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Portico handles clergy retirement funds

s a ministry of the ELCA, Portico Benefit Services (formerly Board of Pensions) helps more than 50,000 members “use their benefits to live well for life—dur- ing their working years and throughout retirement.” It works with pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal min-

A Barbara Berry-Bailey

predecessor church bodies, which has had a significant impact on the life of the ELCA, will fade. Future pas- tors will have spent their entire ministry, in some cases their entire life, in the ELCA rather than having had formative or professional experiences in the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America or the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches that merged nearly three decades ago. Bishop Claire Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylva-

nia Synod sees a need to maintain an age balance in the synod as larger numbers of older pastors retire, some- thing she has been considering for four years. “Tat kind of balance won’t happen unless you work for it,” she said. Since the bulge in retirements over the next few years

is—statistically at least—a sure thing, it might look as if the ELCA won’t have enough pastors. Some might also fear a shortage by looking at the number of people graduating from seminary. Earlier in the ELCA’s life, about 250 seminarians graduated each year, Strandjord said. Last year there were fewer than 200. But a clergy shortage isn’t likely to happen, say ELCA

planners and several bishops interviewed for this article. “I’m not hitting any panic button,” said Wohlrabe as he considers the possible retirements of about half of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod’s pastors. “Tere are still going to be people out there to do the work.” It appears that some of those are people who—

according to the numbers—are or should be retired. “It seems there is a trend that people are working longer,

22  November 2014 21

isters, deaconesses and lay employees sponsored by more than 7,000 organizations—ELCA congregations, synod and churchwide offices, seminaries, church-affiliated institutions, social ministries and other faith-based organizations. This includes retirees with retirement account balances, annuities or Medicare supplement coverage. The Lutheran asked Portico about its preparations for a possible wave of clergy retirements in the coming years. Stacy Kruse, chief operating and financial officer of Portico, offered the following: “Yes, we’re well aware of the anticipated retirement of larger than average numbers of clergy in the next few years. This issue has been, and continues to be, a focal point of Por- tico’s strategic planning. The leaders of this church, our plan members, are an important part of this church community, and it’s our ministry to anticipate and help them meet their needs—during their service years and into retirement. “Portico Benefit Services is aware of forecasts related to pastor demographics, including anticipated retirements. Unlike retirement benefits paid by Social Security, ELCA retire- ment assets are held in trust. Contributions made today are deposited into the trust, segregated and earmarked for each member’s use upon retirement. Similarly, the annuity assets are held in trust and adjusted based on investment perfor- mance and mortality experience. Neither trust relies on future cash flows to pay current

benefits. That’s why retirees are not dependent on active clergy to fund their retirement.

“While we help our members accumulate retirement assets during their working years, we’re focused on sup- porting them for life, equipping them to live well physically and financially throughout their retired years,” Kruse said. “Members can now access financial planning through Ernst & Young, more rigorous financial planning tools and guidance through Fidelity Investments, and the very popular Silver- Sneakers Fitness Program.”

Charles Austin

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