Government reports reveal that at least one third of Americans 65 and older have incomes below poverty level. Retirement may not be easy for the remaining two-thirds either. Some may be driven to an earlier grave because of boredom or lack of proper nutrition. Loneliness may also be a problem. Thus retirement may prove to be a traumatic experience. But for Christians it can be perhaps the most exciting and challenging time of their lives!
Early retirement – yes or no?
If you are a career serviceman or employed by a company that has a good pension plan, you may have the option of choosing to retire even while in your fifties. Those covered only by Social Security (USA), however, must wait until they are at least 62 before they can elect early retirement with income benefits. In either case, the early retiree would probably receive a lesser pension. In some cases, however, pension supplements are offered to encourage older employees to retire earlier so that payrolls might be cut without mass layoffs.
Each of us have to make the decision concerning early retirement in light of our particular situation. Experts agree that the answer depends on our income expectations. Poor health might also be a consideration. Our desire to try another profession might be yet another.
However, we who are Christians, while taking circumstances into account, would be wise to also seek the Lord’s will as to what we should do concerning early retirement. Perhaps the Lord would lead us to retire early in order to make a job or professional change. A maintenance supervisor for the New York City Transit Authority retired at full retirement pension, half his regular pay. The following Monday he started on a job with a company doing similar work at close to the old salary. So he enjoys both incomes. A Christian with an income like this could contribute quite a bit to God’s work around the world!
A professional change might be challenging. An engineer might wish to study a few more years and become a doctor. Office workers or teachers might like to retire on pension and try their hands at some creative work, such as writing or music, which could be used in God’s service. Retiring to take a part-time job might make life easier and more enjoyable for an older person.
A number of Christians who have retired from military service or the teaching profession have gone back to school in order to prepare for the ministry or some other Christian field of service. They are not the only ones, however, who can and do enter God’s service during their middle-age years. Anyone can! A friend of mine returned to college when in her fifties and then went to work for a rescue mission at the age of 64, where she ministered to the poor and needy.
Also, a number of older Christians are volunteering to serve as short-term missionaries on fields all over the world. Another older friend of mine went to Taiwan to serve as a house-mother at the mission’s school for missionary kids. Thus she made it possible for many missionaries to continue serving the Lord.
Concerns in retirement
Financial problems can cause real anxiety for the retired person. Many who thought they would be able to make ends meet on their retirement income have been sadly disappointed due to inflation and tax burdens.
“For the past 15 years I have been living on my teacher’s annuity,” says a retired public school teacher in New England. “That’s all I have, except for the house I inherited. Rising taxes whittle down my buying power. Property, taxes, household repairs, food, everything keeps going up. I don’t know what to do!”
In Philippians 4:19, however, God promises to supply all our needs. We need not be anxious about any problem, financial or otherwise; for our Lord has told us to bring these things to Him and enjoy His peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). Nevertheless, we would be wise to learn ways to conserve our money and buy intelligently.
Infirmity, illness, loneliness, and getting the proper nutrition are other problems a retired person might face. A widowed or single person might consider sharing a home or apartment with a fellow Christian in similar circumstances. This would cut expenses, provide companionship and furnish a helper in time of need. It would also encourage both to eat better.
Many retired people still have good health and plenty of energy. These can use their spare time helping, visiting and encouraging others. Jesus said, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:40).
Preparation for retirement
Before you retire, consider where you should live and what you should do when you do retire. Proverbs 14:15 says, “A prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Will your house be too big for just two? Might you prefer an apartment or retirement community where the grounds and other things are taken care of? And how about your property taxes? Are they exorbitant?
My parents moved from New Jersey to South Carolina and found that their property taxes were far less on the larger home they bought there than property taxes on their smaller home in New Jersey. Utility bills also were less. With their limited income, the money saved contributed to a more comfortable old age.
Another way of preparing for retirement is to invest in annuities, an insurance plan or an IRA that will yield a monthly income when you are older. I like an IRA because I can deduct it from my income tax returns.
Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs.” Retired Christians can be a blessing to all they meet. They know God will care for all their needs. They can glorify the Lord with their faith and testimony. Younger Christians can draw strength and encouragement from them. Their sunset years can be filled with rich experiences, if they keep loving, trusting, and serving the Lord.