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While his peers may be retired, Harvey Yoder continues to work with no immediate plans to quit
While his peers may be retired, Harvey Yoder (above) continues to work with no immediate plans to quit. Photos by Howard Zehr Photography

Unique retirement investing

Couple looks to international Main Street, not Wall Street

By Melodie Davis

Harvey Yoder slept just fine when the stock market nosedived in 2008. Harvey never put significant faith in Wall Street, and so its financial turmoil was no big deal.

Nurtured by an Amish upbringing, he was born in Oklahoma and then grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where he lives today. He learned to put his faith in God, family and the church community to provide financial security and care for each other – even into retirement.

Like many people, Harvey has made changes to his retirement investments since the recession began in 2008. Yet his adjustments are unique, moving his investments into much deeper alignment with the values of his upbringing.

But right now, age 72, he’s not ready to retire. “I just kept showing up for work,” he smiled. “As long as I have good energy, my health, and a gleam in the eye for what I do, I’ll keep working.”

During his lifetime, he taught social studies and Bible, served as an interim school principal, and for 20 years pastored the Zion Mennonite Church. He now works full time as a licensed counselor for individuals, couples and families at Family Life Resource Center, a Christian counseling service in Harrisonburg, Va. He is also an nonsalaried pastor of Family of Hope, a small house church linked to the Mennonite family of churches.

His wife, Alma Jean, is a former home economics teacher, homemaker and independent home health care provider. After having three children, she is a busy grandparent of six grandchildren.

At the same time, Harvey and Alma Jean aren’t ignoring their age, either. They have ongoing conversations with their adult children about their wishes regarding end-of-life care, funerals, and any estate they might leave. In addition to their children, Harvey and Alma Jean have named charities in their will as a fourth heir to receive their estate.

They don’t necessarily expect to live with their children when they get older. And, they don’t expect their church community to care for them either, but they have observed a lot of mutual care and concern for members within local congregations, especially offering transportation, food, or just presence with an ill or dying person.

Watching changing trends, Harvey recognizes we are gradually “less bonded as a church community and these kinds of mutual care may not happen as much” in the future. Harvey noted, “We tend to look to systems or organizations like Everence to take care of financial arrangements.”

Alma Jean and Harvey are currently filling out paperwork for Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community should they need assisted living or nursing care.

They have also been saving for retirement for a long time. Their investments began with retirement benefits offered through Harvey’s employment, including a modest Mennonite Retirement Trust account.* “About 20 years ago we started adding retirement funds through a tax-deferred account. I was interested in it as a way to reduce my federal (military) taxes,” he recalled. I was interested in it as a way to reduce my federal (military) taxes,” he recalled.

“The amount of our annual savings was based on what we felt we could afford, and in light of the fact that we had lived in a parsonage for 20 years and weren’t building up equity in a house,” Harvey said. “When we left our parsonage, we bought a modest-sized home and were able to pay it off in just over 10 years, which gave us another asset for retirement.”

They want to use their retirement investments not just for themselves, but to care for the people and communities around the world. Harvey holds a passionate conviction that the disparity between the way we live in this country and the lifestyle of the less privileged abroad “is just plain wrong.” He sees a biblical call to participate in seasons of Jubilee-style redistribution of wealth. On a personal level, Harvey and Alma Jean have found a practical way to do that.

Since 2008, they have asked their Everence financial representative, Glen Kauffman,** to move a significant portion of their retirement funds into microfinance. Microfinance lending provides small loans to entrepreneurs in North American and around the world who are starting and growing small businesses, helping them earn more income to buy food, housing and education for their children.

“When I first learned about microfinance, I thought: ‘Wow, what a wonderful way to give a hand up instead of just a hand out,’” recalled Harvey. “And there’s a way to invest within a tax-deferred retirement plan – and make our money work for us in line with our interests and values.” Harvey has always believed that giving goes beyond a tithe.

Harvey and Alma Jean have retirement funds in the Everence OneWorld Community Investment Program*** and Oikocredit. The Yoders are comfortable knowing they can draw on the funds as they need them. But in the meantime, they are pleased their money is in the hands of individuals who truly need it.

These notes don’t have big returns but there are interest rate options. “You can choose the interest rate you want to receive for these investments,” explained Harvey. Plus, community investments have historically low default rates.

Will they have enough funds to last through their retirement? “I don’t know what enough is,” said Harvey, but he admits it’s something they think about. “I do know we have far, far more set aside than 95 percent of our fellow believers around the world.

Besides, given the shakiness of the world’s economic systems, the only ultimate security we have is not in our financial investments but in the kinds of caring communities where no one is allowed to starve.”

He and Alma Jean make other investments as well. They take time off work to visit their children and grandchildren – an investment in family relationships. Thinking about his own relationship with his parents, Harvey lamented not feeling as close to his father as he feels to his own sons. However, Harvey said his father, despite life difficulties, was “one of the kindest and most gracious people I’ve ever known.”

When Harvey’s father was nearing death, he and his siblings took turns at night being by their father’s bedside. His father said the words of his favorite song, “Blessed Assurance,” on his deathbed.

His father left no estate and had barely enough savings to pay for his funeral. Harvey wrote about his father in his blog, “We all received a much more valuable legacy of a sturdy faith and a generously lived life.”

It’s the kind of legacy Harvey wants to leave behind.

Melodie Davis is an author, editor and producer for MennoMedia and Media for Living, both in Harrisonburg, Va., where she is a member of Trinity Presbyterian.

Invest in your values

Invest in your values

“Harvey and Alma Jean Yoder’s investment decisions are uniquely their own,” said Glen Kauffman, their Everence financial representative in Harrisonburg, Va. “Everyone makes those decisions for themselves, based on their financial needs and ethical priorities.”

Glenn Kauffman
Glenn Kauffman

Everence offers community development investing programs so people have the opportunity to consider putting investment dollars into helping others.

Most importantly, Everence offer the services of financial representatives and advisors who can help you evaluate your retirement investment decisions so they fit your financial situation and your values.

If you want to evaluate your investments, contact your Everence representative – or find a representative at or by calling (800) 348-7468 ext. 3202.

*Administered by Everence, Mennonite Retirement Trust is the retirement savings plan of Mennonite Church USA for pastors and church organizations.
**Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a Registered Broker-Dealer, member FINRA and SIPC. Investments are not NCUA insured, may involve loss of principal and have no credit union guarantee. Everence entities are independent from ProEquities Inc. This testimonial may not be representative of the experience of other clients and is no guarantee of future performance or success.
***The Everence OneWorld Community Investment Program is administered by Calvert Foundation. Calvert Social Investment Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, offers the Community Investment Note, which is subject to certain risks, is not a mutual fund, is not FDIC or SIPC insured, and should not be confused with any Calvert Group-sponsored investment product. This website is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of an offer to buy these securities; the offering is made only by the prospectus, which should be read before investing.