More than one-third of retirement-age pastors and missionaries have less than $100,000 in their retirement savings as nearly one-half of them are concerned about their family’s financial future, according to new data published by LifeWay Research.
A total of 2,451 pastors, ministers and missionaries affiliated with 11 different Protestant denominations or networks who are retired or at least 67 years of age were questioned about their health, financial security and relationships. The survey used quotas and slight weights to balance denominational affiliation based on the number of eligible retirees.
Of the respondents surveyed, 80 percent reported being retired and 52 percent said they spent 40 years or more in ministry.
The data indicates that many retirement-aged ministry leaders are facing financial concerns and about one out of four of them are “not in good position to retire.”
Although 76 percent of respondents said they are “confident” that they will have enough money to comfortably live through retirement, 55 percent said that their household annual income is less than $60,000.
Nearly half (47 percent) said they are often concerned about their family’s financial security and 27 percent say that their own physical needs or those of their spouses have caused a financial strain.
“The fact that most pastors and missionaries feel financially ready for retirement doesn’t negate the fact that a quarter are not in a good position,” LifeWay Research President Scott McConnell said in a statement. “Health issues have complicated the financial picture for many of those with financial strains.”
Ten percent said that they had zero retirement savings stored up, while 28 percent said they have less than $50,000 saved in retirement. Thirty-six percent of missionaries, pastors and ministers surveyed said they have less than $100,000 saved up for retirement, while 49 percent said they have $100,000 or more saved in retirement.
Thirty-four percent said they have $250,000 or more saved in retirement and 7 percent said they have $1 million or more saved for retirement.
Fifteen percent of the 2,185 respondents for this question said they preferred not to answer how much they had saved in retirement.
The survey shows that 37 percent reported not having a pension plan with their current or former employer, while 59 percent said they have a pension plan.
Of those that do have a pension plan, 27 percent say that distributions are at least $2,501 per month or more. Thirty percent say that their pensions distribute between $1,001 to $2,500 per month, while 14 percent say their pensions payout $501 to $1,000 per month and 28 percent say their pensions payout between $0 and $500.
The survey also found that 94 percent of all retirement age pastors and missionaries surveyed receive Social Security benefits, with the average paying $1,824 per month.
Twenty-two percent of retirement age pastors and missionaries admitted that they need help managing their retirement funds.
More than half (59 percent) say they have some form of debt. As 8 in 10 retirement age pastors and missionaries (82 percent) reported living in a residence they own, 37 percent say they are paying off a mortgage.
Four in 10 retirement age pastors and missionaries with mortgages say they have at least 20 years left to pay, while 29 percent say they have 10 to 19 years left to pay on their mortgages.
Twenty-seven percent of retirement age missionaries and pastors say they have a car loan and 20 percent say they are paying off credit card debt.
Of those who have non-mortgage loans or debt, nearly a quarter (24 percent) say they owe at least $20,000. Four percent say they owe $100,000 or more.
When it comes to their emotional and mental state, 29 percent of retirement age pastors and missionaries reported feeling “isolated.”
Nearly one-quarter of retirement age pastors (24 percent) disagreed with the statement, “At my current church I have many close relationships.” Six percent reported that they are not currently part of a local church.
“Retirement sometimes means separation from past friends,” McConnell said. “It’s important to continue to invest in new relationships.”
Twenty-eight percent of retirement age pastors and missionaries agree with the statement “I feel like I lack purpose now that I am retired from ministry,” while 69 percent disagreed.
When it comes to their physical health, 72 percent reported being “active and healthy.” But 14 percent reported having physical disabilities. Twelve percent reported that their spouses have limitations that impact their ability to interact with others.
“While many retire from ministry in good health, aging brings with it healthcare needs for pastors and missionaries,” McConnell explained. “Some are sidelined by health needs, and others could use financial help for medical care.”
The release of the new survey follows the launch of the National Association of Evangelicals “Bless Your Pastor” campaign earlier this year. The $1 million initiative is designed to encourage churches and congregants to go beyond the church budget to show generosity to pastors. Many churchgoers are unaware that their pastors could be facing financial struggles.
A 2015 survey of over 4,000 pastors from 19 denominational groups across the U.S. sponsored by NAE found that most pastors and their families are operating with limited financial resources.
The survey also indicated that less than half of pastors made less than $50,000 per year while 60 percent said they do not receive retirement or health care benefits from their employers.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month and many churches are holding special offerings as a way to give back to financially-strapped pastors and their families.