Are priests ready for retirement?News added by Benefits Pro on February 19, 2014

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Berman

The looming retirement crisis has been of concern across all sectors of the economy and even the clergy are not immune.

Catholic dioceses across the country need to make sure they have made adequate preparations for their priests to live once they retire. A paper by Robert Nordin of Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co., a consultant and actuarial firm based in Southfield, Mich., looked at the issues that need to be considered.

The company, in conjunction with Laity in Support of Retired Priests, built a model to allow a diocese to see how their retirement systems are working. It takes into account, among other factors, pension plans, Social Security benefits and any personal savings a priest may have set aside.

The model has been used to gauge the readiness of the retirement programs of three dioceses: Brooklyn, N.Y., Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

In general, priests participate in defined benefits plans, contribute to Social Security as self-employed workers and save on their own or in a 403(b) plan if provided. The average priest over 60 had savings of $130,000, surveys of the three dioceses found.

Using an online survey to query priests about their savings, plans and knowledge of retirement planning issues helped the dioceses get a better handle on the issues they needed to be concerned about.

“Among the insights we gained was the perceived lack of knowledge among priests in all age ranges regarding the pension plan and benefit package we offer,” Deacon Edward Gaine of the Diocese of Brooklyn said in the report. “We also became more acutely aware of the wide differences among our priests and their reporting of income for Social Security purposes.”

The survey found that more than 90 percent of priests said they would retire at age 70 and about half expected to live in a similar manner as they do while working. In addition, nearly all of them thought they would be involved in part-time ministerial work after they retire.

For dioceses, the paper recommends surveying priests, developing a written plan based on the information gathered and, as with any other workplace, making sure that communication lines remain open.

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