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MALCOLM BERKO: Investing in a church mortgage a dicey proposition – News – Northwest Florida Daily News

Dear Mr. Berko: Our 30-year-old daughter and son-in-law have decent jobs, have six children, live in Colorado Springs and have become new members of a church that’s just starting up. We don’t agree with all the things they are doing, and we object to their using all of the $63,000 they have in savings to help the pastor build a new church building. Other members are investing, too, and the church is giving each participant a “church mortgage” on the property, with 6 percent interest that will be paid off in 2022. When we asked whether we could invest, we were told that the pastor will only take money from true believers. Ha! The church will have a mortgage held by the parishioners, but in 2022, it will apply for a bank mortgage. Then the pastor will use the mortgage proceeds to pay off those who lent money to the church. How can I stop our daughter from making a big mistake? That money is everything they have. They rent and don’t even own a home.

— LD, Bloomsburg, Pa.

Dear LD: How do such a young married couple with six kids manage to have $63,000 in a savings account? Unless they are selling pot or are Colorado state legislators, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Holy gosh and Zion, too, here we go again! Religion and money are sweet and inseparable bedfellows, just like politics and money. It’s my observation that when any enterprise concerns religion, a man’s intellectual capacity morphs to that of a monkey. Because it’s easier to fool these people than to convince them they have been fooled, there’s little you can do. If you wish to maintain a happy relationship with your daughter and her husband, write them a nice letter. Kindly express your thoughts, and then never bring it up again. And remember that “kindly” is the operative word. Also remember that you can’t reason someone out of something she hasn’t been reasoned into.

The Colorado Springs area is a hot spot for religious fervor, as several huge religious dynasties have their corporate headquarters there. Among the greatest rip-off artists are politicians and men who pretend to be of the cloth, and the Springs has a lot of each. Every year, I get a few letters from readers requesting advice about investing money in some church-sponsored business or event. When the image of God is part of the pitch, all reason and common sense disappear. I know of several churches financed in a similar way, with the enthusiasm of an Elmer Gantry. And years later, the trusting souls are holding a mortgage that isn’t worth spit on a floor. But they still believe.

That said, I know of your daughter’s pastor. He’s in his early 50s, and I think he’s a stand-up guy. I’m also told by someone else I trust that in this pastor’s previous incarnations, he successfully built, financed, mortgaged and became the pastor of two churches – one in West Virginia and the other in Louisiana. It seems he’s a traveling man! So if past is prologue, your kid’s money should be repaid within the pastor’s time frame – and with interest. However, I think it was unwise of those kids to put their entire kit and caboodle in a church mortgage. If the pastor knew that $63,000 was everything they had and still took that money, well, that bothers me.

I strongly urge you to talk nicely to your daughter and her husband about taking the church paperwork to a lawyer, not to question the merit of their investment but to protect their cash stash. They need to be sure that their mortgage documents are in compliance, that there’s clear title, etc. The kids should know that banks are not eager to finance churches because churches almost always run deficits. So the following is important. If the bank only refinances 50 percent of the privately mortgaged debt, your daughter and her husband need to be assured that none of the other mortgagees is repaid a greater percentage of their mortgage.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@yahoo.com.

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