Good news about sad news
April 4 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Good news about sad news | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Good news about sad news

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

First, the good news: the Annuity Board announced last week that two of its charitable programs are being combined to offer increased aid to retired ministers and spouses who have little retirement income.

The "Adopt an Annuitant" program, which has been providing $75 per month for qualified individuals or couples, will mesh with the "Supplemental Assistance Program," which has offered as much as $200 monthly for individuals, or $265 for married couples. The combined program will go by the "Adopt an Annuitant" name, but provide the larger $200/265 amount to those who qualify.

The sad news is that so many retired ministers and their spouses qualify. Thousands of ministers have served thousands of churches that paid them low salaries and no benefits. Those devoted servants come to retirement with no support other than a small social security check, and often without a home to call their own.

To qualify for assistance, recipients must be retired ministers, denominational workers or spouses with 10 years or more of paid service in an SBC setting. Current monthly income can be no higher than $1,250 for an individual or $1,665 for a couple, with other assets no greater than $30,000.

Of the $7 million to be distributed to need-based participants in 2002, $1.5 million will come from Cooperative Program funds, $500,000 from the Annuity Board's endowment income, and $5 million from individuals, groups, and churches who contribute to the Adopt an Annuitant program.

Here's more good news: N.C. Baptists are leaders in Annuity Board participation, second only to Texas. There were 4,875 active N.C. participants in 2001, including 558 new enrollees. About 2,300 N.C. Baptist churches provide benefits for their ministers and staff through the Annuity Board, with 57 of those coming on board in 2001.

But there's also more sad news: 1,600, or 41 percent, of the 3,900 churches and missions claimed by the BSC are not participating. This suggests that more ministers will be equally unprepared for retirement in years to come. Of North Carolina's 2,410 annuitants in 2001, 100 received less than $50 per month, 202 received between $51 and $100, and another 451 received between $100 and $200. A total of 275 retired N.C. ministers or widowers received supplemental help from the Annuity Board.

As pastors have clear responsibilities to the churches they serve, so churches have responsibilities to their pastors and other staff members. When it comes to pay packages, a church should avoid offering a "lump sum" to its staff members, who may choose to buy groceries rather than contribute to a retirement program. Churches serve their staff well by paying at least 10 percent of staff salaries into a retirement program, and offering matching incentives beyond that.

Many churches are unaware that even minimal monthly contributions through the Annuity Board can be matched by the Baptist State Convention with funds that purchase disability and survivor protection benefits. Many are also unaware than non-ministerial staff such as secretaries and maintenance workers can also participate in the Annuity Board's programs.

Even the newest and poorest of churches have no excuse for failing to provide minimal protection and retirement benefits for their staff. The Annuity Board has a program to assist new churches whose annual budget falls under $40,000, offering a phased-in benefit plan that begins with a church outlay of only $100 per year.

But new and non-participating churches are not the only ones who could benefit from a fresh look at retirement plans. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) includes a large increase in the amount allowed for retirement contributions. EGTRRA also provides a tax credit of 10 percent to 50 percent of personal retirement contributions for families with incomes under $50,000. With matching funds from the BSC available on the one hand, and tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service on the other, retirement planning is more appealing than ever.

For more information about retirement planning and other benefits offered through the Annuity Board, contact Johnny Ross at (800) 395-5102 (toll free in N.C.) or (919) 467-5100 (locally), ext. 174. Interested persons can also call the Annuity Board directly at (800) 262-0511 or consult its Web site at www.absbc.org.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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