Navigating the road to retirement
by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Communications | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — When the Apostle Paul wrote about the varieties of God-given abilities conferred by the Spirit, the Rev. Peggy Krong — a gifted former English teacher — would be the first to admit that she likely missed out on the gift of financial expertise.
“People who are close to me know that I’m not great with finances,” she said.
Krong, an active Presbyterian for more than 50 years who had always sensed a call to ministry, was advised by nearly everyone that attending seminary and making a career change was not a good idea. For financial reasons.
“But my home pastor gave me the best advice,” she recalled. “‘Peggy,’ he told me, ‘don’t do it unless you can’t not do it.’”
Because God’s call indeed proved irresistible to Krong, she entered the Graduate Theological Union —affiliated with San Francisco Theological Seminary — in 1992. After earning her M.Div. and being ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in 1996, she served Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in San Antonio and Westwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles for a combined total of more than 15 years prior to her retirement in 2012.
“Although I have never regretted my decision to enter ministry, I do regret that my career change and life circumstances left me with minimal resources for retirement,” she said.
As a lifelong educator, Krong has often availed herself of the many educational resources available through the church, especially the programs offered by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). When she learned about a clergy retirement planning seminar sponsored by the Board of Pensions in her area, she immediately signed up to attend in preparation for her own retirement.
“When I learned about the assistance programs of the church,” she said, “I felt that people who have served their entire lives in the mission field should be getting that money, not people like me.”
But later, when financial barriers jeopardized her ability to move into the Monte Vista Grove Homes in Pasadena, California, a long-standing Presbyterian retirement community well suited to her needs, she listened to a close friend’s wise counsel.
“My friend reminded me that everybody has different gifts, and while financial planning wasn’t one of mine, I had contributed much to the church and denomination through my service,” said Krong. “She then encouraged me to contact the Board of Pensions.”
Facing this financial challenge after a lifetime of service, Krong found just the support she needed through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions. The trusted PC(USA) agency granted her immediate assistance by partially paying the retirement home’s required entrance fee and later set her up with an ongoing Housing Supplement to help her manage the monthly fees.
The support that Krong receives is made possible, in part, by the PC(USA)’s annual Christmas Joy Offering, a cherished Presbyterian tradition since the 1930s, which distributes gifts equally to the Assistance Program and to Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color.
The Assistance Program provides need-based grants to help active and retired plan members and their families. Housing Supplements help eligible retirees and surviving spouses with the cost of remaining in their homes or moving to retirement facilities, as Krong did.
“A life committed to the work of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one of selflessness and generosity,” said Lucas McCool, director of Member Services for the Board of Pensions. “Because Peggy has brought her gifts of valuing community above all — and at times even herself — I am grateful that she reached out to us for assistance in her time of need.”
Ever since she first connected with the Board of Pensions, Krong said that every interaction has been a pleasure.
“I’ll shout it from the rooftops,” she said. “The Board of Pensions is a fabulous ministry of the Presbyterian Church! In every single phone exchange that I have had with them, they have been compassionate and well informed. If only they could give seminars across the country on how to serve people with efficiency and grace. They are just an incredible gift!”
A gift that Presbyterians regularly support by giving generously to the Christmas Joy Offering — the perfect gift for the season.
“We’re all children of God, and we all struggle,” said Krong. “Thanks to the Board of Pensions and the Christmas Joy Offering, I can now be of more service to the church than I would otherwise have been without this assistance. I just can’t express enough how grateful I am.”
Give to the Christmas Joy Offering to help the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions support our leaders: past, present and future.
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