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A Historian’s Guide to Looking Ahead

Spending time with family, cultivating hobbies and interests, and serving God in new ways: this was how Rev. Jim Pyatt visualized spending his retirement, and he was determined that financial worries wouldn’t cloud this vision. Thanks to his decision to start saving for retirement early, his ideal retirement has become his reality. But what steps led him there?

photo of Rev. Pyatt

Like Grandfather, Like Father, Like Son - Eventually

Although Rev. Pyatt grew up a pastor’s son and grandson, it didn’t look like he would follow their footsteps in ministry. His struggle between a call to ministry and a love of history would be best illustrated by the items on his desk during his senior year in college.

“I had several applications to seminary along with my applications to graduate programs in music history,” he remembered.

Rev. Pyatt eventually chose graduate school in the field of music history but found himself seeking solace and a sense of fulfillment through active involvement in the church. “And I said, ‘Lord, I’ll be active in the Church—just don’t ask me to get up and preach every Sunday morning’,” he said.

But the nagging feeling that he was called to doing ministry in the local church persisted, and he eventually answered the call. Many people in his church community assumed or hoped he would succeed his father, and when he finally did, it seemed everything had fallen into place. “I am third-generation clergy, not because of my choosing, but because of God’s,” he said. After 38 years of full-time ministry in the Western North Carolina Conference, God’s plan brought Rev. Pyatt to retirement.

Passing the Baton of Wisdom

Much like the rest of us, Rev. Pyatt was not sure exactly when he would be retiring, but he knew that, Lord willing, the time would eventually come. “I figured it would be better to retire while I was still in relatively good health and mobility so I could accomplish the things I haven’t had the time or money to do,” he explained. This meant starting to save for retirement early.

Rev. Pyatt first learned about the value of saving early through his own father’s actions. With three sons to raise, Rev. Pyatt’s father invested what little he could in his retirement plan through Wespath.

Even investing a small amount each month, his father was able to expand his retirement income and provide for his family when he passed away.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Rev. Pyatt began contributing with his very first paycheck $25 to his retirement savings account—around $71 today. “The treasurer of the circuit I was serving at the time pulled me aside and said, ‘Jim, do you realize if the market continues as it is now, you’re going to have an additional quarter million dollars when you retire?’ Basically, he was saying that what I was doing was very wise, long-term,” recalled Rev. Pyatt.

The treasurer had been quite right—Rev. Pyatt’s account balance increased more than enough to cover the mortgage payments on the house he purchased for his post-retirement years. “Starting to invest on day one was a major contributor to my ability to pay off my debts on time,” he said. “Another big factor was how well Wespath was managing my retirement funds. I can remember about 25 years ago having lunch with a group of ministers and discussing the amazing rate of return that Wespath was receiving.”

Staying on Track for Retirement

Throughout his career, Rev. Pyatt took steps to ensure he was staying on track for retirement. He participated in several pre-retirement seminars, closely monitored his investments and scheduled a consultation with EY Financial Planning Services (EY) advisors. Plus, after speaking to Wespath’s Benefit Educators during a pre-retirement workshop in 2019, he decided to double his personal contributions to UMPIP.

“My word of advice for those questioning investment managers: look at the past track record and have more than a little trust in it,” added Rev. Pyatt. “When I look at Wespath, I see it’s been around for quite a while and has done an excellent job of taking care of ‘overwhelmed’ clergy,” a play on the name of the first retirement plan for Methodist clergy, the “worn out preachers fund.”

In June 2023, feeling that he had successfully guided his church through the pandemic—and that with the help of Wespath he was set up for post-employment financial stability— Rev. Pyatt was finally ready to retire.

Looking Back From the End of the Track

In his retirement, Rev. Pyatt continues to work as a part-time archivist for the Western North Carolina Conference Commission on Archives and History thanks to his ongoing interest and expertise in local church history and research. He and his wife Janet have also been able to take a long overdue trip to visit their daughter in Kentucky – and the beach.

Looking back on his life, Rev. Pyatt remembers the best thing about life in ministry: “I found it exciting when people were responding to the gospel in concrete, tangible ways,” he said. He also offers some final words of wisdom to those planning for retirement: “Realize where your strengths are and play to them—be willing to defer to those that have experienced managing multimillion-dollar investments. Start investing with your first paycheck. Finally, periodically participate in the retirement planning opportunities that Wespath offers. You’ll be grateful you did—I know I am.”

A Family History Embedded in the Church

Rev. Jim Pyatt’s interest in local church history is likely due to his family’s involvement in the Western North Carolina Conference and him being a third-generation pastor. He noted that between him, his father and grandfather, one of them had likely served in almost any place in the conference. One of his father’s appointments was at Rev. Pyatt’s mother’s home church, where his uncle was chair of the Council of Ministries, the organist was Rev. Pyatt’s cousin, and the choir director was a long-time friend of Rev. Pyatt’s mother.

photo of Rev. Pyatt

“My last appointment... the sanctuary we were in was built in 1930 when my great uncle was pastor there, whom I never knew because he died two years before I was born. But he was married to one of my paternal grandmother's younger sisters. And as we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the building, there were only two people who were part of the church who were related to the building committee at that point. The chair of the building committee's grandson is still a member of the church and continues the family business. And then me as the great nephew of the pastor who was there when the sanctuary was built, which was kind of neat. And nobody was aware of that connection until I was there and I looked at the list of former ministers and saw Uncle Joe served here.”

EY Financial Planning 101

There are no forms to fill out, no enrollment steps to complete and no fees to pay—no matter how much help you need.1 Call EY Financial Planning Services (EY) directly at 1-800-360-2539 business days from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central time to speak with a financial planner or message a planner after you sign in to EY Navigate.

Start Your Personal Contributions

Now Whatever your age, whatever your salary, making personal contributions to your retirement plan is a good idea!2 For more information, check in with your human resources representative or visit wespath.org/r/pip to download your Personal Investment Plan (PIP) form. Do your future self a favor today.

1 EY is available to active Wespath participants and surviving spouses with account balances. Costs are included in Wespath’s operating expenses that are paid for by the funds.

2 Historical returns are not indicative of future performance.

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