That's good, because most of them have done a terrible job at building up any retirement savings. I actually know men in their 50s who have little or no retirement funds set aside.
The problem is, there may come a day when they do want to retire-- or when they need to do so. Like it or not, our fallen bodies fail us, and the time comes when we have to slow down. This may mean changes to our ministries: moving to a smaller church in a slower-paced community, accepting a role with less ministry responsibility, or moving into a part-time ministry position. Or it may require stopping ministry altogether, at least as a vocation-- and if that is the case, we must begin as soon as possible to prepare financially for that season.
In most cases, when a man is coming directly out of seminary into ministry he doesn't have his mind on how he will retire from that ministry. But unless you are in a circumstance where your financial future is already cared for (such as a classmate of mine who came to seminary after a 30-year military career, and his Army pension will cover his retirement), the negotiation of terms of call is the time to begin thinking about this.
I want to split this topic up between two posts. In this post I'll discuss the "what and why" of retirement savings, and in the next post I'll cover the "how"-- looking at some strategies for getting it done.
I shouldn't have to define "retirement savings" as a concept, but I will say this in terms of preliminary remarks: it would be naive or foolish, or both, for anyone to assume that their earning ability will only increase throughout life. Thus, think of retirement savings as preparation for the time when you are less willing or less able to maintain maximum workload. (Frankly, that day may come a lot sooner than what is typically considered "retirement" age.)
Many people have a lot to say about how to think about planning for retirement, and almost every one of these people is more knowledgeable than I am. Thus, I'll keep my remarks to a minimum, and instead refer you to better sources of information.
- For starters, be aware that Social Security is itself a retirement plan of sorts; I have already offered my comments (here and here) about whether an ordained pastor should exercise his legal right to apply for exemption from the Social Security system, and I'll simply follow those comments with this remark: it seems to me that opting out is far too individualistic for a Christian to be comfortable with.
- Rick Warren's Pastors.com has a great article on planning for retirement, written by a veteran pastor who is himself retired.
- Crown Financial Ministries offers good advice on planning for the future (including retirement) in their Pastor's Corner. They also have this article on retirement planning on their regular site. (Note: there is a lot of other helpful information in both areas.)
- The Wesleyan church's General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has a very thorough handbook for their Board of Ordained Ministry, which includes this chapter, "Retirement Planning and Relationships," which offers good food for thought on how a denomination is responsible for caring for its pastors.
- This article from Your Church magazine has some very helpful data on retirement planning based on good research.
- Naturally, Pastors in the Presbyterian Church in America will want to be in contact with the PCA's Retirement and Benefits office.
- Finally, you may want to see this NY Times piece on saving less for retirement!