What Should a Christian Retirement Look Like?

Corey —  March 10, 2010 — 11 Comments

       I don’t ask this question in order to set strict guidelines for how all Christians should live out their final years. I ask it to prompt us all to examine how we will live out our faith during retirement. I’ve talked about why I was rethinking my views on retirement and whether or not Christians should even retire. What I want to look at today are the things we should be considering when we’re planning what we’ll do in retirement and how much income we’ll need in retirement. Then, I want your help. (Oh, and this isn’t just for retired people. Young Christians should be thinking about this too because it will affect how much they should be saving for retirement.)

What Should We Do?

       Assuming we agree that God does not call Christians to a leisurely, luxurious retirement where we sit around and do nothing all day, we have to start looking at what we should be doing during retirement. Let’s compare and contrast with typical retirement goals:

  • Pursuing Hobbies – Many people plan to pick up new hobbies or spend more time on their favorite hobbies in retirement. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, Christians must be looking at how much time they’re spending focused on themselves and how much of their money they’re putting toward their own wants. We must look for a balance – and we must look to God to find that balance.
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  • Travel – This is a major goal for many retirees. As Christians, we need to look at recreational travel versus missional travel. I’m not saying vacations are sinful, but we have to consider two things. First, our desires to spend on ourselves while others are in desperate need. And second, we must listen to God’s unique call for our lives. For some Christians, this will mean limiting travel in retirement so they can give more or spend more time volunteering. For other Christians, this may mean allocating more than they would have to travel so they can take or fund mission trips. (This is not to say that you should ignore God’s call for you to be a missionary until retirement. If He’s calling you now, you should go now.)
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  • Volunteering – Volunteering is a great way for both Christians and non-Christians alike to spend their time in retirement. Besides transportation costs, volunteering requires little money but can provide great rewards. The caution here is to avoid volunteering to every cause or postponing volunteer activities until retirement. Seek God’s will for where you should serve now and in retirement.
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  • Entertainment – It’s easy to spend more on entertainment during retirement because you’ve got so much free time. But for Christians, again, we must look at how we’re using the money God has entrusted to us. Some entertainment is fine, but we need to seek God’s guidance for what we should plan on in this category.
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  • Spending Time with Family – Another noble pursuit regardless of whether you’re a follower of Christ or not. However, we still must seek God’s will and be sure to balance this activity against the other things God wants us to be doing. Strong families are encouraged by the Bible, but we must not become so focused on our own families that we ignore God’s family.


How Should We Spend in Retirement?

       The decisions we make in the “What Should We Do?” category will greatly impact how much income we’ll need in retirement. But there are a few other areas we should consider as well:

  • Housing – Will you stay where you are now, move to a larger place, or choose to downsize? Also, will you buy a second home (vacation home)? Again, I challenge you to pray for God’s will on this matter. Many retirees dream of owning a vacation home in the Bahamas, but Christians must be looking at how such a decision fits in with God’s call to care for the poor. Should we be building a larger house or buying a vacation home while people are starving? Maybe that sounds ascetic, but it’s a legitimate and serious question for those who wish to follow Christ.
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  • Shopping – Shopping for the sake of shopping excites some people. How should we approach this issue? Again, I’m not advocating an ascetic lifestyle where you never buy anything for yourself. But we must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Should we deny some of our wants so we can give more? I feel like that’s a definite yes. But where we draw that line can only be determined through communion with God. He calls some to deny many or all of their wants while others only a few. (Personally, I think that call to deny yourself increases more as our faith and maturity increase.)
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  • Insurance – Overinsurance can indicate that we are placing our trust in money and not God. Underinsurance can be a sign of folly. We must seek God’s will on this matter, as all others, and perhaps help from others. Health insurance is likely a necessity, but what about life insurance, long-term care insurance, homeowner’s/renter’s insurance, etc. There can be legitimate needs for these during retirement, but we can also buy them out of fear or ignorance.
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  • Health Care – While some or most of this may be covered by health insurance, there’s another aspect I want us to think about as Christians. Where do we draw the line between pursuing health within God’s will and pursuing longevity for fear of death? Should we fear death as much as our society does? Indeed, part of the reason health care costs so much is because we try so hard to stay alive. I’m not saying we should kill ourselves, but it is something we should think and pray about (even when we’re young). The world seeks after eternal life but will not find it. We (Christians) already have it promised to us in Heaven – so why do we seek it so much on Earth?


What’s Your Take???

       What did I miss? What did you think about my thoughts? What do you think a Christian retirement should look like? What are your plans? Please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments. I’m hoping we can all help each other think about these issues from a Biblical and eternal viewpoint rather than the American/worldly ideals.

Corey

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Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

11 responses to What Should a Christian Retirement Look Like?

  1. Paul,
    I’ve really enjoyed your series on retirement.
    I think all of us need to ask the question, how do we want God to use us in retirement? From there we can work backwards and figure out the financial implications.

    I pray that in one way or another all of us can continue our good work for God.
    .-= Craig Ford´s last blog ..Christians, Is Money Really Neutral and Amoral? =-.

  2. I had just read Craig Ford’s blog this morning on money and now your blog on retirement. Turning 55 this year and suffering from chronic illness, retirement is looming. But with that are worries. Thanks for your perspective on retirement, you have me thinking about the alternatives to the “normal” retirement activities.

  3. Paul,
    Another well thought out post! I like the way you balance the world’s take on retirement with the overlaying theme for Christians of serving God. Everything we do must be filtered through how we serve Him…including our retirements.
    Your thoughts on insurance and health care were things that need to be said but no one ever does. Thanks for doing so.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Reverse Mortgages Part Three: What are the Disadvantages? =-.

  4. Wow, that’s the most comments I’ve received at once! :)

    @Craig: Thanks! It means a lot to hear you enjoyed the series. I would phrase your question another way: “How does God want to use us in retirement?” Thank you for your prayer. It is mine as well.

    @Donna: I’m glad this article helped you see some of the alternatives. We just have to remember that when we seek God’s Kingdom first, He’ll provide what we need to do His will. I continue to pray for you.

    @Joe: Thanks so much for the encouragement! I wondered what people would think about my comments on health care. I’ve gotten some strange looks at church when I’ve talked about that. :)

  5. Paul, this is great the way you’ve layed out not only the considerations, but also the alternatives. (so many posts tell us what we shouldn’t do, especially when said posts are faith based!–but lets just keep that between us…)

    Changing our view of certain aspects of “retirement” might help us to redirect. For example, think of entertainment as spending more time with more people, but not necessarily spending money to have fun with other people. I kind of think just spending time with people is fun in itself, even if you don’t do anything special. In fact the less you do, the more you relate and bond as people, and the greater the chance to witness.

    Similar with housing–kids are gone, you live in a big house all by yourself; what about opening up your house as a resource to people? Taking in a foreign refugee, providing a warm, safe place for a pregnant teen who’s been disowned by her family, or even offering a place for a homeless person to start a new life.

    We can always redirect time and assets for Kingdom use, but we have to change our thinking from “we” to “He” first.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Why It Might Be Better to OWE on Your State Income Tax Return =-.

  6. Thanks so much for your excellent comment, Kevin. You’ve provided some great alternatives as well. Your last sentence is the key. We have to shift our thinking – to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To glorify God, our minds must be renewed to be like Christ’s and not our own.

  7. Paul, great post! I think that if we as Christians start living missionally (which means we passionately engage culture in every facet of our lives for the sake of the kingdom and making disciples) then we can’t help but have a “christian retirement”

    We’ll already be seeking His kingdom rather than building our own, but I think it’s hard when we live for our own earthly kingdoms for 30 years and expect to turn on a switch that says OK now my retirement will be about Him.

    I like what Kevin said – we switch from “we” to “He”. The sooner we do that in life the better!
    .-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..What Is Your Credit Card Payoff? =-.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Jason!

    Yes, we must be very careful about putting off God’s work for later “when we have time”. We need to take time every day to ask what He wants us to be doing now and in the future. Seeking God’s will and doing what He asks of us are vital to being a disciple of Christ.

  9. Well put! I’m no bible scholar, but I’m pretty certain the word “quit” doesn’t appear in scripture, at least as it relates to the mission of the believer. We’re on duty and on call until we draw our last breath.

    This is such an instructive post for believers, helping us to avoid the way retirement is classified in the secular sense, as a time of retreat and leisure.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Advantages of Business Credit Cards =-.

  10. Exactly, Kevin. We are to use every moment we’re given to glorify God. We would be foolish to compartmentalize our lives into God/non-God categories.

    I’m glad you find this post helpful. I pray it will help us all begin to approach retirement differently than the world does.

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