I have never retired from my job before, and I probably won’t for some time (Lord willing), so it may seem a little strange that I am writing about it. But I am a pastor to many retirees, and have seen and heard a lot. As our upcoming Journey to 100 online conference approaches, I want to share a few of the lessons I have observed along the way and make a recommendation at the end.
First, I have learned how difficult retirement can be for many. Our culture promotes a lot of financial and personal retirement goals: Save $1,000,000 by 55! Plan your next getaway this winter! and other things like that. But rarely do folks tell you how significant a life change retirement truly is.
In fact, there are some who say retirement is one of the most jarring life stage changes, second only perhaps to the college to workplace transition. Retirement is not as easy as the commercials make it out to be.
Many, having worked for decades, find that one of their primary identity markers or “big whys” for getting out of bed in the morning is conspicuously absent after the retirement party. As a pastor, I have seen many men and women struggle in the first few years of retirement, not having accounted for this shift. Many find that having hit their “retirement goals,” they are more aimless than ever.
Second, I have learned that retirement, especially as it is defined by our modern society, has absolutely no biblical basis. The Scriptures are full of language about calling, assignment, service, and work, all as a means of worship to God and love for neighbor. Never will you find a verse that says, “And when you turn 65, all of that stops, and you can do whatever you want with your time and money.” While no one is generally surprised by this observation, I have noticed precious few believers account for it as they plan for their retirement. Instead, I see a strong focus on the “three big g’s”: golf, grandkids, and getaways. As amazing and good as those things are (seriously!), is that all God has in mind for our post-work years?
Is retirement just the inevitable final check box when the bank account and the birthdays hit the predetermined numbers? I, for one, hope not. So what should we focus on as believers who are approaching retirement? What would new kingdom oriented retirement goals look like in our lives?
I don’t have all the answers here, but a few recent conversations give me hope. One friend and congregant, after decades in the workplace, stepped away from paid work. As he and I processed that change, I mentioned the “r” word. He furrowed his brow and shook his head. He said, “I don’t talk about retiring. I talk about re-firing. What else does God have in store for me now?” Listen, I’m not one for cheesy turns of phrase, but I love this language, and especially the attitude behind it. Since then, this individual has consistently consulted with organizations, mentored young leaders (like me), and volunteered with local and global ministries for the common good, all in his “retirement years.” Re-firing indeed!
I am increasingly convinced that one of the real tragedies of our day is the latent talent, energy, expertise, and time of our retired brothers and sisters that has been sitting on the sidelines. I don’t say that in judgment. I just want to imagine the possibilities! God is not done with us when our paychecks start coming from Social Security. I know God feels that way as another recent conversation with a congregant had him recounting to me that God said to him, “It’s time to get off your behind and serve in your community.” This was someone who already gave of his time, talent, and treasure. But God was ready for more!
Are you ready for more?
When is the last time you asked God to reveal what He has in store for you next? Where do your passion, your training and expertise, and the needs of our community and world align?
Here’s my recommendation: be part of our Journey to 100 conversation on Saturday, November 7. I am serious when I say that if more people in the church caught a vision for what God can do with those “retirement years,” we would be blown away by the energy, vitality, ideas, and service it would unleash.
Keep up the good work, church. And I’ll see you at Journey to 100.
By Susan Spaulding
I’ve got a question for you if you’re nearing 65.
What does the “r-word” mean for you?
I’m willing to bet that many answers would not necessarily fall into the “typical” plan for retirement. The Boomer Generation completely changed the social and cultural landscape, and that trend is continuing into retirement. For many, the same-old plan—quit work, kick back, take it easy—holds no charm. Maybe you don’t feel ready to give up the challenges and excitement of work. Maybe you’re ready to leave behind the career, but are just as motivated to start a new one.
It can be really exciting if you’re thinking about staying in the workforce longer or doing something completely different. But doing retirement differently also means having to deal with some tough questions. For example:
- After you’ve been working for 30 or more years, how do you reinvent yourself?
- When you’ve followed a rhythm that has been working for you, what do you do when that rhythm no longer exists?
- More importantly…how do you create a new story for yourself?
Tough questions deserve thoughtful responses—and there is a simple way to start figuring out what retirement will look like for you.
For a lot of people, retirement is less about a graceful exit and more about a complete reinvention. No matter what your future plans are, it’s still important to spend some time thinking about how these changes will impact you and what you want to become. Before you start out, it’s crucial to take inventory—not only will it help you process the changes you’ll experience, but it will also help you to clarify what your new life will look like.
There are three good ways to start thinking about this. First, thinking about your purpose. What have you accomplished so far that’s given you the most satisfaction? What motivations and desires will drive your new life?
Second, what is your passion? For a lot of people, it means going back to hobbies or interests that fell by the wayside a long time ago. Maybe there’s something calling you that you’ve never had the chance to explore. Listen to those feelings that draw you to a cause, a field, or an industry.
Third, what does your personality say about you? The tough part about reinvention is learning to adapt to a new identity—so think about how others have viewed you in your past career. What skills or abilities distinguished you from the rest? Identifying those trademarks can help you to navigate changes and find a path that works for you.
Once you’ve reflected on who you are, your passions, and those skills that make up who you are, it’s time to start organizing that information.
Maybe you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do, or only the slightest hint. No matter what, the key is to take it slow! Test your ideas in tiny ways. Rather than applying for a non-profit job right away, could you spend a few weeks volunteering? Rather than taking six months off to travel Asia, how about a two-week test run? Give yourself permission to experiment in tiny ways and move on if it isn’t working out. It’s just fine to test the waters, but it’s miserable to jump in with both feet and find out it’s freezing!
Another important part of recalibrating is community. You may feel like you’re starting out on your own—leaving behind the support and friends that you had in your career. But there are new friends and new communities that can help you start a new life for yourself. Before you start out, start looking for those places where others are dealing with the same questions. Connect with people who are doing what you think you might like to do. Ask questions and get involved! No matter where you’re headed, people who’ve been there before can be a great resource.
Doing retirement differently doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of soul-searching, testing, and recalibrating plans before you hit on something that fits. But most of all, don’t be anxious—be excited! Every day, people are transforming retirement into something different that is a good fit for them.
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Written by Susan Spaulding, award-winning businesswoman, consultant, and author of Recalibrate for Life 2.0, Transition Stories for Business Leaders.