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How Christians Should Approach Retirement

How Christians Should Approach Retirement

            “I’m not as young as I used to be, but I’m not as old as I’m going to be.” I can remember my grandfather telling me this many times with a big laugh and plenty of personality to go along.  I smile now, even as I think about it, as a forty-one year old. The same can be said for each one of us.  We’re not getting any younger. Whether you stumbled upon this article as a young twenty-something or you are entering into your “young-at-heart” years, there is valuable information encompassed in the following words.  You are never too young or too old to think about a retirement plan.  Now, financial advisors or retirement planners may beg to differ, but if your Christian journey has been anything like mine, you’ve likely discovered that God’s economy is much different than that of the world. 

            Retirement as a young entrepreneur of a multi-billion dollar tech company is likely not the path that many of us have been destined for. That said, retirement is eventually likely for all of  us.  Almost a third of Americans 50 or older are saddled with non-mortgage debt, according to the Health and Retirement Study from the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center. According to the 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, about 24% of workers (and fully 21% of retirees!) said they had less than $1,000 saved for retirement. A whopping 55% of workers and 38% of retirees had less than $50,000. American are accumulating more debt and retaining longer than ever before.  All these realities make it even more important that Christians approach retirement with some intentionality. 

            But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,[a] a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

            God is reminding us that our life should look different.  That includes in a variety of areas, including our retirement.  So, how should retirement for Christians be approached? What are some practical things that you can implement today.  Here are 5 tips on effective ways to approach retirement:

1.Purpose.  What is the reason you started in the career you are currently in? What led to your life’s journey? For some, your answer may be that the job you are in was the best-paying job you could find at that time that would provide for your family. For others, geographic location, caring for aging parents, or other life circumstances led you down a particular path. Whatever the answer, be reminded that your career path was chosen with purpose.  Further, you have been Divinely created on purpose for a purpose. Your retirement age has nothing to do with that purpose. Whether you are fulfilling ministry on the job by encouraging co-workers or through abroad missions trips, the purposes of God for your live haven’t changed. Your approach to retirement should always reflect that purpose. Your diligence in earning more for your retirement should reflect that purpose. Your ministry after retirement should reflect that purpose.

2.Position. As we age, we should be maturing in our walk with the Lord and gaining wisdom with life experiences.  That can be utilized by God in a beautiful way to encourage those coming after you.  Recognize that approaching retirement is about position. Who has God positioned you to influence today? Who will you be positioned to influence later? Is there a new co-worker who may one day take over your job upon retirement?  How might your words and actions empower them down the road?  Consider those who have come before you and those that will come behind you. Our lives aren’t simply about us. They are about serving our Heavenly Father and bringing others into relationship with Him. That said, your position today, and in the future, does matter, and God was in control of placing you where you are.

3.Passion. Having been in single moms’ ministry for over a decade now, I recently made a comment in a morning staff meeting. “I have the same passion for bringing single mothers into relationship with Jesus that I had when I started.” I said it matter-of-factly, but realized moments later that it was actually an epiphany that I hadn’t even really considered. Sometimes, with the day-to-day grind of our employment, we forget about our passions.  My passion to do full-time, vocational ministry to serve single mothers hasn’t wavered, and your passion shouldn’t waver either. What is it that God has impassioned you with? What are the things that make you get up and go to work each day? Maybe you started out as a teacher to change children’s lives. Maybe you work in food service, because you want to brighten others’ days, as you provide premium customer service. Whatever the case, tap into the same passion that God gave you years ago for your life’s purpose.  And notably, recognize that that passion shouldn’t diminish the day you retire from your regular 9-to-5 job.  The passion to change the world, minister to single moms, teach children, or serve others will forever be with us. Use it for God’s glory.

4.Planning.  Begin early and be diligent.  I’ve always found Proverbs 13:22 fascinating.  It says: Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly. Why do you suppose that it doesn’t say that good people leave their children an inheritance?  I believe it is because God wants us to be such good stewards of our blessings that not only our children, but our children’s children will benefit. Yes, that speaks to wisdom and character, but it also speaks to financial stewardship and planning.  We have been called to impact the Kingdom. Let’s be honest. Financial means help us to do that.  It’s hard to bless another who is hungry, when we don’t have the financial capacity to do so.  Plan your retirement in such a way that you are looking forward, not only to your own future or that of your family lineage, but also to the eternal future of others. Use your retirement years as a way to invest time, talent, and treasure into the Kingdom of God.

5.Process. Your retirement process can start now, regardless of age.  Begin early and be diligent as you look to pass the baton to someone else.  I was once told by a supervisor that the most effective employees were the ones who trained others to do their jobs well, long after they are gone.  These are the ones who get promoted.  When we are always looking to do our jobs with excellence and purpose, we are positioning ourselves to be promoted, and ultimately to retire from our companies, leaving them better than when we found them. A Christian’s approach to retirement should never be to leave a company ill-prepared. We should do whatever is within means to prepare our successors to take our place (even if that succession wont’ take place for years to come).  For example, what processes or procedures could you implement today in your job duties that may make the company more efficient or possibly make someone else’s job a little easier? Those small things are the things that leave an impression.  And the impression we leave should always be about a good God that has transformed us from the inside out. 

Many retirees struggle with finding their purpose, after retirement. For many, their identity has been tied to a position and their performance has dictated their perceived worth.  Be encouraged today that if you are still taking breath on this earth, God has plans for life that He wants you to accomplish. Take some time to enjoy the sunshine, the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, and the beautiful roses that bloom outside.  The hustle and bustle of work life may have prevented such simple pleasures.  But also, be diligent that your purpose does not end when your job does!

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