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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Ready to retire? Wait up!

If you're taking early retirement this year, check out changes in the law. The Social Security retirement age is increasing from 65 to 67 — a change that's been in the works for 16 years.

If that idea makes you tense, look at retirement the way Ronald Glusenkamp does. "It opens some doors and calls us to new opportunities," says the ELCA Board of Pensions staffer. "[Many people continue to serve in vital ways after retirement] using the various gifts God gives us."

The choice is still up to you. If you do retire at age 62 this year, your benefit will be slightly less than in the past — $721 a month for the typical person rather than the old formula's $728.

Starting with people born in 1938, the normal Social Security eligibility age will rise by two months for each year until it reaches 66 for those born in 1943. It stays at 66 for everyone born through the end of 1954. After that, the two-month-a-year climb begins again and is capped at 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

The bright side is that for those who wait past their normal eligibility age to start collecting, the benefits will gradually rise, up to 8 percent for those born in 1943 or later.

The new ruling won't affect the ELCA plan, says David Adams of the pension board. The plan already allows people to make a gradual transition to retirement with flexible distribution options, he says.

Glusenkamp emphasizes that the law affects only the Social Security part of people's three-part retirement plan: Social Security, Board of Pensions or another employer retirement plan, and personal savings.

Adams points out that the eligibility age for Medicare isn't affected by the changes and will remain at 65.

"Raising the retirement age makes all the sense in the world with our increased life expectancy," Adams says.

The Board of Pensions offers 29 preretirement seminars to ELCA pastors and rostered staff this year. For more information, check the board's Web site at www.elcabop.org/.


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