Many Clergy Ill-Prepared for Retirement

By Dave Carpenter, AP Personal Finance Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Clergy seem an unlikely group to be facing a retirement security crisis.

They generally are looked up to by their parishioners as wise and frugal. Their pay, although modest, is enough to get by on. And they typically are provided with housing during their careers.

Yet many find themselves in a financial quandary as they approach or reach retirement, squeezed by challenges that sometimes exceed those of other professionals. Often lacking home equity and a pension, some are struggling to get by and others are staying on the job longer.

The root of the problem is not just limited pay or retirement compensation, according to the Rev. Dr. Bert White, a retired Methodist clergyman and lecturer at Boston University. It's a lack of financial literacy among people who really need to take control of their personal finances or risk ending up in dire straits.

"Clergy are so focused on the hereafter, but we should know more about planning for life after work," White says.

The Rev. Richard Matthews, 72, a retired Methodist minister from Gilford, N.H., finds himself in a financial plight he never imagined possible.

After 46 years in the ministry, he receives just $1,200 a month in retirement income, most from Social Security. He is on food stamps and had to turn his thermostat down to 52 last winter so he could afford to pay his heating bill.

Matthews' annual pay package was about $75,000 when he retired from full-time duty in 2005 — about half in salary and the rest for housing and other benefits. Yet his pension income is only about $300 a month.

Stock investments once worth $200,000 were eroded in the market meltdowns of 2000 and 2008, and he had to use most of what was left to pay off a mortgage after selling his home at a loss this year.

"I went into this profession not expecting to become a wealthy person," he says. "I went into this expecting that I would be cared for by the church and the congregations that I served, only to find that when we get to the end of the road ... I'm no longer cared for. That's very difficult to swallow."

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