“The improper (actually, the word is ‘illegal,’ but it is such a harsh word) opting out of social security by ministers is one of the dirty little secrets of the profession.”
– 2015 Zondervan Minister’s Tax & Financial Guide
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey and a pastor will call in asking if he (it’s always male for some reason) should opt out of social security.
Dave doesn’t take any time and ask about the pastor’s religious convictions or whether the pastor is conscientiously opposed to receiving ANY kind of public assistance (social security, FEMA assistance in case of a natural disaster, CHIP, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.) and would never take them if needed and offered. Dave simply cuts the guy off, gives his pat answer about how you can invest the money better than the government can, and tells the pastor that he should opt out of social security if possible.
It is possible for a pastor to opt out of social security (within the first two years after ordination). It may even make sense from a pure money-management standpoint (if a pastor were to actually invest that money in retirement accounts). But usually, the pastor just doesn’t want to pay it and wants to use the money for something else instead.
I personally know several pastors who opted out of social security because they didn’t want to pay it. These were some of the same pastors who didn’t file quarterly taxes, freaked out on April 15, and ended up owing massive taxes with penalties and interest year after year after year! And guess what? They weren’t taking that social security money and putting it away into their 403(b) for retirement. They were just using it. And now they’re stuck and poor and there’s no social security coming in either. At least they’re getting medicaid and food stamps now (but weren’t they opposed to public insurance?).
THIS SHOULD BE ILLEGAL!
Oh, wait. It is.