By Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®
We had it right all along. Retirement to a life of leisure is not part of God’s plan. He called us to work, ideally with a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. Leisure is a part of God’s plan but not the objective.There should be a relationship between work and leisure in our lives in order to enjoy periods of refreshment, renewal, restoration and relationships.
It wasn’t until after the creation of social security in 1935 that Americans even considered “retirement”. Very few pension funds were in place and the American farm required all hands on deck to function. Back then work was more demanding physically. Americans worked until their bodies wore out. The industrial revolution changed this. Social security became a way of removing older workers from the workforce to make way for younger more productive workers.
Instead of thinking of this “third phase” of life as a time of retirement, think of it as an
opportunity to focus on your true calling. An opportunity you may never have had time for during your working years.
Early in my career I thought my work defined me. I now see my work is a calling. This is more likely by design, as my chosen work has evolved. A calling is characterized by passion, ability, experience and opportunity.
With a calling there is a Divine reason for doing something. Our work will be tested and rewarded by God (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) When we seek to glorify God in whatever we do, we will pursue excellence in our work, whether others notice or not. Our work becomes spiritual when done to the glory of God using the many gifts he has given us: skills, intelligence, experiences, reputation etc.,.
Wealth is a byproduct of work not a direct result of it. (Proverbs 23:4-5) Money is not a measure of self-worth nor a measure of success. It is a tool we can use to accomplish good and become more Godly. The income I earn from my work is a gift from God. Fulfillment comes from the work not from what I earn.
Money doesn’t guarantee happiness or satisfaction. Satisfaction and even happiness comes from relationships. If you find your social network changed because you are no longer working or due to a move you may find yourself in an emotional slump. The loss of social activity and potential isolation can present a dark side to retirement.
There have been a number of studies that show retiring early can have a negative impact on physical, mental and social health. In fact, retiring later has been shown to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s according to these studies.
When we think of retirement we often think in terms of freedom. The idea of freedom lures us into the idea of retirement. Retirement is not always what it’s cracked up to be. We thought we would be happy but many are not. This can be both confusing and embarrassing. Retirees can experience much loss including: a loss of purpose, physical activity, socialization and mental stimulus. Your friends are often still working and your former work colleagues move on in time.
If you do decide to go back to work you often find that it’s not that easy. It’s hard to replace your salary and the older you are the longer you can expect to look for meaningful work. Age discrimination is real.
We work with our clients to help generate a plan to ensure they don’t run out of money before they run out of life. It seems we should also encourage them to develop a plan to insure they don’t run out of life. We all need a plan in our future that includes family, friends, good health and stimulating hobbies. In this context reinventing retirement really does seem like a good idea. Here we go again… what is old is new once again. Maybe it’s time for a new label.