If you are participating in a Church Pension Fund defined benefit plan, you will have the option to choose a survivor benefit option at retirement. This is an important part of your retirement planning.
Clergy Pension Plan
Unlike most pension plans, the Clergy Pension Plan provides eligible spouses with an automatic survivor benefit equal to 50% of the clergy retirement benefit at no cost to you. Additionally, your eligible surviving dependent children may receive a benefit.
The Clergy Pension Plan offers several payment options that allow you to choose the survivor’s benefit option that fits your circumstances.
The option you select will impact the monthly payment you receive during your lifetime and the amount your surviving spouse or other named beneficiary will receive after you die.
If you are married, your eligible spouse will receive an automatic survivor benefit equal to 50% of your monthly benefit. You may, however, choose a different option for your spouse at retirement.
- You can increase the percentage of the benefit that will be paid to your spouse after your death to 75%, or 100% of the benefit that you will receive. Selecting one of these options will decrease the monthly benefit you receive during your lifetime.
- You can select the Zero Option Adjustment, which will maximize your monthly benefit during your lifetime and eliminate the surviving spouse benefit. Your eligible spouse must consent to this option.
- You can select a “certain and continuous” benefit for 15 years, with your eligible spouse’s consent. A monthly benefit will be paid for your lifetime, and a survivor benefit will be paid for the remainder of the selected number of years if you die during that selected time period. If you live longer than the selected number of years, no survivor benefit will be paid.
- You can also choose another named beneficiary instead of your eligible spouse. Your spouse must consent to this option.
If you are single, you will automatically get the Zero Option Adjustment, as there is no automatic survivor benefit provided. Thus, your monthly benefit will be automatically enhanced. However, you have the option to receive a reduced benefit in order to provide a survivor benefit to a named beneficiary.
- You can choose to reduce your benefit and provide 50%, 75%, or 100% of your benefit to a secondary adult beneficiary of your choosing.
- You can select a “certain and continuous“ benefit for 15 years, with a named beneficiary (with no age restriction). A monthly benefit will be paid for your lifetime, and a survivor benefit will be paid for the remainder of the selected number of years if you die during that selected time period. If you live longer than the selected number of years, no survivor benefit will be paid.
The survivor benefit choice is made at retirement and cannot be changed once selected (even if your named beneficiary predeceases you).
Your retirement benefit adjustment is determined by:
- The spouse or other named beneficiary you choose
- Your age and your spouse’s or other named adult beneficiary’s age at retirement.
If you die before you retire, your eligible spouse (or other eligible preretirement survivor beneficiary) and eligible surviving dependent children may receive a monthly benefit. See Survivor’s Benefits for more information.
See Pension Benefits for more information on this and other benefits provided by the Clergy Pension Plan. You can also schedule an individual retirement discussion, and we can help you understand your options.
Social Security Survivor Benefits
It is important to understand Social Security’s retirement survivor benefits.
- If you die before your spouse (and you are both are drawing Social Security), your spouse will receive the higher of his or her benefit or your benefit. The second, smaller benefit will no longer be paid.
- If you have a minor child, there may be a child’s benefit paid to your child.
- For additional information on survivor benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Tips & Resources - Survivor's Benefits
When making retirement plans and spousal options choices, don’t forget to consider what your surviving spouse or partner will need once you pass away.
Unless otherwise noted, websites referenced herein that are outside the www.cpg.org domain are not associated with The Church Pension Fund and its affiliates (collectively, the Church Pension Group) and the Church Pension Group is not responsible for the content of any such websites.