Recent estimates suggest that the traditional $1 million life savings target before retirement is just not enough. Financial planners suggest that we now need $2 million to have “financial security.” In Monday’s (April 28) USA Today a report on this led to the response of various people. A person who seemed to be in the know about these matters said, “A $1 million nest egg along with Social Security isn’t really that much. Some accident or calamity would have the potential to drain away a big chunk of your principal, after which you can be destitute.” If you think this is crazy talk you should read the mainstream financial columns and see the advice that major investors give on these matters.
Another respondent to this story wrote: “We all need to take a hard look and figure out how to put away more for retirement.” Still another, “I now put away the maximum amount in my 401(k) that my employer will match. I also ditched a $275-a-month whole life policy in favor of a different policy for $25 a month. Plus, I cut way back on eating out. I save $100 a week now and eat healthier.” This advice has some pretty good ideas in it but the real kicker is not the “saving” part but the emphasis on making sure that you have enough.
Just how much is enough? And how do you practice good stewardship when it comes to thinking about your last years? Now that I am 65 these questions have been all but answered for me. My wife and I took a number of proactive steps a few years ago. We did this not to retire to luxury but to plan for a future that would not unduly burden our children. We also did this so our wishes would be carried out when we are unable to do what we desire. I think this is good stewardship.
Missing in all of this is the financial stewardship of Christians to kingdom work. Even some of the best Christian financial advisers say little or nothing about generosity. Is there any surprise? If you need to secure your own future first then why give too generously now? Delay and give later, if you have enough left over from your savings to give. But that is a big if when you are not sure just how much you will need.
I am persuaded that all of us should practice frugal savings. I have not been the most diligent soul about preparing for my future but I am told by my adviser, who is a friend, that I am better off than 95% of his clients. (I am amazed at that, not because I have a great deal but because apparently most people have not seriously prepared for their future.) But having noted this personal fact I cannot help but recall the clear teaching of my Lord at this point.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21, NRSV).
Jesus’ kingdom teaching for finances is not about 501(k) plans but rather about investing in a kingdom that is eternal. We are to give to an account where no economic downturn or taxing program can take away our investments. We will do this if we really believe the future is about what we do now.
Recently, I came across an explanation for how various ancient philosophies and religions impacted people personally. The author noted that the truly unique thing about the early Christians was that they placed their entire hope on the life to come. They lived in the now to serve their friends and neighbors. They gave generously and invested what they had in acts of mercy and compassion. But most of them had very little. This is still true in the majority of places in the world where Christianity thrives. Perhaps we should rethink our approach to both savings and retirement. You think our prosperity thinking hinders our all-out commitment to the kingdom of God?
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Thanks, John. There are too many points upon which to comment. Though most societies don’t have a retirement culture, we do. Therefore, we are not set up to handle it differently then we already do. After the recession and a complete loss of everything saved for retirement, many are starting over in their 50’s and early 60’s. The idea of rebuilding a retirement fund of even one or two hundred thousand is next to impossible while still meeting the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. There aren’t enough jobs for people in their 20’s and 30’s. There will be none for people living from retirement age into their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It is an extremely desperate situation. It will force the American Church to innovate. How? By being the church Jesus called us to be, not the one we’ve become.
I suspect we have moved back to “the good old days” when you worked until you dropped….at least that’s my plan.
There is a serious problem with the way that we do money. And it’s called usury.
Joy and I have made a decision to not cave to fear when it comes to the future. As long as God gives me the strength I will continue to work; no other options. We are probably among the 95% who are the least prepared for retirement; not so much poor planning as having been the pastor of poor churches for the past 32 years. Some of us can’t even be in the conversation about whether to lay up or not lay up treasures on earth. My financial planner is a kneeling bench. With my own increasing health problems I continue to find wider and deeper ways to minister to others in the midst of their physical, mental, and social needs. As far as being a burden on my children, one day; who knows. At this point in following hard after Christ we (my children included) don’t know how to think this way about what loving each other means now or in the future. There is a song my grandmother loved; “New Grace.” Everywhere the road turns “…they’ll be new grace we’ve not needed before.”
So well stated Barry. Though our situation is better (financially) we “trust the ever living One” too and I will not retire in the “American” sense we were told we were entitled to do. I never though the concept was very healthy or spiritually right anyway. 🙂
And I trust more in the ever living One because of the Spirit’s work through the ministry of John Armstrong 🙂
You are way overboard in kindness today Barry Bruce. You encourage me profoundly.
You need encouraging because you openly stand where many of us have wanted to stand but haven’t known how. It isn’t “overboard.” Now we have someone on the front lines of John 17 with whom we can stand!
This is really one of those places where a local Acts 2 style economic community would come in handy, where everyone is committed to mutual support.
I have zero plans to ever retire, and having 5 kids from 1 to 16 precludes that anyway. Thankfully I have a job I can continue to do into my senior years. By the way where in the scriptures does it say that the Christian should retire? I get the part where one may leave the marketplace to focus on new ministry ops , but the notion that one should retire to live a self absorbed life is foreign to me.
Within this conversation of retirement, I think our system has two problems. It creates the impression that the goal in life is to build our barns so we can spend our final years not working. But another problem is that we have few opportunities for men and women to shift towards reduced hours of service and increased participation as mentors, patriarchs and matriarchs. That was how traditional societies handled the advanced years.
I concur heartily Daniel, unfortunately many believers can be easily swayed into the necessity to build ever bigger barns. Owning my own business I do hope to work less and minister more in my later years. Your point is very well taken.
I have always told my friends that I’m not going to retire, just get retreaded.
Never retire – great plan if your health and vigor last as long as you do, if you have a job you can do in old age, if you never lose that job (finding a new one isn’t easy when you’re over 60), if you’re not replaced by a younger worker, if your industry doesn’t collapse, if a spouse’s health doesn’t require you to become a caregiver…etc. I worry about what our country will do when all of us boomers who thought we’d work forever discover we can’t.
In terms of boomer retirement, there are actually more Millennials than boomers, so as far as workplace and social net replacement, we got it covered.
Store up your riches in heaven where moth, rust and thieves wont get them…
John, the concept of retirement as it has been marketed by the advertising and financial planning industries is not going to work for the vast number of Boomers. A different perspective on the issue of retirement is more than needed. Reboot, What to Do When Your Career is Over but Your Life Isn’t is a book that speaks powerfully to this very issue.
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