The role of money in retirement
I just finished a presentation to 75 missionaries. As I looked out the window of the conference room the waves of Corinth Bay were cresting with white foam. It was hot, but it was beautiful.
The subject of retirement is not one that most missionaries, or many others, are clamoring to discuss.
They know they should, but it scares many of them. Unfortunately, retirement means so many different things to different people. Each person seems to have their own perspective or their unique reason for not having a perspective about it. They don’t want to think about it and it is almost like there is this blank page in the future that we have dubbed “retirement."
Money is part of the Retirement Equation
Money is part of the retirement equation. Perhaps it is the most misunderstood piece to the retirement puzzle, particularly for Christians. Because of a misunderstanding about money’s role and the lack of perspective about it, it is interesting that money is often the first thing Christians think about when retirement is brought up. I am acutely aware of this because for years I’ve heard consistent replies when the subject is brought up. The response is as follows: “I’m not going to retire and God is going to take care of me.” Clearly the phrase, “God will take care of me” refers to the physical support issues which in our culture means financial resources, or money. Money is not important and I’ll get it from somewhere. Kind of an oxymoron don’t you think?
The least important part
After dealing with the financial side of retirement for 30 years, I’m now convinced that money is the least important of the issues to be addressed. At the same time, I’m convinced that when the other more important issues are attended to, the money issue will be addressed also. Dealing with the issue and doing something about It flows naturally out of a Godly perspective of our life roles during the last 30 years of life. Yes, that is the length of time we may have after the paid work stops.
So, what then is the role of money in retirement?
After the first one hundred or so discussions about the subject, the consensus by Christians is that the role of money in retirement is to be able to live comfortably and be able to give. Both are admirable priorities. Next, comes the desire, particularly among Baby Boomers and older, to leave something for their children.
Is “Nothing” a Goal?
After those three priorities - to live comfortably, to give generously, and to leave something for the children, the conversation generally stops or simply continues with platitudes designed to fill the air space of the subject but not to actually contribute to further understanding. The underlying theme of our culture about retirement is inherent in the dialogue.
Here it is: The goal for a great retirement is to have enough money so I can do nothing. And anything beyond that should bring pleasure to me. In other words, the goal is to be able to do a whole lot of nothing. Unfortunately, “nothing” does not have any meaning nor purpose attached and is pretty hollow after a couple of years. This quote from a fellow passenger on a flight from SE Asia sums it up: “I’m at the end of doing nothing." Well said.
A life without purpose is a life without meaning; a life without meaning is a life without hope; a life without hope further separates you from God; separation from God is no life at all.
Stability and Flexibility
So, then we get back to the role of money in the retirement equation which is to provide stability and flexibility. Another way of thinking about flexibility is choice. The freedom to make choices, especially in response to God’s call on our lives, is a distinct blessing. Stability and choice are two of the characteristics that allow us to minister to others in the most effective manner. The boundaries within which we can work are expanded and the barriers to ministry reduced. Stability allows and enhances our ability to be focused and efficient while flexibility allows us to respond to the call, directions and opportunities to enhance the Kingdom that God puts in front of us. The “in front of us” extends to the end of our lives, not stopping at 65, 70, or even 80.
Money has a key support role allowing for more effective ministry.
Effective and Efficient
Having access to the right tools always brings better results. A number of years ago I was meeting with a missionary leader from India. In the course of the conversation, I asked him what were the two most important tools necessary to expand the work in his part of the country. His answer surprised me: “We need Bibles and bicycles." Bibles surprised me because at that time it never occurred to me that a pastor could even exist without a Bible. Little did I know. Second, he shared that each pastor provided leadership to multiple churches and that the waling time between them was significant. “How much more efficient they would be if they had bicycles!” was his response to my further questioning.
Clearly additional funding spent on Bibles and bicycles would bring stability and flexibility, efficiency and effectiveness to those ministers.
The Freedom to Choose
The freedom to choose is one of the great desires of men’s hearts over the centuries. When you think about it, the inability, either because of capacity or coercion, to make personal choice is the essence of the freedoms we hold dear in our country. So many do not have it.
One of the great restrictors of freedom, is poverty or lack of adequate financial resources. While there are other inhibitors to choices, the lack of capacity to “pay for something” is certainly one of them. The ability to choose to respond to a financial need in a meaningful way in your faith community or family is a great blessing. The ability to go where called without serious consideration to cost is wonderful.
Money can buy time
Thinking about having enough money to buy time is one more insight into the flexibility part of money in retirement. You can buy the time needed to contribute talent and energy in response to God’s call.
Again, stability and flexibility are key benefits that come as a result of having prepared financially for the 4th Quarter. Can God use you in mighty ways if you have not prepared? No doubt. However, as I read my Bible, being prepared is better and closer to God’s heart.
Stay with me as we journey together.