Board of Pensions portfolio outperforms assumptions

With a market value of $9.6 billion, the Board of Pensions’ Balanced Investment Portfolio returned 10.3 percent during the first eight months of 2019, more than 4 percent over the long-term investment return assumption of 3, 10 and 20 years.

The Balanced Investment Portfolio is the investment fund for the Pension Plan, Death and Disability Plan, Endowment Fund, Medical Plan, and assistance programs as well as restricted gifts made to the Board of Pensions.

Meeting in Denver Friday and Saturday, the Board of Pensions’ Board of Directors made these decisions, according to the Board Bulletin, which is published at the conclusion of board meetings:

  • Ministers in Puerto Rico’s Synod of Boriquén participating in the Pension Plan are now eligible for Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations. That program provides financial education for ministers and congregational leaders and grants of up to $10,000 for qualifying ministers. The action nearly doubles the number of ministers in Puerto Rico who can participate in the program and was made in part to acknowledge the impact of Puerto Rico’s economic struggles on church finances. Directors also voted to allow grant money for these ministers to be applied to an emergency savings account or another retirement savings vehicle because tax laws in Puerto Rico prevent participation in the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The grant may also be used to reduce or eliminate personal debt.
  • Directors increased the maximum annual income to qualify for an assisted living Housing Supplement, from $60,910 to $66,880, effective January 1, 2020. The Board of Pensions provides housing supplements to help retired PC(USA) ministers and employees as well as surviving spouses stay in their homes or move to retirement facilities. Income Supplements are also available for eligible retirees and surviving spouses in need.
  • The budget for Board of Pensions assistance programs was established at $9.6 million for 2020, $1.6 million more than the $8 million allotted for 2019. The increase will particularly benefit expansion of Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations grants and Minister Educational Debt Assistance Grants.​ Assistance funds provide critical financial assistance to retired and active members and their families. Gifts, legacies, endowments, and one-half of the Christmas Joy Offering provide support; no dues go into the assistance funds. To facilitate the budget increase for 2020, directors approved a distribution equal to 4.5 percent of the market value of certain assistance funds, up from 4 percent in 2019. Their action followed established distribution policy.
  • Directors approved the Christmas gift from the Assistance Program to the recipients of income and housing supplements. Single individuals will receive $250; members with spouses, $500. Through the years, this extra income at Christmastime has been greatly appreciated. Many recipients have told the Board of Pensions that it has meant they could share in gift-giving. All plan members receiving income and/or housing supplements as of November 1, 2019, will receive the gift.
  • Rates for the Medicare Supplement Plan will remain unchanged in 2020, the third consecutive year without an increase. Based on positive claims experience and cost containment over the last three years, a rate increase was not needed. It was previously reported, in the Summer 2019 Board Bulletin, that an increase was likely.

The board’s next meeting will be March 5-7, 2020, in Philadelphia.