If I were to succinctly state the philosophy and approach that I take in writing about Retirement Stewardship, it would be based on this blog’s sub-title: save diligently; invest wisely; give generously; live abundantly. I could stop there, but here is a more extensive version that includes the major “pillars” of biblical retirement stewardship:
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.”
Retirement stewardship starts long before retirement. The stewardship of your retirement will not begin when you retire. You still start planning for retirement very early in your working life. You will follow the sound principles of hard work, living below your means, controlling your spending, giving, saving for emergencies, and saving for the long term. You will take full advantage of the savings and investment vehicles available to you, realizing that you alone are ultimately responsible and accountable for your financial future and being able to retire in a way that brings honor and glory to God.
Retirement stewardship requires hard choices. If you did not start planning for later retirement early in life, you will take the wise and prudent steps now to ensure that you are stewarding whatever resources you have to retire with dignity. If necessary, you will make the hard decisions to lower your living expenses and increase your savings. If you can, you may work in a full-time job longer if necessary to maintain income, retain benefits, and boost savings.
Steward an “early” retirement well. If you are fortunate enough to have an “early” retirement, it will simply mean that you have attained a level of financial freedom that will allow you to work with less or no pay, doing something that you truly love, perhaps in service to others. For you, “early” retirement will not be a total withdrawal from the work, but rather the freedom to pursue different work at different times for different purposes.
Retirement does not mean a total cessation of work. As a steward of your time and talents and your financial assets, you won’t buy into the popular societal views of “retirement” as being purely a time to cease the daily routine of work. You won’t view your later years as mainly consisting of a leisure lifestyle to which you are “entitled” after many years of work. While you may enjoy recreation and leisure as a gift from God, you will also continue to use the skills and talents he has given you in productive ways. You may begin a new career, start a new business, volunteer, or serve others in other ways but not for pay, or a combination of any of these.
Leisure and recreation as gifts from God but don’t make them the most important thing. You may take time for leisurely pursuits that you enjoy (travel, hobbies, etc.), perhaps more than you did when you were younger, but they will not be your dominant pursuit during your later years. Because God’s purpose for your life is that all the days of your life have meaning and purpose beyond yourself, your “retirement” will be less about money and leisure and more about the values and purpose you choose to embrace and endeavor to live out.
Make sure your basic needs are taken care of. You will make plans and take the necessary actions to ensure that, at a minimum, once you are no longer physically or mentally able to work, your essential living expenses will be met (i.e., you will be a non-borrower and not dependent on the government.) If you have financial means beyond that, they can be used for your enjoyment (discretionary spending) and also for the joy of others (discretionary giving). How you apportion your surplus, including what you may choose to leave as a legacy, is a decision that will be between you and God.
Make a plan. Although money and leisure will not be the most important things in your life, there are still some essential financial plans and decisions that you need to make. If you can no longer work, or should you choose to work for little or no pay, you will need to know how much money (i.e., “retirement assets”) you will need to have set aside to meet your essential living expenses as described in #7, above. Therefore, these plans, decisions, and actions will be mainly directed at the things you need to do to ensure that you will have enough and that it will last for the remainder of your (and/or your spouse’s) life.
Make important decisions. To wisely make plans and decisions alluded to in #8 above, several important questions must also be answered that have mainly to do with your retirement assets and how you save and invest them, and your lifestyle and spending before and during retirement. These include things like: How much should I save? How and where should I save? What kind of investments should I consider? Do I need to hire an advisor? What will inflation be like in the years ahead? How much will my investments return? Where will I live? How healthy will I be? How long will I live? And perhaps most importantly, how long will my money last?
Be conservative in your estimates. Because many of the questions in #9 above cannot be answered definitively (only God knows the answer to some of them), you will be prudent in your estimates to plan for the best possible outcome
Minimize your dependency on the government. Because you will continue to work or will have saved enough to meet your expenses such that you can choose to work for little or no pay, you will hopefully reduce (but not necessarily eliminate) your dependence on the government, mainly in the form of Social Security, to be able to meet your expenses. If Social Security is available to you, you will make wise decisions concerning when you start receiving benefits to maximize the lifetime income you (and/or your spouse) will receive.
Make health a primary concern. Although you will endeavor to pursue a healthy lifestyle during my later years, you will assume that health care expenses, and possibly long-term care expenses, will consume a significant part of your retirement income and must be included in any projections of essential living expenses. You will take advantage of low-cost medical plans (such as Medicare). Still, you will also plan and take the actions necessary to protect yourself from the expenses associated with a catastrophic illness or the need for long-term care.
Try not to be a burden on others. You will do all you can not be a financial burden to your family. If you do need to rely on help from family or others, you will do all you can to minimize the amount and duration of the help you need.
Use your surplus to bless others. If you are fortunate to have a surplus over what you need to live and for occasional enjoyments, you can rejoice by giving that away so that your abundance may bless others.
Be heavenly minded. As a Christian, you will strive to live knowing that your ultimate destination is not a retirement with dignity in this life, but rather an eternal home in heaven. This knowledge will inform and guide the important decisions you make about how you will live out your later years – how you spend your money, time, and talents.