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Retirement strategy for ministry leaders: Don’t delay

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Jordan Coss’ doctoral project at Fuller Theological Seminary included a podcast series titled “Almost Essential,” available on Apple, Amazon, Spotify and elsewhere.

His research led him to recommend six action steps for ministers who don’t want to find themselves working forever or living dependent on family in retirement.

1. Read “How to Retire with Enough Money and How to Know What Enough Money Is” by Teresa Ghilarducci, whom he interviews in episode three of the podcast.

2. Don’t opt out of Social Security, but delay benefits until age 70 if at all possible.

Related: Little money, few benefits: Retiring ministers struggle

3. Seek out a vehicle that provides pension-style income. You need Social Security/Medicare and a pension. Maybe your spouse will have a pension. Also consider the Pension Fund of the Christian Church or an indexed universal life policy. Not everyone agrees on what’s best, but do something.

4. If offered a defined contribution plan, i.e. a 401(k) or 403(b), do it. While the shift from pensions to 401(k)s has created the problem we now face, it’s the best we’ve got. So if your employer provides a match, use it.

5. If possible, own a home instead of living in a parsonage.

6. Mainstream Churches of Christ need to begin with the end in mind — and help provide the new third leg of the traditional retirement stool — pension, Social Security/Medicare and personal savings. Ghilarducci says the new third leg is having to work longer, so think about what your retirement job will be. Double major while in college. Be thinking about it from the beginning.

CHERYL MANN BACON is a Christian Chronicle contributing editor who served for 20 years as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Abilene Christian University. Contact [email protected].

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Filed under: Features Financial planning Minister benefits Minister retirement National Social Security Top Stories

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