Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pensioners’ Lunch.

Last Wednesday two dozen or so retired church workers, their wives, husbands and widows met at Ivey’s Restaurant in Robertsdale, Alabama, for our annual lunch as guests of the Presbyterian Board of Pensions. Most of those present were ministers and their wives or widows. One was a retired church secretary who came with her husband, and one was the widow of the sexton who served the Spring Hill Church for thirty years. She came with her daughter.

We seniors look forward to this annual gathering for three reasons. First of all, it is the only time of the year when many of us see each other, and we enjoy this social aspect of the occasion. We are a compatible group.

We also come, let us admit it, because a meal at Ivey’s is worth the drive to Robertsdale. This year the restaurant offered a choice of three seafood dinners and one each of chicken and pork. Ivey’s is a few miles north of the Gulf of Mexico--but “south of the salt line,” as Eugene Walter would say--so fresh seafood is a specialty.

The real draw, however, is Clark Simmons, our host.
Clark is a tall, good looking and personable young man who is the Regional Representative of our Pension Board, i.e., “our guy” at the Board. He stands ready, twelve months of the year, to inform us or assist us with any question or matter related to our pensions and medical coverage.

Every year Clark reports on the financial solvency behind our retirement benefits. He’s a straight talker who tells it like it is and whom we always believe. He usually reports a “good experience credit” to our pensions. A raise, in other words.

This year Clark had good news and bad news. The bad news was no surprise. Though the Board’s investments did better than the market as a whole, their value dropped noticeably in the last year. Without a good experience in the market, there can be no raise this July, and likely not for several Julys to come. “Plan accordingly,” Clark advised us.

The good news is that there will be no cut. Our benefits are still adequately underwritten, our pensions still secure for years to come. That’s as much as we dare hope for in these lean times.

Hooray for the Pensions Board! I wish they were managing my personal portfolio.

And thanks, Clark, for the good lunch and report. I slept well Wednesday night.

~ Bert Johnston
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