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Strong Partnership Builds Foundation for Better Retirement


  • The Reverend Dr. Stephen P. Bauman met regularly with EY Financial Planning Services Advisor Deb Valenti. As a result, he felt prepared financially for his transition from full-time ministry to retiree.
  • Valenti helped Bauman understand how to think about housing after he had lived in a parsonage for the last 35 years. EY is familiar with circumstances and challenges unique to clergy.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman has made a life of working with others to impact change. After graduating from seminary, Bauman and his wife Melissa joined a Christian community living above a youth shelter in New York’s Times Square. Together, they ministered to youths who lived on the streets, showing them grace and seeing to their immediate needs.

When he was appointed to Christ Church in New York City in 1987, Bauman’s style of empowering leaders within the congregation led to a complete turnaround. The church grew from a handful of worshippers on a given Sunday to a thriving urban church with worship, learning and outreach ministries that extended into the city and throughout the world.

When Bauman, 70, prepared to retire, he continued his tradition of forming partnerships. He worked with the Christ Church congregation to ensure a smooth transition. He also reached out to EY Financial Planning Services (EY), which is available at no cost* to Wespath retirement plan participants. Through several conversations with EY Financial Planner Deb Valenti, Bauman developed a financial plan that would see him through retirement.

“I decided to connect with EY because it's a free service. They're not selling a product. They know all about the Methodist pension system and all of that,” he said. “It just seemed to be foolish not to take advantage of this program that was being offered. So, I checked it out and had a lovely experience with Deb Valenti.”

From the first hello, Valenti and Bauman easily connected.

“He called because he was getting ready to retire and he wanted to do a retirement analysis,” Valenti said. “I remember thinking, ‘I could be friends with this person.’”

Valenti began with questions. How much money did Bauman and his wife think they would need in retirement? How did they define that? And did they think they have enough assets to pay the bills?

“That whole process was very helpful,” Bauman said. “I was quasi-ignorant about how the housing thing was going to work out and all of that because I had been living in a church-owned condominium for 35 years. I wasn't worried, but it was very clarifying and comforting to realize that we were going be OK.”

Valenti noted they had about eight conversations about the financial aspect of retirement, including asset allocations, budgets and cash flow, distributions and more.

“He is very astute, very knowledgeable, and a pleasure to work with,” she said.

Bauman even invited Valenti to attend his January 2023 retirement service at Christ Church, but she was not able to attend.

Their working relationship may not end there. Valenti said she plans to check on Bauman periodically if needed.

“I often work with clients for years after we develop a plan—always revisiting, incorporating any life changes and adjusting where necessary,” Valenti said. “They are always welcome to check in and revisit the plan.”

EY Financial Planning 101

There are no forms to fill out, no enrollment steps to complete and no fees to pay—no matter how much help you need.* Call EY directly at 1-800-360-2539 business days from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central time to speak with a financial planner or message a planner after you sign in to EY Navigate.

photo of Reverend Dr. Stephen P. Bauman

Reflections of a Retiree

Bauman encourages clergy at any age and stage of their career to become financially savvy about retirement and to take advantage of EY and other Wespath resources.

“It doesn't take a lot of effort and has the benefit of reducing your anxiety about what's coming down the pike,” he said. “You want to be able to prepare yourself as best you can for an easy transition into the future.”

“Dr. Bauman used EY because we understand things about clergy, exclusions and taxes, and we understood the benefits plans,” Valenti said. She added: “We act in the participant’s best interests, looking at assets, running inflation numbers and how to distribute those assets.”

Bauman described life as a new retiree as feeling like an extended vacation, but he’s open to possibilities.

“I feel as though I have another chapter in front of me,” he said. “Not that I want (a) whole other dynamic career necessarily, but I also know that I'm not finished. I'm in good health. I have a lot of energy. In some ways, I feel I'm at the peak of my powers. How am I going to move into the future creatively? I don't feel anxious about it, but I feel very open-handed and open-hearted about it.”

One thing is settled—his financial future. Between his conversations with Valenti and his trust in Wespath’s investment team, Bauman feels secure.

“They know what they're doing from an investment point of view and from a stability point of view,” he said. “Clergy should have a lot of confidence in the competence of Wespath in the caretaking of their assets.” When thinking of his own retirement account experience, Bauman added: “And in more recent years, Wespath really outdid the market—to quite an astonishing degree. (I believe) they have the capacity to do well by clergy and other people who they care for.”

* EY Financial Planning Services are available to active Wespath participants and surviving spouses with account balances, and to retired and terminated participants with account balances of at least $10,000. Costs are included in Wespath’s operating expenses that are paid for by the funds.

How Can EY Help Me?

EY Financial Planners offer confidential consultations over the phone or via chat. They can help you evaluate your financial situation and provide guidance on such issues as budgeting, saving for retirement, investing and tax planning.

The EY Navigate website provides resources for budgeting, managing debt, purchasing a home or car, planning for retirement, financing college education and much more. Visit EY Navigate to register and log in. You will need your Wespath participant number to register—it's found in your Benefits Access online account. Log in, click "Profile" and "Account Management Summary."

EY offers monthly webinars you can view in the comfort of your office or home. Upcoming topics include "Funding the College Dream" and "Investing: Back to Basics." To register, log into EY Navigate.

Preparing for the Non-Financial Aspects of Retirement

"I had done a lot of work thinking about retiring, so it didn't hit me hard," Rev. Dr. Stephen Bauman said. "I'd been moving into it, especially post-COVID. I'd been moving into it pretty gracefully overall. And therefore, once I left, it didn’t feel as though 'oh my God, now what?' It didn't have any of that."

"I think it’s very important for clergy to do this inner work. There’s an inner peace that is emotional, and there’s an inner peace that’s spiritual. And there's another piece that’s relational to the people that are most dear to you—the ones that are closest to you in your universe, but as well as the people you see when out and about and your church people as well. And so, retirement comes up in a way as a thing to be received as a gift, I think, for those who are able to sort of embrace this transitional work that needs to be done."

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