2018 is here and the beginning of a new year is when a lot of people do some planning, and perhaps make a resolution or two. If you are five or ten years from retirement, you may be increasingly focused on that.
Since my wife and I both reach “full retirement age” as defined by the Social Security Administration this year, retirement planning is something I give some thought to even though I am still working full-time.
Retirement planning can be challenging. Most people focus mainly on the financial aspects, which is understandable since it can be hard to retire if you don’t. Many of the topics I write about on this blog are about financial things. But when it comes to retirement, there is much more to be considered than just finances, as crucial as they are.
The tagline for this blog reads, “Save Diligently, Invest Wisely, Give Generously” ( all mainly financal activities), but ends with “LIVE ABUNDANTLY.” That is the end-game – living a productive, fulfilling, abundant life to the glory of God!
The “wheel of life” planning tool
A tool that many planners and coaches find helpful in significant life stage transitions like retirement is what is known as the “Wheel of Life.” I introduce this because I think it provides a useful framework that can help you think more broadly about the different aspects of your life as you plan for, and then live, in retirement.
I don’t know if he created it, but I first came across this in Dan Miller’s excellent book, “48 days to the Work You Love” (pg. 55). The wheel looks like a pie with seven slices representing different areas of concern. The main purpose of the “Wheel of Life” is to help you take a broader and more balanced perspective in your planning. He points out the need to plan to achieve some level of success in each area: “No one wants to be in the hospital with a heart attack even if you have $5 million in the bank. And no one wants to be in great physical shape but rejected by family and friends. You cannot justify success in one area at the expense of success in another.”
I am also reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36 (ESV): “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
I like this concept as I tend to view retirement stewardship holistically and concerned with all areas of life. As I wrote in the “Retirement Stewardship Manifesto”:
Stewardship is a whole-life concern. You understand stewardship as mainly about being a faithful follower of Christ, caring for and managing all that God has given you. Stewardship is not just one part of the Christian life concerned only with giving tithes and offerings; it involves every aspect of your life in all the stages of your life, including so-called “retirement.”
Dan’s wheel lists seven main life categories: career, financial, social, family, physical, personal development, and spiritual. To adapt it more specifically to retirement stewardship, I changed it slightly with some rewording, and I added one additional category: Fun, Work, Finances (and Giving), Daily Management, Physical, Relationships, Mental, and Spiritual. My modified Retirement Stewardship “Wheel of Life” looks like this:
I would summarize the Retirement Stewardship Life Wheel this way: As you steward the time, talents and treasure that God has given you based on Biblical principles in all the different areas of life, you will be able to fulfill your purpose, mission, and calling. And in doing so, you will find joy, peace, and fulfillment in your life.
Although each segment is the same size in the diagram, one could argue that some are more important than others. For example, as a Christian, your relationship with God and continued spiritual growth should be the highest priority. But among the other areas, you may put a higher priority on “fun” than “work” in retirement, depending on how you define them.
Even if you are many years away from retirement, you probably give some thought to these areas based on your situation. If not, you may want to consider using the Wheel for that purpose. But in the following sections, I am going to describe each of them in the context of retirement stewardship.
Although the Bible acknowledges that life can be hard, it also encourages us to have fun (Ecc.2:22-25). God has given us many good things to enjoy, and we should partake of them while being careful to avoid evil (1Thess.5:21-22, James 4:17).
“Fun” in this context could be described as leisure, recreation, or even as “play.” These are the ways you choose to spend your spare time in retirement, which you will probably have more of, by the way. Do you have hobbies, creative pursuits, or outdoor activities that you enjoy? Then go for it! Having fun is a natural God-given human experience, and there is nothing wrong with having some enjoyment in your life.
“Fun” will look different for each of us. For some, it could be some form of creative expression. For example, my wife likes to paint and also to make jewelry. I enjoy reading and writing (hence, this blog) and also outdoor activities like hiking and fishing. I can play the guitar (a little), and I would like to learn how to play bluegrass, maybe even as part of a little band. Retirement is a great time to pursue those kinds of things and it’s never too late to find something new.
A lot of retirees want to travel. My wife and I have traveled a little, and I think it would be fun to do more of it in retirement. I’ve seen very few of the National Parks out West, so that is high on my list. You can travel purely for leisure, but it can also provide adventure, inspiration, education, and opportunities to serve others, such as going on a mission trip.
This refers to physical health and also your physical location, type of home, etc., i.e., your physical condition and surroundings.
We all need to try to keep our bodies as healthy as possible because our physical capabilities and limitations will largely affect the extent to which we can pursue the other things on “the Wheel.”
Although the Bible doesn’t promise us good health, especially as we age, we are nonetheless encouraged to care for our bodies as best we can (Prov.3:7-8, 1Cor.6:19-20, 3 John1:2). Our health can be affected by certain decisions we make. We can regulate things such as diet, exercise, and other health habits while avoiding things that aren’t good for us.
I used to like to play tennis, softball, and run. Now because of injuries my exercise of choice is walking and hiking. I have a 5.5-mile route that I regularly walk (although my wife says I “trudge,” whatever that means). My wife enjoys exercising and has recently been getting the help of a trainer. She had a full-reverse shoulder replacement a few years ago after an accidental fall, and the training has helped her. These are things we hope to continue while we are in retirement.
We know that our physical health is ultimately in God’s hands, but as with so many things, we have to try to do our part. The onus is on us to do what we can to stay healthy and engaged in various activities so that we can maintain our physical capabilities as long as possible.
In addition to physical health, our physical surroundings are important too. If you live in a house that is not conducive to “aging in place,” you may want to consider moving. If it requires continual maintenance and upkeep, and that’s not something you want to spend your time doing, that may be another good reason to make a change. Those kinds of issues with housing can become more severe the older you get. We live in a little larger home, so there is a fair amount of upkeep, but fortunately, it is a single story, so we aren’t in any big hurry to move.
The Bible says almost nothing about retirement. But it does have a lot to say about money. In this category, the focus in on your overall financial situation and how you manage your finances leading up to and while in retirement. It also has to do with having the right kinds of insurance, putting an estate plan in place, etc.
The Bible doesn’t promise you a wealthy, luxurious retirement. But it does communicate God’s promises to meet our needs (Phil.4:19) while also addressing the need to provide for yourselves through work (1Thess.3:10, 1Tim.5:8) and wise saving for future needs when you may not be able to generate income (Prov.6:6-8, 21:20). There is also the implication that you have a responsibility to wisely manage and invest what has been entrusted to you (Matt.25:14-30).
Because I am in my mid-60s, I have been giving more attention to financial planning for retirement. I am a do-it-yourself investor, so I keep an eye on my retirement accounts but without tinkering with things too much. I am not a “stock trader,” so it doesn’t take up too much of my time. I may go weeks or months without making any changes, and when I do, they tend to be minor.
More recently, I have also started estimating my possible income and expenses in retirement to see if I am on track. I haven’t made a decision about when I will retire, but once I do, I will have a more detailed, written plan in place.
Many people will say that the most significant thing on their mind when they retire is money. That’s understandable but as important as money is (it’s tough to retire without any), you need to view it as a means to an end in retirement, not the end in itself. You could think of the seven other areas in the wheel as the ends and money as one of the primary means of supporting them. Better to identify the end and then try to ensure that your means can support it.
Giving is an integral part of the financial area, but it is also a spiritual discipline. If you want to be in a position to generously give when you’re retired, you’re going to need to make sure you have the resources to do that. Everyone should continue to give something in retirement, although the dynamics may change from what you did when you were working full time. I don’t have a specific giving plan for retirement except to continue to give as I have been, but I know I will need to remain flexible.
And of course, in addition to giving monetarily, we can give through serving (see the “Work” section below).
You will probably need a financial budget in retirement, but the most important budgeting exercise you can do is for your most precious resource of all – your time. Your life consists of many areas that are important, and while money is a means to an end, you need to identify the ends to ensure that the means can support them.
We were created to work by a working God (Gen.2:15, John 5:17), so work is an essential part of living and feeling productive as a human being. We are instructed to do good works (Eph.2:10) and to bring honor and glory to God through our work (1Cor.10:31).
Because retirement could be the end of permanent employment, that loss can leave a void in terms of meaning, purpose, and connection with others. Retirees need to think about what kind of work they want to do in retirement once the euphoria over not having to “punch a clock” any longer wears off.
In this context, work is best defined as a meaningful and productive activity and involvement that you enjoy, and that benefits others, regardless of whether you collect a paycheck or not. My wife and I currently serve as Deacons in our church. She coordinates our Women’s Ministry, and I lead our Financial Ministry. Serving in those capacity and others (welcome team, small group ministry, children’s ministry, mercy ministry to the homeless, etc.) are things that take time and effort, but we look forward to being able to devote more time and energy to them when I am retired. Your church probably has many of the same ministries that you could be a part of.
The good news is that retirement offers the chance to think about work differently. For some, that may mean a new career or starting a small business. For others, it may be part-time work of some kind. You may decide to use your talents and skills to work for pay or little or no pay, especially in the context of your local church and other ministries you have an interest in (1 Peter 4:10). The key is to do all you can be useful and relevant as long as you are able.
This element pertains to family relationships and also friends and colleagues. Family relationships are especially important, especially for you and your spouse, but also with your children and grandchildren. Many retirees decide to move closer to their children and grandchildren for that purpose.
Christian relationships are important too. The Bible encourages Christians to relate together in fellowship and community (Heb.10:24-25). This happens mainly in the context of the local church. We are relational creatures so maintaining strong, loving relationships with others is vitally important (John 15:13; Eph.4:2-3, 6:1-3).
But maintaining fulfilling relationships with others can be more challenging in retirement. Being a part of other people’s lives is an important part of the Christian life, and continued involvement in your local church and other ministries can help facilitate that.
Sometimes, after people retire, they don’t interact with others as often as they used to. That can lead to feelings of being disconnected, and even loneliness and despair. That’s why continued involvement in your local church is so important. One area to consider is building relationships with younger people in your church or community who could benefit from the wealth of experience, knowledge, and wisdom that you have to share.
We should always endeavor to make good use of our time (Eph.5:15-17). With extra time on your hands, managing your time in retirement is more important than ever. It is important that you feel some sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, even if it’s a small one. That means having some plan, perhaps with short and long-term goals and associated to-dos, instead of just “puttering around” all day without any specific goals or ambitions (Psalm 90:12, Prov.16:9).
I’m not talking about maintaining a regimented, disciplined schedule as you probably retired to get away from that. Some may choose to do that, but I’m mainly talking about being somewhat deliberate about how you spend your time. If you don’t, you may find yourself aimlessly drifting through each day, which can lead to many other problems.
Once you decide what you want to do or accomplish in retirement, you will need to determine how to achieve that. For example, if I want to publish more than one article every two or three weeks on this blog, I will need to carve out more time to spend writing. If I want to serve in a broader capacity in my church, I will need to plan for that. If I want to exercise more frequently or engage in more outdoor activities, I will have to schedule them accordingly.
Daily management may also mean taking care of the long list of “to-dos” (aka, “honey-dos) that you have been putting off. I know there are lots of things my wife would like for me to do, and once I retire, they will keep me busy for a while.
In the well-known Psalm 63, David wrote, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (ESV).” He goes on to say that he had beheld God’s power and glory and found God’s steadfast love to be better than life itself (Psalm 63:1-4). This captures the essence of the devotional life of the Christian – a continual seeking after God and his presence.
Retirement (and aging in general) can be a challenging time. But no matter what difficulties come into your life, you will be able to handle them better if you maintain this one priority above all else: Earnestly seek after God! As Psalm 91:1 reminds us, those who dwell in God’s presence will reside in the shelter of His almighty power, mercy, and grace. Psalm 46:1 tells us that he will not just be a refuge but also our strength when we are in trouble.
The spiritual area is mainly focused on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study, other devotional reading, prayer, etc. It may also involve ministering to others. The goal is not to just practice these things, but to do so to continue to grow in your love and devotion to God.
We all need to remain teachable, responsive, humble, and obedient in spirit. This is not that different from how we are called to live our lives as Christians from the very beginning. Our spiritual life as an older person just means that we continue to do what we have always done, but with a heightened awareness of the challenges that mid- and later-life can present to us.
Keeping the Scriptures and our relationship with God preeminent in our lives helps us maintain the right perspective on the vagaries of the circumstances of life (both blessing and hardships). Our goal is to persevere in faith to overcome the obstacles and challenges that get in our way so that we can one day say with Paul, ““I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7; Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
It is well known that mental health and acuity becomes more of an issue as we age. Almost all of us will have challenges with this at some point in our lives. So this area is concerned with our mental health, in the broadest sense. It is essential to keep your mind active and engaged when you are older. Regular mental activity is as crucial to your emotional and spiritual health as it is for your physical well-being.
You should never stop growing your knowledge through exploration and learning. Christians, in particular, should be diligent about reading, studying, learning, and applying God’s Word and also the beautiful theological and doctrinal truths we find in other books to their lives. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (ESV).”
It would be easy to underestimate how quickly you can become complacent about learning, especially since so much of what we take in is “force fed” by the television and social media. You can even get to the place where your only intake is the sermon on Sunday morning.
You have to make a conscious effort to challenge yourself daily in this area. That means deliberately engaging in activities to keep your brain productively active and to strive to be a continuous learner. This is closely tied to the “Work” area above. Even though I know I am not quite as sharp as I once was, one of the reasons I am still working in a full-time job is the intellectual challenges and stimulation it provides. That is also one of the reasons why I work on this blog. Although the subject matter is different than my regular job, it is still interesting and challenging to me (and hopefully helpful to others). I love the research and thinking and writing involved in publishing an article.
Think about simple things you can do to keep your mental activity alive: You can read more. You can attend classes (online or in-person). (It may not appear so, but I have taken a couple of writing classes on Udemy.) You can take up a creative pursuit, such as painting or writing. If you like crossword puzzles, try Sudoku (my wife has gotten very good at it). Try teaching others, especially younger people. They will keep you hoppin’!
The key is to challenge yourself enough to learn and have fun at the same time, but not so much that you get frustrated and quit.
Think and plan more broadly
The central message is this: As you think about retirement planning, think more broadly than just finances. No matter what stage of life you’re in, all the areas on the “Wheel of Life” have importance. So don’t be surprised to see an article here and there over the next year that gets into greater detail in these areas.