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Common Questions

How do I access my Retirement Savings Plan (RSVP) account?

To access your account, go to the Retirement Savings Plan page of our website.

Am I guaranteed an annual cost–of–living increase?

No. The Board of Trustees grants cost-of-living increases at its discretion. This decision is made annually and communicated to all plan participants by mid-December. For information about cost-of-living increases for the current year, see COLA.

Was a cost of living adjustment (COLA) granted for 2016?

The CPF Board has determined there will be no cost of living increase (COLA) for beneficiaries of the Clergy Pension Plan in 2016.

Letter Mailed to All Clergy Pension Plan Beneficiaries December 11, 2015

Dear Friend,

We are writing to update you on recent actions The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees (CPF Board) has taken that relate to your benefits under The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan (the Clergy Pension Plan).

Discretionary Medicare Supplement Subsidy
As some of you know, to address inflation in healthcare costs, the CPF Board approved a 2016 subsidy increase of $20 per member/per month1 for Medicare Supplement Health Plans available through The Episcopal Church Medical Trust (The Medical Trust).

Medicare-eligible retired clergy with 20 or more years of credited service, as such term is defined under the Clergy Pension Plan (Credited Service), and their eligible spouses will receive the full subsidy. Those with 10-19 years of Credited Service will receive a subsidy on a pro-rated basis.

Please see www.cpg.org/medsupp for details. The Medical Trust notified eligible retired clergy and beneficiaries of this enhancement in October, but if you have any questions, please call us at (800) 480-9967, Monday – Friday, 8:30AM – 8:00PM ET, excluding holidays.

Discretionary Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA)
The CPF Board has determined that there will not be a COLA increase for beneficiaries of the Clergy Pension Plan in 2016.

Cost-of-living increases are not mandated by the Clergy Pension Plan rules; in fact, they are quite rare in defined benefit plans. Notwithstanding this, the CPF Board has granted them in years when the financial condition of our plans allowed for it and economic circumstances with respect to inflation justified it. More specifically, since 2011, it has been our policy not to grant a cost-of-living increase in any defined benefit plan unless it is 100% funded. Also, it has been our practice for many years to look to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Social Security Administration’s annual COLA decision for guidance on inflation.

As of September 30, 2015, the Clergy Pension Plan was fully funded; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a decline in the CPI (in other words, no inflation), and the Social Security Administration announced that it will not grant a COLA for 2016.

The CPF Board spent a great deal of time discussing the impact of these facts on our 2016 COLA decision. Weighing all of the information at our disposal, we decided to uphold our past practice of looking to the CPI and Social Security for guidance.

Christmas Benefit Check
The Church Pension Fund recently mailed an additional payment — the Christmas Benefit — to all eligible retired clergy or their beneficiaries. This additional “check” is one of the truly special benefits offered under the Clergy Pension Plan. We hope that you will find these extra funds useful during this holiday season.

As 2015 draws to a close, we feel blessed to serve those who serve The Episcopal Church. We welcome any questions you might have about this letter or about other aspects of your experience with The Church Pension Fund and its affiliates.

Wishing you a blessed Advent season.

Faithfully,

Barbara B. Creed, Esq.
Chair
The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees
Mary Kate Wold
CEO and President
The Church Pension Fund

 

1 The Church Pension Fund plans to continue to provide the Medicare Supplement subsidy. However, given the rising cost of medical care coupled with the uncertainty regarding the structure of Medicare in the future, this should not be viewed as a guarantee of the Medicare Supplement subsidy in perpetuity.

 

What We Consider When Determining COLA

Although not required by plan rules, the CPF Board has granted a COLA to beneficiaries of our defined benefit plans in years when the financial condition of the plans allowed for it. While we make our own decisions as to these increases, we have historically looked to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a benchmark to guide our thinking – a standard that many organizations, such as the Social Security Administration, look to when making decisions about cost of living increases.

The board also considers the funding status of each plan before making its annual COLA decision. In 2011, the board adopted a policy that a discretionary cost of living adjustment (COLA) will not be granted in any defined benefit plan unless the funding ratio of that plan is equal to or in excess of 1.00. A ratio of 1.00 means that a plan is 100% funded. The adoption of this policy reflects the trustees’ desire to protect the long term viability of the defined benefit plans.

What is the Funding Ratio for a pension plan?

The funding ratio, which is calculated by dividing the plan’s assets by its actuarially determined liabilities, is a measure of the financial strength of a pension plan. A funding ratio of 1.00 means a plan is 100% funded because the assets are at least equal to the actuarially determined liabilities, even with the cost of the discretionary COLA factored into the actuarial assumptions.

How much of my pension benefit can I exclude as a housing allowance for tax purposes?

You may exclude from taxable income the portion of those benefits that are used for housing expenses. For details, please download:

How do I withhold state taxes from my pension benefit?

You can elect to withhold state taxes from your pension benefit by amending your payment voucher and returning it to The Church Pension Fund.

Can I choose another beneficiary if I elected the Joint & Survivor option and my spouse dies first?

  • No. This one-time election is made at the time you retire. Once made, your election is irrevocable.
  • If you marry after retirement, your new spouse is not a beneficiary of the Clergy Pension Plan. However, you may purchase a survivor's benefit for your new spouse by permanently reducing your lifetime benefits to reflect the actuarial cost of your survivor's benefit. This election is irrevocable and must be made within 180 days of your marriage.

Can I elect another beneficiary if I elected the 10- or 15-Year Certain & Continuous Option and my designated beneficiary has died?

Yes, as long as the 10- or 15-year "certain" period has not expired. For example, if you elected the 10-year Certain and Continuous Option on July 1, 2004, and your beneficiary dies on April 14, 2007, you can choose another beneficiary because the "certain" period will not expire until July 1, 2014.

Am I still eligible for the lump sum death benefit after I retire?

No. The lump sum death benefit is only available to eligible plan participants who have not retired.

If I receive a very small monthly benefit from the plan, can I cash it out and receive a lump sum payment?

No. The clergy pension plan provides you with monthly benefits for life and, if applicable, for the life of your spouse or named beneficiary.

What if I die while receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit?

If you die after earning five years of Credited Service or before age 65 while receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit, your eligible surviving spouse or other named beneficiaries will receive a pre-retirement survivor’s benefit. This pre-retirement survivor’s benefit is generally equal to 50% of the pension benefit you would have received at your normal retirement date based on your projected Credited Service to age 65 and your Highest Average Compensation.

For details on pre-retirement benefits, please visit Survivor’s Benefits Before Your Retirement (in the Active Clergy section of this website).

Can I name a trust or my estate as my beneficiary at retirement?

No. Upon retirement, you must name an individual as the beneficiary of any retirement benefit option you choose.

My claim for a retirement benefit has been denied. What are my next steps?

If you believe that you have been denied a benefit that you are due under the Clergy Pension Plan, you have the option to file an appeal.  Download information on the claims and appeals process.

 

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