Different jurisdictions have different plans in place for life membership in lodges and the appendant bodies. In Virginia, where I am, the plan makes a lot of sense to take advantage of and I opted to do that a while back. Here we have not just a life membership plan but it is actually life membership in perpetuity, meaning that my lodge will get money on my behalf from the plan even after my demise.
The way dues work in any of our organizations is pretty simple. We pay our yearly lodge dues and the lodge is assessed a certain amount for our membership by the grand lodge. What this means is that the lodge only keeps a percentage of what we give it each year. Under my grand lodge’s Life Membership in Perpetuity Plan, the lodge will get that portion of my dues that it would normally retain from the grand lodge, in return for my having given the grand lodge a large lump sum that is invested in an endowment.
Here is how the numbers work out. In my case, I chose to do this before the dues went up because I had the money socked away and I would rather not pay the larger dues assessment. Back then my lodge dues were $54 and the grand lodge assessment was around $22 per person. That means that my lodge kept $32 of my money each year.
I paid the grand lodge for 16 years of dues at once and in return, I got a life membership card. Plus, my lodge will get its $32 each year not only for the rest of my life, but forever. That is what “in perpetuity” means. In other words, until apes become our masters and Freemasonry is suppressed by our new evil overlords. That specific language is not written into the plan, but that is pretty much what it means. On one hand, my lodge is missing out on extra money when it increases dues, but on the other hand, the lower amount paid out over time, especially after my death, will more than make up for the lost money now.
As a case for the success of this type of plan, my Royal Arch Chapter has 115 life members. Thirty-six are active and 79 are labeled “inactive,” which is an administrative way to say that they have passed to the celestial lodge above. If the chapter is receiving $20 per person enrolled in the plan (probably on average, and honestly, just a guess for this example), it is receiving $720 on behalf of the living members in the plan and $1580 on behalf of our deceased members. Together, this still does not eclipse what the chapter owes the grand chapter as an assessment for the total number of living members (about 125), but that total of $2300 for guys enrolled in the program is a pretty healthy offset to the total assessment. For comparison, if the grand chapter is assessing $30 per member and we have about 100 members not in the life membership plan, we owe a delta of $700 ($3000 minus the $2300 offset). These are just rough numbers. At any rate, it is working well for us.
Not all life membership plans work like this, however. I belong to one group that has stopped taking life membership applications because its grand body does things a different way. They invest the large lump-sum payment in the stock market and then pay out based on the interest earned from the endowment. That worked great when times were fat and everyone was lighting cigars with $100 bills but when the market tanked a number of years back, the endowment started earning less interest and instead of getting an offset for the members enrolled in that plan, the individual bodies found themselves needing to make up the difference between the assessment and what it earned. So the local bodies were still paying assessments for members who were already supposedly life members. Everyone took a bath on that plan.
If it is set up well, a life membership can make great sense and be profitable for everyone. Ask your secretary about your lodge or appendant body’s life membership plans and whether they make sense to take advantage of. Some benefits to the plans include:
- You never have to write a dues check again.
- If you move away and lose touch with your lodge, you will never be suspended for non-payment of dues.
- Your life membership card works in every lodge in the world, just like your regular membership card.
- Most important, you leave a lasting legacy to your lodge and fund its continued health and prosperity.