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July 16, 2021

Ask for Professional Financial Help

Financial challenges can affect so many aspects of your well-being: your mental, emotional, and spiritual health; your relationships; even your vocational well-being. And fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated matters. Financial concerns can feel like a weight on your shoulders, but there are ways to lighten the load.

A financial counselor can give you a fresh perspective about your financial status and help you create a specific action plan to address your unique financial goals.

As an ELCA retirement plan member, you and your immediate family have access — at no additional cost — to a range of financial counseling options provided by LSS Financial Counseling, a service of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. This nationally-recognized nonprofit organization can help you with a range of financial issues, including:

  • Debt repayment options, including debt management plans (DMP)*
  • Student loan issues including borrowing, repayment, default, and consolidation
  • Understanding credit reports and improving credit scores
  • Personal and family money management and budgeting
  • Mortgage default, foreclosure prevention, and predatory lending
  • Consumer protection and preventing and resolving identity theft
  • Home buying readiness, mortgage financing, and reverse mortgages
  • Vehicle and other consumer loans including borrowing, repayment, default, and repossession
  • Bankruptcy consequences and alternatives

Counseling appointments generally span 45 – 60 minutes, and can be conducted via phone or online video. If you need more than one session, you can meet with the same financial counselor for up to six sessions annually. Counseling through LSS is also completely confidential; Portico does not receive any information about who uses the service, or why. To learn more and schedule a no-cost appointment with an LSS financial counselor, call 800.528.2926.

Small Step: Get Inspired to Start a Conversation

The following stories from actual members, who agreed to share their experiences with Portico, offer a glimpse of how a financial counselor could help you.

Pastor Adam Headshot Pastor Adam went from discouraged to debt-free.
“At the point of my first counseling session, our finances were a mess; we had a lot of debt that felt out of control, and we carried a lot of shame with our inability to keep up with it or make any progress. As a result, I didn’t have any concrete goals because everything felt so messy. I guess, if anything, we just wanted to get some sort of organization and plan.

“What I got from our counselor was affirmation and assurance that we weren’t as far off as I was telling myself. After this, we went through our finances step-by-step and discovered what we could do to gain control and begin to achieve some of the goals that felt out of reach.

“We took one of the suggestions on using budgeting software and got to work. Within a year, we had paid off all of our debt, except our mortgage and student loans, and saved over a month’s salary in an emergency fund. We continue to struggle along the way and get discouraged, but not in the same way as before counseling. The most helpful thing we got from the counseling was confidence and control.

“We’ve since been able to change our lives in a significant way. We are so thankful to LSS for the encouragement and those first steps. I would encourage anyone who is feeling discouraged or overwhelmed to take the time to work with LSS Financial Counseling. At the least, it will make you feel better about where you’re at and, at the most, it might completely change the course of your financial situation and life.”

Pastors Erik and Amy keep their budget on-track.
For the past four years, Pastors Erik and Amy have met with a financial counselor from LSS Financial Counseling near the end of the year to review their budget. During the appointment, they review their income, current living expenses, outstanding debt, and discuss future goals. One of the driving factors in their budget is paying off student loan debt. Based on their goals and feedback from the financial counselor, “sometimes tweaks need to happen with spending.” Pastor Erik states, “It’s good to have a third set of eyes to make sure we are on track and doing what we need to do.”

The Chens used a windfall to maximize impact.
As their kids grew older, the Chens wanted to know the best way to move forward with the extra money they were no longer spending on child care. They were encouraged by their counselor to pay down high interest rate debt first, as well as to establish savings. Together, the counselor and the Chens formed a budget and ideas on how to take the first steps toward their goals.

Sarah finally resolved credit report errors.
Sarah called in, frustrated with an error on her credit report. She had been working on this issue for months on her own and couldn’t get it resolved through normal channels. Sarah’s counselor was able to provide a number to reach a live person directly, and Sarah was able to get her credit report error resolved.

We would love to hear your feedback on our Live Well Small Steps! We invite you to complete a brief survey to share your opinions. Your answers will be kept confidential. Take the survey now.

Sources:
Testimonial stories provided by LSS Financial Counseling, with permission from members to share.

Motivated to do more?

Additional steps anyone can try:

  • Listen to the “Personal Finances for Faith Professionals” episode of the Being Here podcast. In it, the Rev. Linda Norman, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Administration at Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA, offers valuable insights to help you sustain your financial health in these tough economic times, including opportunities to share materials and resources.
  • Learn strategies for discussing sensitive money matters with your partner or spouse and five steps you can take together to reduce debt in this Sense & Centsability blog post from LSS Financial Counseling.

If you have ELCA-Primary health benefits with Portico:

  • Check out the new Money Matters course on Being with Stefon Walters. While money may not be able to buy happiness, it can provide freedom and flexibility. If straddled with debt or bad credit, that freedom and flexibility may be hard to come by. Personal finance guru Stefon Walters shares his strategies for financial management, so you control your money and keep your money from controlling you.

If you have an ELCA retirement plan account with Portico:

  • Call a planner if you have questions about saving for retirement, your beneficiaries, your Portico investments, Portico’s social purpose funds, the ELCA Participating Annuity, minimum required distributions (MRDs), the clergy housing allowance, or your other ELCA plan benefits. Planners are available at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

*Members who sign up for a DMP with LSS Financial Counseling will be responsible to self-pay a monthly service fee (9% of the monthly payment to creditors, to maximum of $50).

This material and any opinions are for educational purposes only. Information presented shall not be construed as offering or disseminating specific financial, retirement, asset protection, tax, or legal advice.

Portico Benefit Services provides health, flexible spending, retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to eligible members. Benefit plans are governed and administered individually through separate plan documents. The assets of each plan are held in various trusts and therefore do not allow one plan to fund a shortfall of another plan. The plans are church plans, as defined in section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The disability and health plans, with the exception of the Medicare Advantage Benefit and the ELCA Part D Drug Benefit, are self-insured and are not provided through an insurance company. Portico Benefit Services’ ability to pay claims is dependent on continued contributions, claims experience, and market performance. Portico has contracted with an insurance company to manage and administer the Medicare Advantage Benefit and the ELCA Part D Drug Benefit. Portico reserves the right to change any of the terms of the plans at any time through the amendment or termination process described in each plan’s summary plan description.

Neither Portico Benefit Services nor the funds it manages are subject to registration, regulation, or reporting under the Investment Company Act of 1940, The Securities Act of 1933, The Securities Exchange Act of 1934, The Investment Advisers Act of 1940, The Employer Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or state securities laws. Accordingly, participants are not afforded the protections of the provisions of those laws and related regulations. You should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of any fund before investing in it. All funds are subject to risk and uncertainty. Past performance cannot be used to predict future performance. Portico funds are not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. See the ELCA Investment Funds Description documents for additional fund information.