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Early Retirement

Started by Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, October 14, 2021, 09:14:31 AM

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Richard Johnson

I retired at 63 1/2, but was already slated to be teaching for Fuller Seminary for perhaps five or six courses per academic year. That provided enough income, along with the pension choices I made, that I could put off Social Security until I was 70. My wife was still working, and I was actually already on her health insurance, so that continued until Medicare kicked in (at which time I signed up for the Portico Medicare supplement). After a complete hiatus from pastoral ministry for a year or two, I started helping out at the Episcopal parish we joined, which entailed preaching a few Sundays a year and a few Thursdays, as well as some adult education classes (all non-stipendiary). The teaching opportunities ceased right about the time Social Security kicked in. All in all, we probably have less financial stress than when we were both working full time.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Dave Benke

Quote from: peter_speckhard on October 14, 2021, 02:22:38 PM
I think the kind of fatigue that affects many of us who grew up with the old expectations of what church and society were and now find ourselves in a world where everything has changed is not physical or mental in the regular sense of doing exercise or figuring out a brain teaser. It is the unavoidable fatigue of being responsible for something that isn't working and not knowing what to do about that. Part of may be perception. I remember a pastor friend whose church really grew in the twenty-something and thirty-something crowds said one key to his success with them is that he grew up an atheist and was a convert to Christianity, so he had no built-in vision of what things were supposed to be like. For example, younger people don't come to church every week, they come every now and then. To him there was nothing particularly abnormal about that, but other pastors would tear out their hair trying to figure it. Naturally he encouraged regular attendance, but the lack of it didn't drain him.

That's why I think a model that might work in the future is having the "senior" pastor actually be the junior pastor and having the more experienced pastor serve as a sounding board. What saps the energies of an older pastor doesn't necessarily phase a younger pastor, and most of the areas of ministry affected by that are in the decision-making and administrative side of things. If you're a stranger in a strange land, get help from the locals on logistical/organizational things, and the young people are native to this new world.   

That's a good suggestion at the same time it's a recipe for disaster.  The right #2 and #1 guy, sure.  The usual #2 and #1 guy and the former #2 does not want a sounding board, or the former #1 wants the sounding board to be the seal of approval for what he the #1 would want to do; the other ingredient is the people in the pew, who either wanted or didn't want the new arrangement and either will still go to the former #1 or will tell the new #1 they never liked the old guy and not to take any advice he gives. 

That being said, people are a little more able to work this through these days because there are less viable options out in the field - in other words, the grass is not actually looking greener in the other pasture, it's more like some kind of mold or fungus over there and we don't want to catch it.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

Charles Austin

#17
I went on leave from call at 60 because the newspaper wanted me back covering religion. Four years later, they needed me back in the trenches as general assignment/politics reporter, so I did that for two years, then took full retirement, pension and social security. But I failed at retirement, taking interims or half-time interims for 10 years and a two-year gig teaching one course per semester on creative writing to first-year students at a state university.
Beloved Spouse retired at 66. Her union provides both of us with insurance supplemental to Medicare. Three years ago, at 77, we sold our house and moved to Minneapolis, living independently in a place where we can get other care if and when we need it.
Pensions, social security and savings enable us to feel secure.
I miss assisting in parishes, which I always did in New Jersey, especially during holidays. And I miss the guys I sang with. Beloved Spouse, her eyesight failing, misses her previous activities - NJ Master Gardeners, League of Women Voters, and lunches with "the girls."
But life changes and we must adjust.
My advice: begin planning your retirement finances when you get your first job out of college.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

J. Thomas Shelley

#18
My family's journey into the Orthodox Church has already been documented in this Forum:

https://alpb.org/Forum/index.php?topic=5681.msg352315#msg352315

At the time of that writing I was 54 1/2, way too young to retire.  But there is very little market for former parish clergy. 

Early the following year I landed a job as the Business Manager of the local Corps of  The Salvation Army.   I was not a particularly good fit, in part because I followed a gentleman who had held that position for twenty years.  We all know how the successor to a long-termer can be ill-received.   I was terminated after about two and a quarter years...then 57.

That happened in early June.   The "day after" happened, by God's grace, to be the first day of one of our three day Greek Food Festivals so I threw myself into the work.   Being early June there was plenty to keep me busy after the Festival, living on 11 semi-wooded acres with about 1/3 of it mowed.   Then it was time to work on the final essays for the Antiochian House of Studies, attend the final Residency, and graduate from the three year program.

So for  that year and into the next we lived on my wife's "top of the salary scale" teacher's salary and she began to contemplate retirement at the end of the 2018-2019 School Year.   She served notice to the School Board in January 2019.  Less than a fortnight later she suffered a non-traumatic hip fracture; beginning a new chapter in my vocational life of becoming primary caregiver.   Hemi-hip replacement surgery took place in February.  But by early March the hip became infected and she needed a second surgery, followed by six weeks of central line antibiotics.    At that point it was clear that retirement could not wait until the end of the School Year.  The boilerplate "enjoy your retirement" rang very hollow.

Recovery progressed well through the summer...graduating from walker to cane to nothing.  And we had two delightful trips to Rehoboth Beach that autumn.  Then, on December 5, she fell from a single large step in a friend's house fracturing BOTH ankles.  More surgery, just as the Western "Great O" evenings began.  Christmas was in a wheelchair; no weight bearing on the right foot and minimal on the left.

More recovery....the final orthopedic boot/cast was removed on March 13, 2020. 

Just in time.

Another good summer and autumn--or, "as good as could be expected for the shape we're all in"--and then in early December 2020 she developed severe flu-like symptoms.  Yup---COVID with pneumonia.  Christmas was in the hospital; alone.  My Christmas was doing "Reader's Services" before our Icons because having been exposed I was required to be absent from the community; my first Christmas NOT in Church of my conscious life.

Recovery this time involved an oxygen concentrator and portable oxygen tanks.  Glory to God, they parted from our lives toward the end of Great Lent.

Of course during those caregiving years I crossed the magic threshold of 59 1/2 and could take IRA distributions without penalty.  They are being used to pay for the health insurance through the School District.  It is a "Cadillac" plan at an extremely competitive price.

So now we are fully retired, yet with health restored keeping very busy with life in Penn's Woods.  There is never boredom.  Mowing and gardening season gives way to winter preparations and Christmas outdoor decorating which gives way to undecorating, snow plowing, and tending the wood stove which supplements the electric heat pump.  Tending the stove also means sectioning and splitting the many ash trees felled by the emerald ash borer and moving the firewood from "seasoning rack" to "working rack" and then eventually to storage in the house.  Never a dull moment.

As parish life becomes more normalized there are the frequent weekday liturgies; choir practices, gearing up for Festivals (serious food prep begins weeks in advance) and other activities. 

I am still awaiting Ordination to the Diaconate.  Somehow I managed to pass the required Psychological Examination which was the final hurdle...now waiting for a date for His Eminence to make an episcopal visit to York.  But in the meantime I am finding great satisfaction in assisting the senior chanters and supervising the Altar Boys.  My Priest has asked me to provide a column for the parish newsletter so having a platform for proclamation once again--albeit written, not spoken--is a great blessing.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

peter_speckhard

Quote from: Dave Benke on October 14, 2021, 05:47:14 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on October 14, 2021, 02:22:38 PM
I think the kind of fatigue that affects many of us who grew up with the old expectations of what church and society were and now find ourselves in a world where everything has changed is not physical or mental in the regular sense of doing exercise or figuring out a brain teaser. It is the unavoidable fatigue of being responsible for something that isn't working and not knowing what to do about that. Part of may be perception. I remember a pastor friend whose church really grew in the twenty-something and thirty-something crowds said one key to his success with them is that he grew up an atheist and was a convert to Christianity, so he had no built-in vision of what things were supposed to be like. For example, younger people don't come to church every week, they come every now and then. To him there was nothing particularly abnormal about that, but other pastors would tear out their hair trying to figure it. Naturally he encouraged regular attendance, but the lack of it didn't drain him.

That's why I think a model that might work in the future is having the "senior" pastor actually be the junior pastor and having the more experienced pastor serve as a sounding board. What saps the energies of an older pastor doesn't necessarily phase a younger pastor, and most of the areas of ministry affected by that are in the decision-making and administrative side of things. If you're a stranger in a strange land, get help from the locals on logistical/organizational things, and the young people are native to this new world.   

That's a good suggestion at the same time it's a recipe for disaster.  The right #2 and #1 guy, sure.  The usual #2 and #1 guy and the former #2 does not want a sounding board, or the former #1 wants the sounding board to be the seal of approval for what he the #1 would want to do; the other ingredient is the people in the pew, who either wanted or didn't want the new arrangement and either will still go to the former #1 or will tell the new #1 they never liked the old guy and not to take any advice he gives. 

That being said, people are a little more able to work this through these days because there are less viable options out in the field - in other words, the grass is not actually looking greener in the other pasture, it's more like some kind of mold or fungus over there and we don't want to catch it.

Dave Benke
Yes, it's like a gutsy play call. If it works, the coach is a genius. If not, what the bleep was he thinking? I've always had good success in team ministry. After my MAL experience I was an associate for a few years and have been senior pastor of two larger, multi-staff churches for the last twenty years, and never had a bad working relationship with staff or emeritus guys. But I know many people for whom the blessing of team ministry was very well hidden indeed behind character-building train wreck experiences. So I know I have been blessed in that regard.

I think you come to a point where you realize someone who knows the waters should be at the helm and someone who knows the ship should be assisting. Increasingly, I feel like I know the ship but not the waters, and I suspect someone who is in his twenties right now is in the opposite position of knowing the waters but not the ship. It might not be here just yet, but the day will come when I am far more effective as the one who gets the ship to go where the captain wants it than the one who is charting the course.

Brian Stoffregen

I retired at 69. The congregation could no longer afford a full-time minister. (And I hadn't received a raise during my 12 years here, which I told them isn't a good policy. We didn't need the money, and they couldn't afford it; but the same may not be true for the next pastor.)


We had received a nice inheritance from my wife's folks. It's been invested and we receive some of the interest each month. I put my pension in the ELCA's Annuity program and it is paying me slightly more than the congregation did - and it will last our life-times. Considering my mother is still alive at almost 92; and my wife's parents both lived into their 90s; it could be a long life. (Dad was exposed to asbestos in the Navy during WWII and died of the asbestos cancer at age 78.) Deductions from the annuity pay for my supplemental health insurance, and Federal taxes are withheld. Being through the church, that income is designated housing allowance. What we spend on our house is tax free, like it was when I was working. My wife waited until 70 to collect her Social Security to get the maximum for her and for me. I receive more through her SSA than I would through mine.


Like some others have noted, we are a bit better financially off than when we were when working. And, I understand, we'll be getting a raise with our Social Security income! It's also possible to get raises (or decreases) in the annuity payments depending on how the fund has done during the year.

There would have been some advantages to moving away from this location, but my mother still lives in town on her own, and we are looking after her. We had also used some inheritance money to remodel our house to the way my wife likes it. We also decided to trade in both cars for one that would be comfortable for the road trips we've done and plan to do. We just got back from about a 1600 road trip in 8 days, where I officiated at a relative's baptism (with their pastor's permission and participation). Earlier this summer we did nearly 5000 miles over five weeks. We've called it our 50th Anniversary Road trip. Part of it was four days in Seattle with our sons, who treated us to a very nice hotel and a couple of fancy dinners - the type where the chef chooses the menu.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

D. Engebretson

#21
From stories among some here, and others I have observed in my parish, there is no doubt that health factors heavily into retirement, regardless of age.  We cannot plan the future of our health even if we have pre-existing conditions, as I and my wife have.  I know that having Medicare as a starting point is one of the factors of when to retire. Health insurance is simply too expensive to pay on ones own, unless you are independently wealthy, which the vast majority of pastors are not.

Having lived in a rural area, and watching the changes of EMS service over the last number of years, I realize that it is also good to plan to be close to such services as you age, as well as a good hospital qualified to provide critical care. Volunteer EMTs are declining and my own department, which covers three townships in the county, does not even have one fully dedicated EMT.  Departments in communities to the north and east have shut down due to an inability to keep adequately staffed and funded.  Thus, the city's very capable department, staffed with paramedics, often has to respond to distances well beyond 20 miles.  But even the city is showing signs of challenge here and it looks like they are going to lessen their standards of firefighter/paramedic to firefighter/EMT given the shortage of the former.  The city is less than 10,000.

Thus, my plan is to move to a more metro area where such services can be provided (although one that is still under 40,000).  As we age health concerns often come in the more critical category (e.g. heart and stroke), and serious falls are far more likely.  It's going to happen.  We should plan for it.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Charles Austin

And, Pastor Engebretsen:
There are classes that teach those of us who are senior how not to fall, or if we do fall how not to break the wrong bones.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

J. Thomas Shelley

#23
Quote from: Charles Austin on October 15, 2021, 10:05:04 AM
And, Pastor Engebretsen:
There are classes that teach those of us who are senior how not to fall, or if we do fall how not to break the wrong bones.

One of the best proactive, anti-fall measures (ideally begun in mid life, if not sooner) is to do dumbbell strength training on a Swiss stability ball.

While the particular exercise, be it bicep curls, military presses, flat bench presses, or tricep presses works the upper body the need to stay balanced strengthens the abdominal core plus develops one's sense of balance to become acutely aware of being "on the edge" of tipping and adjusting accordingly.  Best exercises for core build up on the ball are crunches (weighted or unweighted) and trunk twists.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Charles Austin

The "core" is a favorite target of Samantha (Sam), our head fitness coach.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

Dave Likeness

The best way to start building up your abdominal core:

Avoid being overweight and having a big belly.   Maintain
the proper weight for your height and bone structure.
Obesity is still a major health problem in America. Walking
has always been the best natural exercise for your body.

Charles Austin

Until the knees and hips go.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

Dave Benke

Quote from: Dave Likeness on October 15, 2021, 01:53:22 PM
The best way to start building up your abdominal core:

Avoid being overweight and having a big belly.   Maintain
the proper weight for your height and bone structure.
Obesity is still a major health problem in America. Walking
has always been the best natural exercise for your body.

Having been in AZ for a week, I have heard (on the golf course and off) the manifold stories of body part replacement in service of continued ability to move about and do something athletic.  A 79 year old woman showed me her tennis tournament photos as a major amateur winner from the 1960s, then the photos of her shoulder and hip replacements, which seemed TMIish.  And most lately, her photos as the age-designated woman's amateur golf champion of Arizona.  I found that helpful to me in competitive mode to keep on hitting the little ball.  I actually (personal accomplishment mode activated) scored below my age three times, and won two dollars from the woman in side bets.  Keep moving, something might be gaining on you, in the words of Satchel Paige.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

J. Thomas Shelley

#28
Quote from: Charles Austin on October 15, 2021, 02:10:06 PM
Until the knees and hips go.

Strength training helps to increase bone density.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Charles Austin

Too late. When I had to give up skiing, I did some work with weights two, perhaps three times a week. My guess is it wasn't enough, or other factors came into play.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

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