JRB 2023 – The Year in Review

By Mitchell J. Smilowitz, CPA

In 2023, the JRB saw significant progress both by the numbers and in terms of programmatic achievements. Here is a partial summary of our accomplishments.

By the Numbers

At the end of the year, the JRB had:

  • 3,680 Participants – Of these, 1,508 are clergy, 1,792 are executives, administrators and other non-clergy, and 380 are beneficiaries.
  • $1.17 billion in assets – an increase of $156 million.
  • Participants reaped an average investment return of 15%.
  • $27.3 million received in contributions from 1,804 Participants – an increase of $2 million over 2022.
  • $33.7 million distributed in retirement benefits to 1,054 Participants.
  • 485 retired rabbis and cantors claimed the Parsonage Allowance in retirement, a benefit only available from denominational retirement plans such as the JRB.

Programmatic Achievements

Many factors underlie the positive performance the JRB and our Participants enjoyed in 2023. Both stock and bond markets saw positive returns for the year. But investment market performance does not fully explain the results experienced by JRB Participants.

  • We reduced investment expenses.
    • The JRB took advantage of our asset growth and completed our transition to the lowest cost mutual fund share classes. Lower investment expenses mean higher returns for you.
    • Ongoing review of our investment offerings by the JRB Investment Review Committee and our investment advisor CAPTRUST ensure that we offer mutual funds that balance superior investment returns with low expenses. The JRB replaced the Western Asset Core Bond Fund with the higher performing Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund.
  • We negotiated significant improvements in the Complimentary Insurance Program for participants contributing at least $1,200 annually to their JRB retirement account.
    • Beginning on January 1, 2024, the JRB Life Insurance benefit tripled from $10,000 to $30,000.
    • JRB Disability Insurance provides up to a maximum monthly payment of $1,000.
    • If you become disabled, the JRB Pension Continuation Insurance program makes contributions to your JRB retirement account equal to the lesser of 15% of your salary or $1,250 per month.
  • In the first full year back from the pandemic, the JRB participated in six denominational events, including presentations to graduating clergy at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Zeigler School.
  • Over 300 participants received Complimentary Consultations providing a snapshot of their financial condition along with a strategy on how to build financial independence.
  • We undertook several projects designed to ensure that everyone working within the Conservative Movement has access to retirement benefits.
    • In collaboration with United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, the JRB launched a campaign to encourage synagogues to extend benefits to administrative staff including executives, administrators, custodians, etc. This included a briefing for Synagogue Consultants.
    • The JRB was a co-sponsor of the Movement’s Shabbaton and Convening, staffed a booth and hosted a well-attended workshop. The workshop discussed how Jewish teaching encourages employers to offer benefits and how the JRB plan works. We emphasized that it costs nothing for congregations to offer retirement benefits to staff through the JRB.
    • At the end of 2023, 199 congregations have administrative staff enrolled in the Plan.
  • The JRB continued publication of our monthly e-newsletter the JRB Financial Pulse. The newsletter includes practical information for participants of all ages. For instance, we published several articles on student debt, tax planning, the clergy Parsonage Allowance and investing. By providing content that appeals to our broad range of participants, newsletter readership exceeds that of most other denominational retirement plans.
  • The JRB simplified the process for claiming the Parsonage Allowance in retirement. Retired clergy need only indicate the portion of their distribution that will be claimed as a Parsonage Allowance on their Distribution Request Form.

Our plans for 2024 are equally ambitious. We can’t predict how the investment markets will perform, but our goal remains to offer the best investment offerings possible, to make sure participants have the knowledge to make educated decisions about their financial options and to expand benefits to all those working within the Conservative Movement.

If you have a question about your ability to build financial independence, please contact us or call 888-JRB-FREE (572-3733).

May 2024