On average, pensioners in the Benefits Plan live nine years longer than the average for Americans as a whole. You might think our actuaries would think that is bad news, but in reality it is something we cherish and celebrate. We rejoice in each member’s longevity and have maintained the resources to provide financial support for the totality of each life.

WebMD has assembled information from numerous studies that have attempted to explain why some people live significantly longer than the average. This online medical information service cites 18 key factors in longevity. In addition to the expected factors, having to do with weight, diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol, and sleep, WebMD lists four important factors at which our population likely excels.

Worship the Lord!

“People who attend religious services tend to live longer than those who don’t. In a 12-year study of people over age 65, those who went more than once a week had higher levels of key immune system protein than their peers who didn’t. The strong social network that develops among people who worship together may boost your health.”


“You’ll never completely avoid stress, but you can learn ways to control it. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.” Making prayer a part of your daily routine will make space for this kind of quiet focus. “Even a few minutes a day can make a difference.”

Practice Forgiveness

“Letting go of grudges has surprising physical health benefits. Chronic anger is linked to heart disease, stroke, poorer lung health, and other problems. Forgiveness will reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and help you breathe more easily.” These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Embrace Your Purpose in Life

We believe life has meaning that comes from God’s act of creation and Christ Jesus’ work of redemption. “Japanese researchers found men with a strong sense of purpose were less likely to die from stroke, heart disease, or other causes over a 13-year period than those who were less sure of themselves. Being clear about what you’re doing and why can also lower your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.”

The full list can be seen at http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/ss/slideshow-longer-life-secrets.

It is also true that Presbyterian plan members spend fewer dollars in medical claims than the general population when adjusted for age. That is to say that for our plan members, whose average age is 54, the amount of medical claims is LESS than the actuarial models would predict.

This is all good news. But we know that life is much more than its measure in years. That is why the Board of Pensions is building its work around the concept of wholeness: spiritual, health, financial, and vocational. This wholeness is evident in our CREDO program, in our member education, in Call to Health, in the preventive care emphasis in our plan design, and in every aspect of our Assistance Program.

We are a connectional church and it is through community that we care for each other. We pool our resources and our expertise to extend love and support “to all, as any has need.” Perhaps there is one more factor WebMD cites that fits us well:

“A look at results from 148 more studies shows a clear link between social ties and a long life.”

Praise be to God.

Grace and peace,

The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer

Welcome to Board Connections, a newsletter from The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This publication highlights recent Board news and important updates and information. We hope you find this newsletter useful, and we welcome your feedback at any time.

Clergy Effective Salaries Reports Available

The Board has compiled effective salary data for 2017 to assist decision makers with reviewing clergy compensation. Two reports are available, one organized by congregation size and years of service and the other by synod. Read more on pensions.org.

These reports are separate from the Board’s salary study that reports effective salary information for various calculations under the Benefits Plan. For information based on that study, see the Parish Ministry Salary Study, 2018 Median Effective Salaries Available article and the salary study document on pensions.org.

Making Investment Choices for Your Retirement Savings

If you save regularly for retirement, you’ve taken the first step toward implementing a sound retirement savings strategy. Now, consider taking the next step regularly reviewing your asset allocation and diversification. How you invest your hard-earned savings can be just as important as how much you save.

The Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP) offers tools to help you decide how to invest your retirement savings. The tools you use will depend on your investment style. Some people prefer the guidance of professional advisers, available through the RSP Managed Accounts feature. Others may use the single-fund solution of target date funds, such as Fidelity Freedom Index funds, also offered as an RSP investment option. Whichever method you choose, be sure to review your strategy and approach at least once a year. Read Review Your Investment Strategy Regularly on pensions.org.

Employers Begin Selecting 2018 Benefits

It’s time for employers to begin updating their Employer Agreements for 2018.

Now through October 13, employers should log on to Benefits Connect to review, update, and submit their Agreements for 2018. Through this process, employers select benefits to offer employees during fall annual enrollment for coverage effective January 1 the following year. An expanded pensions.org section is available to assist employers. Read more …

Help with Transitional Expenses for College Freshmen

The Transition-to-College Assistance Grant is a one-time grant available to help offset transitional expenses — such as the purchase of a computer or dorm-room furniture — incurred by families of college freshmen.

All Benefits Plan members with dependent children who may be entering college in the 2017-2018 academic year are welcome to apply. Grant amounts range from $500 to $1,000, and eligibility is based on financial need, Medical Plan participation, and enrollment of a dependent child as a full-time freshman in an accredited college or university.

Grant applications for the 2017-2018 academic year will be accepted from August 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. To apply, complete the Transition-to-College Assistance Grant Application and return it to the Board at the address listed on the form. To learn more, read the program Overview.

Summer’s Slipping Away! Dive into Call to Health!

Summer is a great time to test the waters of Call to Health* if you haven’t already started. And if you have started but need to log a few more laps, dive back in! Make sure you earn enough points to complete Call to Health by November 17 so you don’t miss the chance for lower 2018 deductibles while improving your health and well-being.

Keep in mind, members who accumulate 2,000 points and covered spouses who reach 1,000 points also each earn a $100 Amazon gift card!

Go to calltohealth.org to participate in challenges, improve your well-being, and complete Call to Health. To learn more, check out Answer the Call to Health on pensions.org.

Are Your Vaccines Up to Date?

How long has it been since your last tetanus shot? Let National Immunization Awareness Month be a reminder to make an appointment with your physician for an annual well visit and to get the scheduled screenings, tests, and immunizations (vaccines or shots). Immunizations help protect you from dangerous — and, at times, deadly — diseases. They also help prevent the spread of disease.

To protect yourself, your eligible family members, and the people around you, be sure to get the vaccines recommended in the 2017 Preventive Schedule. Remember, the Medical Plan (PPO and EPO) pays 100 percent for your in-network preventive care visits and vaccines and screenings at the intervals on the schedule, with no deductible or copay.

Afterwards, be sure to record your preventive visit at calltohealth.org for points!*

*Call to Health is available to members and spouses enrolled in the active Medical Plan (the Highmark PPO or EPO); it is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.

It's time ...

... for employers to begin updating their Employer Agreements for 2018. Now through October 13, employers should log on to Benefits Connect to review, update, and submit their Agreements for 2018.

Highlighted E-Learning

The Considerations for Selecting Benefits: Building Your Employer Agreement web tutorial reviews how to decide who will be covered, what benefits to offer, and how much employers and employees will pay toward the cost of benefits.


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If you have questions, call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) and speak with a service representative.