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Helping Clients to Overcome the Fear of Giving
Jim Mars has a passion for seeing the Great Commission funded through generous
giving. And he believes that professional advisors play a critical role in helping clients to
overcome the fear of giving while experiencing the joy and reward of grace-centered
generosity. Mars’ strategy for seeing his passion become a reality is focused in two
areas: as CEO of Cauldwell Financial Group, a successful financial planning practice, and
as Chairman of the Board of the Christian Financial Professionals Network, a nationwide
association of Christian financial planners. Mississippi professional advisor Patrick
Johnson talked with Mars to discuss the role of giving in his practice and the
vision for CFPN for the coming years.
Jim Mars is CEO of Cauldwell Financial Group, a financial planning
practice in Des Moines, Iowa. He also serves as chairman of the Christian Financial
Jim, tell me how you got into the financial planning business.
Mars: I started in life insurance in 1975 as a young kid in school
and newly married.
Unfortunately, my wife and I did all the wrong things when it came to our finances—we
overspent and got into debt. Ironically, even though I was a pastor’s son and made my
living in the financial services arena, I had never made the connection between God’s
word and money. I guess I just didn’t have ears to hear God’s wise counsel regarding
This changed in 1979, when I bought a book by Larry Burkett. God used
Burkett’s writing to give me a whole new perspective on finances. Two years later I set
up my own financial services practice—doing financial and insurance planning for my
clients. In 1983 a couple of guys joined me, and the business has been growing ever
Today, Cauldwell Financial Group has five offices located throughout Iowa,
Oklahoma and Kansas with about 45 advisors. Our total assets under management are
$500 million, and our revenue is generated from both fees and commissions. I now
spend most of my time running the company, working with only a few clients. Since we
have a large number of advisors with various interests, our client base contains a wide
range of individuals—from the very wealthy to those trying to recover from bad financial
decisions made in the past.
Our corporate vision is to help our clients to succeed financially. Early in this
process we try to help our clients establish a definition of what financial success really is.
Most clients have no idea what this means. We have an opportunity to guide them in
this process—to shape their vision. Usually, this vision for the Christian has giving as
one of its major components.
So, you do discuss giving issues with your clients?
Mars: Yes, all of the time. Our financial plans are based upon 13
components, each of which is interrelated. We look at an individual’s cash flow first; the
next area is giving. I have found that most clients want to give more but have an
inability to manage cash flow. Cash flow is a litmus test to find out where a client is in
regards to being able to give.
This is an important point. If you try to discuss giving with clients who are
struggling with cash flow, their eyes gloss over. It is almost abusive to bring up giving
with a person who is living paycheck to paycheck. They already feel shame because of
their poor financial decisions. They feel guilty because they can’t be more generous. In
that situation, my job is to free them financially so that they can become generous
givers. It takes time to get them out of the mess.
For clients who have substantial assets where cash flow is not an issue, I start
out by asking them, “What are your perspectives on giving? What do you mean by
tithing? What are the passions of your heart in regards to giving?” I attempt to help
them shape a vision for giving. I have found that Randy Alcorn’s book, The
Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving, is a powerful tool in this
process. I frequently give it away to clients.
Do you think professional advisors play a role in helping clients to
Mars: I think advisors are CRITICAL to helping their clients to
experience the great
rewards of generosity. The fact of the matter is that pastors are uniquely positioned to
motivate their people to give, by explaining what God’s word says about money and by
communicating why God calls His people to give. But once the people’s eyes are opened
and their hearts are motivated, the next step is to guide clients through the giving
process so that generosity becomes planned, strategic, and rewarding. All this will help
clients to overcome the fear of mishandling gifts or running out of money. This is where
the advisor comes in.
Tell me about the purpose for the Christian Financial Professionals
Mars: CFPN is an association of professional advisors who share
Ministry’s vision that if the Great Commission is going to be funded, it will come
primarily from Christian giving in America. Crown plans to train a huge number of
believers over the next ten years in biblical principles of finance. Many of these
individuals and families will need advisors to help them. CFPN hopes to equip advisors
helping these motivated believers put into practice what they learn through Crown—with
the purpose of seeing the Great Commission funded through their giving.
The ultimate goal of a Christian financial advisor’s practice is to drive their
clients into a deeper relationship with Christ. We believe that professional advisors have
a tremendous opportunity to do this since we work daily with one of the major obstacles
to a Christ-centered life—money and possessions. And Scripture’s truth regarding the
dangers of wealth applies to both Christians and non-Christians alike. Truth is truth
regardless of one’s worldview.
We have found that there are a great number of Christian financial advisors
who are missing this Kingdom opportunity because they don’t incorporate biblical truths
into their practices. CFPN’s goal is to provide tools, education and encouragement for a
Spirit-led transformation of these advisors and their practices. We want financial
advisors to know that they are not alone. We want to exhort them to apply God’s
wisdom to their clients’ finances.
Tell me about the history and future vision for CFPN.
Mars: Around 15 years ago, Larry Burkett developed a burden to
method to refer Christians of wealth to advisors who would give godly advice. He got
together with a number of advisors at that time to discuss a strategy to meet this need.
Unfortunately, the timing was not right. In 1995, seven professional advisors met with
Burkett in Atlanta to revisit this topic and to discuss the need for a national
organization. Originally, the primary focus of CFPN had been to handle referrals from
Burkett. Therefore, the application processes to become a member was intense and the
membership fee was $5,000. As a result, after a number of years there were only 20-25
advisors who had joined. However, these were high quality advisors who shared a
passion for biblically based financial planning.
Over the last few years, we began asking the question, “Where are we going?”
At the same time, God began to work in the heart of Ron Blue, one of the most well
respected Christian financial planners in the country, to be used in a more significant
way for the advancement of the Kingdom. We met with Blue to discuss the formation of
a training and mentoring program for Christian financial advisors delivered through
CFPN. We have been working over the last year to bring this about. Our goal is to
leverage Blue’s experience to help other planners incorporate biblical financial principles
into their practices. We are excited to see how God will use this training. For more
information about this training, visit www.cfpn.org.
We also have a desire to become more inclusive so we decided to drop the
membership fee to $350 annually. Since the primary focus of CFPN will be training and
discipleship rather than referrals, we want as many advisors as possible to join the
organization. Our vision is to have 150-200 members within the next 12 months and
30,000 advisors within the next 10 years.
We also believe that advisors need a central place to get connected to all the
various financial ministries that will help them incorporate biblical truth into their
practices. Such ministries as Generous Giving, Crown, The National Christian Foundation,
Sound Mind Investing and Helping Hands are tremendous tools for advisors, but many
have no idea they exist. We hope CFPN will be a connecting point to these ministries.
At the end of the day this is not about the money—it’s about our hearts and
of our clients. Christian financial advisors have the unique privilege to help their clients
develop hearts for God through their planning practices by encouraging and motivating
their clients in generous giving.