Financial Planning & The Bible: Retire to Something - Not from Something
I recently stumbled upon a stat that got me thinking. It said, "that people who work longer are living longer". We've all heard the proverbial story of the person who retired and died within weeks. Could it be that God wants us to continue our work well past age 65? I think the answer might surprise you. Now we are uniquely positioned to help answer this question because 95% of the reason most people darken our door is retirement planning. People know that at some point, their desire to do what they are doing today may erode, and they want to refocus how their time is spent.
I’m sure I’ll give you a perspective quite different from many of the other financial advisors you've ever talked to. That’s because our firm is rooted in Biblical principles, and we view the world through a Biblical worldview, which means we take the Bible at its word and believe that it is sufficient for all teaching today, in the past, and in the future. The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16 – the other 3:16 verse) said: “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteous.”
Therefore, work for a Biblically based Advisor goes back to IN THE BEGINNING. The beginning of the earth with Adam and Eve. Work was here before sin entered the world, thus work was part of God's initial, perfect design for humans and the Earth. In Genesis 2:15, we learn that “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.” So we learn that work is normative – it is part of what God designed us to do. We would argue your work is not done until you die.
If work is a God-ordained thing, then why do so many people hate it? Well, it's because for many people, their work does not have any purpose. It’s a means to an end. For many people, they want to retire from something as opposed to retiring to something. When it comes to retirement – when your job is golf or anything else lacking purpose, people don’t have the fulfilled retirement they could or should be achieving. Research has shown that 27% of people who retire today return to work in just 4-6 months. Why is this – they lack purpose. They lack a meaning to their life. The meaning they did have (from work), even though they may have hated it – was at least meaning and purpose. Do you know what people hate more than work they hate? No meaning and purpose! And as described above, God did not make us for no purpose or meaning.
A fellow Financial Advisor and Christian brother Wes Moss wrote a trendy book titled, “What the Happiest Retirees Know.” He looked at all the quantitative and qualitative factors that drove people to describe their retirement as happy. Sure, there were some math things in there, like you should have XX amount saved and you should have your mortgage paid off, etc. But the most impactful things to people's retirement happiness were people and purpose. The people side of it was simple: retirees’ who were within an hour of at least half their kids were happiest, and people with at least 3.6 close personal relationships were most happy. So people make a difference, BUT…..
A real key to success was the happiest retirees didn’t actually retire. They refocused. The happiest retirees had at least 3.5 core pursuits in their lives that filled their time with things that gave their life meaning and purpose. Many of these core pursuits are tied back to people’s church. How could they get involved in ministries within the church that helped them fulfill The Great Commission and the hole in their own lives created by retirement?
Ecclesiastes 2:24 says, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.” Additionally, in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” How ironic. Wes’s study shows that people need people and purpose to enjoy retirement, and the Bible had already clarified that for us – 2 Timothy 3:16 bringing Deja Vu? And if that isn’t enough evidence, another recent study showed that if you delay your retirement by one year, you increase your longevity by 11%. So not only are you making yourself happier in retirement, but you are potentially increasing the longevity of retirement. One extra year of work for three extra years of life (assuming the average retirement is 30 years) is a pretty good tradeoff, especially when considering what that extra year probably did to your Social Security benefits and 401(k) growth – as we know the most significant growth from your retirement plans comes in your latest years because you have the most amount of money.
Essentially, we learn from the Bible that man is to work his entire lifetime. God did not intend for us to spend our last twenty years on this earth in leisure. There is undoubtedly a rhythm to work and leisure, and perhaps there is more leisure enjoyed by someone in retirement than that of a person in the heart of their career, but it can’t be all leisure. Retirement to leisure was never a part of God’s plan for you – there is Kingdom work to be done, and the person who no longer has to clock a 9 – 5 now has a more extraordinary ability to do that Kingdom work. It’s all about getting to that Matthew 25:23 moment in our life where Jesus told the parable of the talents, and the master said to the servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
As a practitioner in this field for nearly 14 years (since 2007), I’ve seen many people retire. The ones that do it the best have a plan for how they’ll fill out those 3.5 core pursuits that Wes Moss talks about, and many times, they take a practice run or two at it. They slow their career work down to part-time or at least something less intense than it was at its peak, and they start to enjoy more leisure and other core pursuits that take a higher priority in your life. Go to the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio and spend an afternoon around those kids and then tell me your work is more important than investing in their souls. That’s how this is done right - find what drives you, find your kingdom passion and then, as it’s famously said, you’ll never work a day in your life (at least in retirement 😂).