I have friends who retired a few years ago. Several are thriving while others seem to wish they were back at the careers they left behind. I thought retirement was supposed to be the best years of our life. I am trying to determine: a) should I retire and b) when? Any thoughts?
Close to Retirement
Dear Close to Retirement,
This is a great question and one we should all wrestle with. Retirement, American style, is a problem I have observed as well so I am happy to share some of my thoughts about it.
We Were Made to Work
The upsides of retirement are made to look as if you leave all your headaches and stress behind, take up your favorite activities full time and live a peaceful, blissful life until the end.
Very few advertisements will tell you that the beach or sunny golf course or favorite pastime will easily become boring with overuse. As Proverbs 27:7 says, One who is full will loathe honey… Too much of anything is not good for us and we will eventually lose interest.
Many of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles worked hard until the day God took them home. Some did their greatest work after the time we would have considered them to be “old men.” Moses, Joshua, and Paul each understood their God-ordained purpose and served until their dying days.
Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. (Deuteronomy 34:7)
Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.” (Joshua 13:1)
Paul said: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24)
Time to Rethink Retirement
Retirement is mentioned once in the Bible (Numbers 8:23-26), concerning the retirement of the Levites from the tent of meeting.
Chris Farrell, author of Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life, wrote:
Boomers are healthier and better educated than previous generations, eager to stay engaged at the workplace and in their communities, exploring options that range from bridge jobs to starting their own businesses.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch conducted a study in 2014 that found:
72 percent of pre-retirees want to work after they retire. Kevin Crain, of the firm, says 60 is no longer old. (I agree!) But, the increasing concern about Alzheimer’s is causing many to remain active with hopes of avoiding cognitive decline.
Christians must look at retirement differently and repurpose our talents, experiences, and skills.
Going from structure to total flexibility is often a shock. Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors and addictions that prevent people from finishing well. Many seniors admit to being lonely and fear the loss of independence, physical health, and financial well-being. Mental health issues like depression arise when there is no purpose to the wealth, knowledge, experience, and wisdom accumulated during the decades of a career.
In his book, Rethinking Retirement, John Piper wrote:
Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious…not living in ways that make this world look like your treasure…. It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement. Instead, knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying and everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts.
Consider These Repurposing Options
Don’t think of yourself as “elderly” but as an “elder.” The knowledge, experience and wisdom elders accumulate over a lifetime can be shared with the younger generation. The Bible emphasizes helping the younger generation to grow in faith, to live godly lives and to strengthen the family unit.
- Consult: Use what you know to create a small business that allows you to work with clients and still remain flexible with your time commitment.
- Start up: Consider starting a business or working part-time. This grants purpose, structure, and extra income that can alleviate some of the financial stress of healthcare or housing.
- Phase Out: Professionals accustomed to heavy responsibility should consider a gradual reduction in responsibility as they phase out of their career. For instance, a doctor may work part-time, take medical mission trips or do volunteer work in the inner city.
- Go: Get involved in missions. I just met a widow that spends six months a year in Tanzania serving in an orphanage. She loves it!
- Disciple: Take up the challenge to disciple your grandchildren or other young people in your life. Plan events and activities for their spiritual growth. I know a retired couple that has dedicated their lives to this task. With 16 grandchildren and some great-grandchildren, they are busy! Everyone is benefitting from this repurposing.
- Learn: Develop new skills that can be useful to support your children’s business or career. One friend learned QuickBooks to be able to manage the finances for his son’s growing automotive repair business.
- Volunteer: Consider schools, churches, foster programs whose kids are aging out, ESL programs, Crown, or organizations that help refugees, immigrants or the poor in your community.
A Career Direct assessment helps individuals of all ages to discover their purpose and passion so they can do what they love. It is especially helpful to direct those with the time and flexibility of a new season of life.
Originally published on the Christian Post, November 9, 2018