Rethinking Retirement | Reasons I Spend Less Time (and Money) Saving for Retirement

Print Friendly

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.

  1. Social Security
  2. Rate of return
  3. Inflation
  4. Retirement age
  5. Activity during retirement
  6. Our future income
  7. 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.


  1. says

    I could be mistaken, but from my reading of the bible, I don’t ready about anyone “retiring” the way we think about retirement today. That is, I’m not sure I know of people who worked until a certain age, and then completely stopped and went into permanent “vacation” mode. What are your thoughts?

    Perhaps planning for retirement could be thought of as just saving for tomorrow, which the bible does speak about.

    And as far as your feelings about the state of the market in 08-09, I can understand someone being panicked if they were about 10 years to “retirement.” In that case, I would look into the percentage of their portfolio that was allocated to stocks. Conventional allocation advice would be to put more of your money is less volatile investments as you near retirement, such as bonds.

    But if you’re 15 or more years away, there shouldn’t be cause for too much concern in my opinion.

    And while you’re rethinking retirement, I’ve been rethinking something similar lately – work, the very thing that leads to retirement. Most people today work 5 days a week, and rest 2 days. But God took 6 days to work and create the world, and rested 1 day.

    From this, I wonder if we approach work in a distorted way. What if we all found interesting, enjoyable, and profitable work? Then maybe we wouldn’t mind working that extra day. What are your thoughts Craig?

    • says

      Thanks for your comprehensive comment.
      There are some examples of age caps for participating in activities in the OT. Perhaps retrirement, perhaps not. You are correct that the Bible would not in any way condemn saving or retirement.
      I agree 100% about your analysis regarding the stock market. I wasn’t personally concerned about my retirement funds. I actually started investing more the lower it went. However, I consider that market season as a teacher. What if I neglect giving more to others and focus so heavily on saving for my retirement and then right before I retire “that” happens. God can take it all away in a moment. I don’t want to live a life of regret where I kept too much for myself and neglected the needs of others.
      It is all about balance.
      I think most Americans work too much already. I think most of us need to find a community activity that we find interesting and enjoyable and give something back through that way instead of just through personal profits.
      Thanks for bringing ups such a good discussion.

  2. Gholmes says

    I enjoyed that James 4 passage, reminded me of one of my Dad’s buddies who always peppered his speaking with “Lord willing”. , Lord willing I will see you next week… Lord willing I will etc etc..

  3. Oregonsun says

    Well, I must say I am the senior here at least age wise. My husband is going to retire next year. Our retirement accounts have taken a serious beating and he is worried all the time. Frustrating. I guess it will work out or not. We have done all that we could to be ready but life happens. I wish he could relax more about it and not be so uptight.

  4. says

    Completely agree. We shouldn’t approach life and “work now, do nothing later”! We should seek to labor for the Lord at every stage of life, while fulfilling our various responsibilities to our family and church. We should work on being faithful with a few and let God handle the rest!

  5. Craig says

    This is scary thinking. While striking a balance between using your income for a quality of life and saving for the future is important, just deciding that the future is too uncertain to save for shows little faith in the future that God gives us. God wants us to be prepared and “read the signs of the times” to be ready for what comes. Are you sure you will be able to work when you are 70? I have worked in ministries that have to care for many people who thought they’d be working in their 70′s, but poor health, injuries, and decreasing mental capacities prevent that. Worse, I’ve dealt with a number of women (sometimes with children) who were counting on their husband to save for them- only to suffer badly when their husbands pass on and find little or nothing was left for them (especially as women live longer than men, on average). The regular fluxuations of the market should not keep you from investing- diversity is helpful if the stock market feels too risky for you (bonds, gold, CD’s, etc).
    Biblical characters did not face the same challenges we do in the modern world. If Abraham or Paul broke his leg, he would live in pain and heal slowly, if it didn’t kill him outright. He had to pray for pain relief and live with a “thorn in the flesh.” Would you like to demonstrate your faith in this way? Unlikely. You’ll want to go to a doctor and get healed quickly. But the costs for health care for seniors is very expensive; most people over 65 will need savings to help Medicare along- or, they have to choose between pills and food, or just do without. Sure, you might believe you will be brave with your own conditions- but would you like to watch your spouse suffer without the drugs or surgery she needs? No, you probably won’t.
    I don’t write any of this to be mean-spirited, but so many charities are overburdened with people who did no planning for the future or made cavalier statements about “living on faith” when they were older. That’s easy to say when you are young. Besides, if you save you can care for those who don’t, as a testimony to the God that grants life and wants us all to care “for the least of your brethern.”

    • says

      Thanks for your comment. MH4C exists so people can ask hard questions.
      I’m not trying to strike a balance between ‘quality of life’ and ‘saving for the future’. Instead I’m trying to strike a balance between ‘giving today’ and ‘saving for the future’. The money I reduce in my retirement saving isn’t so I can buy nicer stuff now. That wouldn’t make any sense.
      And yes, it is scary thinking. It is scary to believe that if we put first the kingdom of God that he will take care of our needs.
      I never insinuated that Christians shouldn’t save for retirement. I simply believe that there is such a thing as saving too much for retirement. We were saving 15% and I felt like that was an excessive amount for us.
      Here’s the deal. What if someone runs out of money when they are 70 because they made a regular habit of helping, giving, and blessing others during their life time? I believe that those who sow righteousness will reap righteousness. I happily give to those who have been generous because I believed that is God’s call.
      Again this post didn’t call anyone to stop saving for retirement. Just to re-evaluate it asking, “am I saving too much?” and “I’m I putting my hope in my ability to save?”
      And yes, I might just regret these words when I’m older. But, I’d rather make giving today a great priority in my life and tomorrow if that giving caused me to be in a financially desperate condition then I will trust God to take care of my daily needs.

  6. says


    Thanks for your thoughtful article.

    Although you are getting some measure of push back, I think I understand and I agree with your point, we should not neglect current generosity nor should we put our hope in our future wealth instead of the Lord.

    Maybe it is helpful to distinguish attitude from amount, since they can be different. The amount that I save for retirement, does not necessarily have to reflect an unhealthy or ungodly attitude.

    I believe, personally, that it is possible to save a healthy amount in the present toward “retirement” for the purpose of being financially free to serve God with my time and talent. I believe that I could just as easy save a healthy amount for retirement with the attitude of the rich fool who was not generous toward God.

    Once again, I see attitude and not amount as being the determinant.

    Derrik Hubbard, CFP
    Read our blog at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *