How to Start the Pension Conversation

How to Start the Pension Conversation

By: Curtis Towns, Head of CCCC Pension Plan Administration

Importance of a Pension

CCCC recently surveyed 415 employers, finding that 34% of respondents do not currently have a pension plan in place for their employees.

This is concerning from the perspective of employee attraction and retention because 78% of Canadian workers indicate that the availability of a pension plan is a major factor in deciding to accept a job.1 On top of that, it’s important to note that 70% of Canadians are concerned they are not saving enough for their retirement.

Additional insights from the survey

Of the respondents who offer a plan:

  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) are part of a larger group plan, like the CCCC Multi-Employer Pension Plan.
  • The most common contribution rate is 5% of the employee’s income, with 69% of employers making contributions equal to at least 5%.
  • Seventy-four percent (74%) require their employees to make contributions to participate (i.e., matching).

Of the respondents not offering a plan:

  • Thirty-four percent (34%) cite it being too expensive as a key reason for not offering a plan.
  • Nine percent (9%) provide at least one of the following reasons: (1) unsure of the value, (2) seems complicated, and/or (3) employees do not appear to want one.
  • Nineteen percent (19%) want to offer a plan soon, 14% want to offer one down the road, and 44% are not sure if they want to offer a pension plan.

Pension plans are valued

We hear from many ministry workers who believe—given their relatively low levels of compensation throughout their life of ministry—they may not have enough when they transition to a stage of life where their earning potential is reduced.

Pension plans help with long-term retirement planning

We have received inquiries from employers who are hoping to help their employees “catch up” in their remaining working years. These questions usually centre around (1) what the maximum contribution rate is and (2) whether they may continue to pay out retiring allowances after the employee retires to help sustain them.

While these approaches may be possible, they are at great risk of falling short of what the employee will need. They may also overextend the employer’s financial obligations to former employees while having to fund newer employees. Additionally, these late-stage approaches do not take advantage of the long-term growth that can be gained by investing early and consistently throughout an employee’s working years.

I respect that there are different views on “retirement” in Christian ministry. There may also be different views on the appropriateness of financial investments to provide for future income.

For those who are paying current compensation to their ministry workers, setting aside a portion of that compensation as employer contributions to a pension fund on behalf of the employee can be a great blessing. As managers or stewards, prudent investing and saving for the future can be a powerful tool to prepare for the years when the income will not be maintained at the same level—much like how Joseph stored up food during years of plenty to sustain people through years of famine.

A retirement program for employees recognizes a partnership between the employer and the employee. It illustrates that while the employee devotes a portion of their working years to the work of your ministry, the ministry will participate in providing for the employee’s compensation for the later years.

How to Start the Conversation

If you are a decision maker or perhaps a potential pension participant, you may be wondering how to get the pension plan conversation started for your ministry. I offer the following suggestions:

  • Start learning about the topic. For example, read about the importance of various employee benefits. You may wish to start with the CCCC article entitled, “The Many Benefits of Employee Benefits.”
  • Discuss sector data. Share and discuss sector data like the simple data from the recent CCCC survey shared above.
  • Explore options. Consider learning about some of your options such as the CCCC Pension Plan. Visit this page to explore more about the CCCC Pension Plan!

The key is to start the conversation and see where it goes! Perhaps others within your ministry have been wanting to bring it up but have been hesitant to do so, especially during this challenging time of COVID-19. You may be surprised to hear that during COVID-19 we have seen an increase of inquiries about the CCCC Pension Plan—meaning other ministries are now thinking about this too!

1 James Peirlot, “Outsourcing pensions to attract talent,” Canadian HR Reporter (1 May 2019),