Investments are all about the bottom line, right? After all, we want to maximize returns so we can comfortably replace our income in retirement. That’s what every investment advisor and financial planner in our culture assumes. This perspective is very much at home in a culture where value and worth are almost reflexively linked to income, and it’s an assumption that drives and shapes almost all contemporary investment strategies. But what if that is an incorrect assumption? What if value is defined by more than the financial bottom line? What if our faith calls us to something better? At Geneva Benefits Group, we believe it does.
The scriptures teach that God created all human beings in his image (Genesis 1:27, 5:1, 9:6; James 2:9). Human flourishing is a baseline for Christian ethics and should motivate every choice we make.
God also declared his creation very good (Genesis 1:28-2:3). He loves it and delights to see his good world well-cared for (Psalm 24:1-2). Christians should support creative enterprises and champion those who seek the health and care of creation.
Finally, Christians are called to broaden the scope of our concerns, avoid narrow self-interest, and seek the common good of the larger society (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Corinthians 10:24). This perspective should turn our gaze outward and fuel a desire for the culture at large to thrive and grow prosperous.
In line with these convictions, we are committed to creating an investment portfolio that is shaped by our Christian convictions. That means we seek competitive returns in ways that glorify God and pursue the common good. We prioritize investments in companies that promote human flourishing, protect and nurture God’s good creation, and seek the common good of society. Conversely, we will avoid investing in companies whose products or services materially and directly thwart those goals or whose core business models encourage or enable activities that conflict with the clear teachings of scripture. When pastors and ministry staff enroll in Geneva’s Retirement Plan, they are automatically enrolled in one of Geneva’s Target Date Funds. Participants can trust that their values are reflected in their retirement investments as Target Date Funds undergo our rigorous screening process.
To achieve our goal of crafting a biblically informed, financially competitive investment strategy, Geneva has gone above and beyond. We have consulted with Dr. Bill Davis, a Covenant College philosophy professor, who has reviewed our Biblical Values Investing guidelines and helped us refine them. We also contract with an external vendor who researches the stocks in our portfolio and compares them to our investment guidelines. Internally, a committee of employees then reviews the recommendations of our consultant to determine whether to exclude any individual stock. We revisit this exclusion list quarterly in an effort to stay on top of a complex and ever-changing market.
Some may wonder if our application of biblical values to an investment strategy comes at the expense of retirement plan performance.
Simply stated, does a philosophy that excludes certain stocks on the grounds of our faith convictions mean we must inevitably settle for sub-par returns? The short answer is “no.”
Filtering our investments through the lens of our Christian values does not damage the performance of the portfolio. Our fund managers understand how we are trying to bring our investments in line with our faith convictions, and actively partner with us to ensure our high-quality performance. To achieve this, they have agreed to substitute a similarly performing stock for any stock that gets excluded by our Biblical Values screen. Our experience over the years has been that our funds perform very well across the board.
The Apostle Paul reminds Christians that no portion of life falls outside of our faith when he says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He gives this command in the context of a discussion of avoiding idolatry. For the Corinthian Christians, the idols of the day were false deities, and the issue was eating meat that had been part of an idolatrous sacrifice. In our culture, money is perhaps the most powerful God substitute we face. It promises meaning, comfort, significance, and security; precisely the things we have in full through faith in Christ. From that perspective, we must subject our finances to the scrutiny of scripture. At Geneva, one way we take this responsibility seriously is through our commitment to Biblical Values Investing. For more information on this, or to speak with one of our certified retirement planners, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.