conversation With Bill
Q&A WITH FREE WILL BAPTIST FOUNDAITON DIRECTOR, BILL EVANS
To find out more about the ministry of the Free Will Baptist Foundation, visit www.fwbplannedgiving.com.
Free Will Baptist Foundation manages over $22 million in Money Management trusts today. After starting with less than $1 million 12 years ago, the Foundation has experienced phenomenal growth—especially in the last four years. During this period of time, they have averaged over $4 million a year in new trusts. I sat down to talk to Bill Evans about this remarkable growth.
Q. Your Money Management Trust program has been quite successful. What do you attribute this to?
A. We have filled a void within the denomination for managed cash funds. Whether emergency funds, funds held for a future project, or reserve funds, we help meet the need. Too many individuals and churches place their funds in a regular checking account or passbook savings account that earns little or no interest. Our program offers much better rates of return, making the decision a stewardship issue.
Q. How can you keep your rates so competitive with other money market products?
A. By keeping our fees low. We operate on a one percent service fee. Our operating costs are extremely low…and we don’t offer toasters to folks opening new trusts. Unlike banks, we have no shareholders to satisfy. We simply cover our costs.
Q. Just how well has your Money Management Trust done in the last 10 years compared to other nationally known money market accounts?
A. The chart below (fig.a) illustrates that we have done quite well compared to average bank money market accounts, and even against those offered by the leading mutual funds. We have consistently outperformed the national average. Occasionally, we see accounts whose advertised rates are higher than ours; but, usually, the rates are what I call “gotcha” rates that are inflated to a high level for a few weeks or even months before drifting back down to average. You will certainly find our rates to be among the highest available.
Q. Okay, so you do well against money markets, but how do you compare to longer-term certificates of deposit?
A. Well, first, that is like comparing apples to oranges, but we do quite well even against five-year CDs. This graphic (fig.b) shows that over the last five years we have actually outperformed the national average for CDs.
Q. You said comparing trusts to CDs is an “apples to oranges” comparison. What do you mean by that?
A. Five-year CDs are locked. You cannot make additional contributions, and you cannot withdraw from them without incurring a hefty penalty. Our Money Management Trusts allow access without penalty with short notice periods, and you can make additions any time and begin earning our current rate of return.
Q. How safe are these investments?
A. They are very safe. Our policy is to invest only in government backed investments. Currently, 95% of Foundation investments are in government agency bonds that are AAA rated. The other 5% is actually in long-term CDs backed by FDIC insurance. However, it is important to know the Foundation is not a bank. We cannot offer FDIC insurance to our trust holders, but we do offer them the assurance that everything we invest in is government backed or insured.
Q. Is this a closed fund? Or can you always accept new trusts and additional deposits?
A. We are always accepting new money. Since we invest in government agency bonds, we can always take new trusts or deposits and invest in the best available government backed issue at that time.
Q. Is it hard to make a withdrawal? How long do you have to wait?
A. No. In fact, it is easy to make withdrawals. For withdrawals up to $50,000, we only require seven-days notice. If we have the funds available, the funds may be available even sooner. However, you should be aware it may take a full seven days. Withdrawals of $50,000 to $100,000 require a 30-day notice. For $100,000 to $250,000 it is 45 days and withdrawals over $250,000 require a 60-day notice.
Q. How long has the Foundation been in existence?
A. The Foundation was formed at the 1980 National Convention and chartered later that same year.
Q. How long have you been handling Money Management Trusts?
A. The name of these trusts has changed through the years. They have been called Revocable Trusts and Savings Trusts in the past, but we have been handling some type of money management trust since 1980. We made a significant change to our investment policy in 1994 to only invest in government-backed investments in a laddered portfolio. This allowed us to escape the volatility of the broad market and provide steady income.
Q. How many Money Management trusts do you currently have?
A. We have 519 that are pretty evenly split between individuals and ministries in terms of the numbers of trusts; but in terms of dollar amounts, individuals account for approximately 37% of the $22.3 million we manage while ministries make up about 63%.
Q. You have mentioned individuals several times. How can someone participate in this program?
A. Individuals may open a Money Management Trust. However, we do have some restrictions. We allow only two owners to be listed on each trust agreement, and they must designate a FWB ministry of their choice for 20% of the trust if they both die without withdrawing the funds. This is a provisional gift, and either individual can withdraw 100% of the trust anytime during his or her lifetime. This is in keeping with our purpose to funnel charitable gifts to Free Will Baptist ministries.
Q. Who are some of the ministries you manage funds for?
A. It is not appropriate for us to name individual ministries, but we manage funds for each of our national agencies. We also manage funds for several regional ministries, state, and district associations. Many local churches trust us with their funds as well.
Q. This sounds like a wonderful program. What is you current rate of return?
A. Our rate is subject to change twice a year—on January 1 and July 1. For the period of January to June, 2006, the rate is 4.75%. Anyone can call our toll free number (877) 336-7575 at any time to inquire about current rate.