan is customized based on their financial plan, risk tolerance, time frames, and specific objectives. As an independent financial advisor, I have access to a broad range of investment strategies, products, and providers, including third-party investment managers.
Risk management is important not only to investment planning but for the client’s overall financial plan. I educate clients on several of the most relevant types of risk during the planning process, including longevity risk, inflation risk, market risk, and income-shortfall risk. If someone is planning to withdraw a certain percentage of their income from their investment portfolio, I want their plan to mitigate such risks as much as possible.
“Our desire is to serve others with excellence and in accordance with faith-based principles.”
In general, I advocate the use of a combination of passive and actively managed strategies in a highly diversified asset-allocation strategy. I also apply some principles of what is known as “bucket” investment and retirement planning, where risk needs to be tightly controlled at the early stages of one’s retirement. More risk can be progressively assumed as we look out into the future, as portfolios will have time working in their favor to recover from potential market losses. For the “middle” years, tactical investment management can be important, in my view, and there we especially work with third-party managers who can employ active, risk-managed strategies.
I may use third-party investment managers for several elements of a client’s investment plan. They are highly experienced in their field and have extensive resources, including full-time research groups, portfolio managers, and their own proprietary methodologies for strategy development. They can also provide a variety of tactical strategies that might include self-adjusting trend strategies, volatility-adjusted strategies, contrarian or mean-reversion strategies, or sector strategies. All of these usually have the ability to adjust to current market conditions through their specific indicators and models.
I think my time is best spent in helping clients develop financial plans, creating a fundamental asset-allocation structure for them, and serving their overall financial needs, not trying to micro-manage client portfolios on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The programs of third-party managers are very turnkey and free up my time to build relationships and provide top-notch service to clients. I believe in letting the professional managers do what they do best. My role involves careful selection and review of the managers and strategies and then monitoring strategy performance over time.
What would you want a current client to say about your services to a friend, family member, or associate?
I am hopeful they would say that our firm delivers authentic, personalized service; has high standards of integrity; and that we honor God and the family. I also would hope that they say going through our planning process provided a strong component of financial education, allowing them to evaluate options for their financial life in a much more knowledgeable manner.
Our goal, at the end of the day, is to educate, inform, and empower clients by delivering accurate and timely financial information. We provide financial products and services in a disciplined and goals-based fashion that helps clients implement their financial plan effectively and in line with their objectives. Our desire is to serve others with excellence and in accordance with faith-based principles. I would be honored if clients view our services in this way. Based on the feedback we receive, I believe they do.
Meeting the needs of clients through faith-based financial planning
Cathy Jackson of Beacon Financial Group, LLC, is a Certified Kingdom Advisor (CKA) and says she enjoys “helping families become more responsible stewards of their finances and, where appropriate, incorporating faith-based financial strategies as part of their financial and retirement plans.” Ms. Jackson identifies several attributes that clients desire related to this area:
- They want to work with an advisor who applies biblical principles in their firm’s financial-planning approach.
- They seek to become responsible stewards of their finances, with a commitment to family values, their faith, their church, and their community.
- They value advisors with high standards of integrity who serve the needs of clients first.
- They are interested in how faith-based principles can help inform their legacy planning and charitable giving.
- They wish to work with an advisor who is experienced and maintains a commitment to excellence in their practice.
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Cathy Jackson is an investment advisor representative of NEXT Financial Group, Inc., and founder of Beacon Financial Group, LLC, located in East Fallowfield, Pennsylvania. She is also a Certified Kingdom Advisor (CKA) and says she enjoys “helping families become more responsible stewards of their finances and, where appropriate, incorporating faith-based financial strategies as part of their financial and retirement plans.”
Ms. Jackson is a native of eastern Pennsylvania, where she grew up with her brother and sister “in a very supportive and loving family atmosphere.” Ms. Jackson took courses at Delaware County Community College before entering the retail field, where she ultimately attained a regional manager position for a national chain. She later worked in the hospitality area before entering the financial-services industry, becoming a certified trust accountant with a firm specializing in pension and retirement-plan consulting.
Ms. Jackson began her advisory career working in a variety of back-office, management, and client-facing positions for an established financial advisor. In 2006, she started her own practice. She is the author of a copyrighted seminar called “Financial Strategies for Women.” She has been involved with Crown Financial Ministries’ seminar program and founded her own nonprofit organization that teaches financial education based on scripture teachings.
Ms. Jackson and her husband have four sons, and they enjoy a variety of outdoor activities together, especially riding bikes, playing golf, and boating. Ms. Jackson is an active member of her church, Thorndale United Methodist, and she is also board chair of her nonprofit, Beacon of Knowledge Ministry.
Disclosure: Securities and investment advisory services offered through NEXT Financial Group, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Beacon Financial Group, LLC, is not an affiliate of NEXT Financial Group, Inc.
Photography by Michael Branscom