Find an Alternative in Religious Funds

September 16, 2008
Ellen Rabinowitz

Physician's Money Digest, March15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 5

Mutual funds linked to religiousorganizations are becomingthe investmentvehicle of choice for investors. Wearyfrom corporate misdeeds, investorsare looking for alternative investmentstrategies they can trust. And nonprofitorganizations are providingthem with the answer to their prayers.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans(800-847-4836; www.thrivent.com),Catholic Knights (800-927-2547;www.catholicfunds.com), and MennoniteMutual Aid (800-977-2947;www.mmaonline.org) are just 3 ofmore than 90 fraternal societiesacross the nation whose financialofferings are attracting investors.While only members of certain religiousgroups can invest in insurance,annuities, and individual retirementaccounts from these organizations,any investor can put their money intoits mutual funds.

So, why the recent interest? Investorsoften find it comforting toknow that they are investing with anorganization that shares similar values.Also, fraternal organizationstend to add a personal touch thatinvestors may not find elsewhere. It'snot unusual for customer service representativesto visit investors' homesto explain financial products.

PLETHORA OF PRODUCTS

While increased advertising hasheightened awareness, fraternal-benefitsgroups have always offered financialproducts of some kind. However,product lines have expandedover the years. For example, Thriventoffers a wide range of fund productsto choose from. The organization'sequity and balanced portfolio includes16 funds featuring a range oflong-term investment choices.

The life insurance and annuityproducts that are offered by CatholicKnights can help form the foundationof a sound financial plan. Inaddition to a wide range of permanentand term life insurance products,the organization features severalinterest-sensitive life plans. Forexample, Knight Life is a guaranteedpremium life insurance policy offeringstrong cash value growth andpolicy guarantees, including increasesin the policy's lifetime value anddeath benefit on a tax-deferred basis.

Mennonite Mutual Aid, whichwas founded in 1945 by the MennoniteChurch, also offers a range ofmutual funds designed to helpinvestors maintain a well-balancedportfolio. The organization's PraxisMutual Funds family includes a corestock fund, intermediate incomefund, international fund, money marketfund, and value index fund.

ABUNDANCE IN ASSETS

In addition to expanding productlines, assets in these organizations'financial products have risen. Thriventreports that it has more than $57billion in assets under management.And Catholic Knights says that assetsin its fixed annuity and insuranceproducts have more than doubled inthe past 10 years, to $591 million thispast September, and assets in itsmutual funds total $26 million.

However, don't let your trust in areligious group keep you from comparingthe organization's fees andperformance to its peers. Just as withany investment, you still need to doyour homework.