Feb. 28, 2013 at 7:09 AM ET
It’s good to be the pope – even a retired one, it turns out.
As Pope Benedict XVI steps down on Thursday, his retirement package – the first one the Vatican has had to prepare in almost 600 years – would likely be considered a sweet deal by the average American senior, providing a steady income and generous perks.
Let’s start with the basics: The pope emeritus will receive a monthly pension of 2,500 euros, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Few people will actually qualify for that amount. For starters, you would have to wait until 70 to retire. You would also have to spend most of your working life earning Social Security’s taxable maximum pay, which is set at $113,700 this year.
“That’s quite rare,” said Richard Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute.
He pointed out that the average Social Security check is about $1,200 a month — not enough to pay for the typical American retiree’s expenses.
“For most people, if you look at the median, Social Security counts for about 40 percent of their income. So it’s important, but people rely a lot on other savings, like pensions or 401(k) savings,” Johnson said.
A big nest egg is not something the pope emeritus has to worry about. The Roman Catholic Church will cover his living expenses, provide him with a spacious home inside the Vatican and pay for everything from cooked meals to housekeepers, according to The Telegraph.
What about waiting to retire until 85, as Benedict did? The average American retires at about 64, so working that long is unusual, Johnson noted.
“If you have a job you love, it’s great,” he said.
“(But) just like the pope, the biggest determinant of retirement is health status. When your health starts to deteriorate, that’s what often pushes people into retirement, sometimes earlier than expected.”
Health care costs are one of the big risks that older Americans face, and while Medicare pays for the bulk of their expenses, many things are left uncovered, Johnson said. Meanwhile, the pope emeritus will continue to be a member of the Vatican's generous private health care policy, the BBC reported.
Of course, the pope is not most people. His financial health is of such interest that it recently got the Saturday Night Live treatment, with a mock ad showing a worried Benedict surrounded by a pile of unpaid bills and seeking the help of a financial planning firm called “Papal Securities.” Motto: “Because heaven can wait.”