I used to do a lot to plan for retirement. But then I wised up.
I find that as time passes I’m developing an increasing skepticism about the concept of retirement. I definitely would say retirement is not the goal of life. If we live within God’s calling, we should be able to work, play, and learn at all stages.
I think Christians should be appropriately educated about the value of investing for retirement, set aside a reasonable percentage of their income, and then move along to other important activities.
One of my favorite investing books – The Sound Mind Investing Handbook – has nine pages of worksheets to help you calculate how much you’ll need in retirement.
Here are the key questions covered in that section:
- How much annual income will you need during prime time?
- What about the effects of inflation?
- Will you have enough to sustain you through a normal life expectancy?
- How much of your “prime-time wealth” will Social Security provide?
- How much will your current tax-deferred portfolio be worth when you retire?
- How much will your current taxable holding be worth when you retire?
- How much should you save each year to meet your retirement goal?
While I respect this process and the wisdom of those questions, I’m becoming a little calloused towards the whole process of determining how much money you need to save for retirement.
Basically, I think there are too many questions we cannot answer.
In a previous post, I’ve listed 7 retirement variables we cannot predict.
- Social Security
- Rate of return
- Retirement age
- Activity during retirement
- Our future income
- The end of time
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)
Trusting God Through the Retirement Planning Process
The question we all want to know is where is the balance between faith and wisdom? Yes, we can trust God to provide, but don’t we have a role in the process?
What I’m suggesting is not to live a life style beyond your income and trust God to rain down money from heaven. Instead, I’m suggesting that if we are faithful to God with what we have today, he will be faithful to us tomorrow.
Feelings and Emotions of 2008-2009
Do you remember how you felt when the market dropped in half? When your retirement savings plummeted? Perhaps you’re still feeling the same thing now.
I’ll talk about myself, my feelings, and my emotions to avoid unduly judging any of you.
I felt insecure. I wondered if everything I had saved for and planned for wasn’t in vain.
I was reminded that there is more about my retirement that I CANNOT control than there is that I CAN CONTROL.
So I’ve decided to take a hands off approach with my retirement. In fact, this year my wife and I intentionally cut the amount we save for retirement by 2.5%. Why? Because it can all disappear in a moment. We’d rather be using that money to do something good today instead of saving it to do something good tomorrow. I concluded from some personal study that we shouldn’t be saving more than we are giving. If God can provide our needs today, he can also provide our needs tomorrow.
At the end of this year, I’m going to suggest we cut it another 2.5%.
I do realize that most people have the opposite problem – they are not saving enough for retirement.
My Responsible and Faithful Retirement Savings Plan
Going forward, I’m going to invest my set percentage towards retirement. I think it honors God when we save for retirement. However, I want to leave the rest up to him. The returns, the life span, the cost of living – everything. Hey, I don’t mind working when I’m 70 years old, but there may also be reasons to retire early. I’ll probably be working for God anyways; the only difference is if I can be self supporting or not.
So what am I encouraging? People to stop saving for retirement? Nope. I’m simply suggesting that those of us who are responsibly saving for retirement should re-evaluate our position to be sure we are not focusing too much on retirement.