My informal observations tell me the average retirement age has been increasing significantly for several years. I have observed in our own client base that people are simply not retiring for good. Those that have retired have simply found other things to do.  They become consultants or dive into a second career that may not pay as much as they were accustomed to earning but gives them a lot of joy. Many are simply volunteering. Actually, the only ones that are volunteering are the ones who planned well for their retirement.

People are living longer, staying healthy longer, and remaining active longer. Why should they stop working (or volunteering)?  The days of working for a company for 40 years, having a retirement party, and getting the gold watch are pretty much gone. I think that’s good news because I can’t find any specific scriptures that talk about retirement. Well, there is one fundamental point I have found regarding retirement. Proverbs 6:6-8: Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise!  Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.

Retirement planning is not wrong. Although there are many different retirement plans, there is not one "best" plan that is guaranteed to work for everyone. The most biblical plan is to continue to be productive throughout our lifetimes. God never intended for us to quit working but, rather, for us to change to a less demanding alternative.  I do not believe God intends for us to work for money our entire lives.  I believe that at some point, God plans a different work for us. 

Workers need to lay aside some surplus in higher-income-earning years so that the latter years can be spent in peace. Statistics show that the "harvest" years for most Americans are between the ages of 25 and 60. Therefore it would be wise to lay aside some surplus income for the latter phase of life, when income-earning abilities decline, so that retirees will not become a burden to their children or the government. When I meet with retirees, the number one concern they have is that they don’t want to burden their children. 

In 1940, soon after Franklin Delanor Roosevelt signed “The New Deal,”  life expectancy was only 63 years.  In 2000, it was 77 years.1

So, offering Social Security to people at age 65 was pretty easy to do. Kind of like telling my seven year old daughter that I will give her $1 million if she dunks a basketball on a regulation goal. I’m not too worried.

From a savings standpoint, in 1940,  it was fairly easy to save for retirement because if you did make it to age 65, you probably weren’t going to live very long after reaching that milestone. Today, if you retire at age 65, you will likely have time for another career before your health gives way. The retirement savings that was necessary to provide for a few years at the most, must now be sufficient to supply our needs for a few decades. And don’t forget that living is expensive, especially if you require health care, which you most certainly will.

But, I digress. Since it is likely that we will live longer than originally expected, there are some steps we can take to make it a much more pleasant experience. I would like to offer some suggestions:

1. Plan – I know this obvious, but few people really prepare for the day when they will no longer work and generate an income. Many people never make any plans about anything other than Social Security. If you are one of those who think that the money you have been paying to Social Security will provide for your needs, you may need to adjust your medication. It will not be enough. It is time to develop a plan the goes beyond what the government will provide. If you are younger, planning is easy. If you are older, planning is still necessary.

2. Rethink Retirement – I always worry when someone tells me they want to retire so they can do nothing. Ron Blue, our Kingdom Advisors, says this:  “It’s not about figuring out what you are retiring from as much as it is figuring out what you are retiring to.” Just because you reach a specific age doesn’t mean that God is done with you. The concept of retirement is not a biblical command or expectation. What if Noah had “retired” at 65? What if Abraham said he was too old to procreate? I think you get the point.

3. Carpe Diem (seize the day) - Instead of living in fear of what the future might bring, celebrate the opportunity that might come your way. Don't see it as more years that require hard work. Approach it as a privilege to have more time to serve God. Countless hours of volunteer work are provided by senior adults to churches and organizations. A longer life means that you will have time to do more things and enjoy more experiences.

Retirement planning is not necessarily fun, but it is wise. A good plan can be set up and put on autopilot only requiring routine maintenance. Whatever you do, do it now. Don’t procrastinate just because you’re too busy. A little work now will make things much easier down the road.

1 http://www.efmoody.com/estate/lifeexpectancy.html


Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Treasure Coast Financial. He is co-host of God’s Money, which can be heard on the internet at  www.oneplace.com. You can contact Steve at  steve@tcfin.com.