For most people, retirement means not working, traveling the country, keeping up with family and of course, spending time on the golf course! Isn’t that all a part of the American dream? However, the truth is that the majority of Americans nearing their retirement years don’t have the means to actually do it. In fact, statistics tell us that as many as 60% of Americans have no idea what they need to have in the way of retirement funds in order to maintain even their existing lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the Biblical basis for retirement and get you on your way to a solid financial future.
Interestingly, the Bible only makes one direct reference about retirement, and it is regarding the retirement of the Levitical Priests in Numbers 8:25. However, the Word is very clear about the need for workers to lay aside some surplus in higher-income-earning years so that they will be provided for in the latter years. Proverbs 6:6-8 reminds us, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.”
It is interesting to see how people approach retirement planning differently. There are many that are on a steady and healthy track to a secure retirement. But sadly, some people in America are so obsessed with retirement planning that they live like misers most of their lives in order to retire in comfort. Some even divert funds from God’s work and their families in the process. Often, their assets provide perceived “security” and lessen their dependence on the Lord. This is where saving begins to cross over into hoarding. There are others that act as if they will remain young and highly employable for the rest of their lives. Often these people end up living on inadequate income, mostly Social Security, or being totally dependent on their children or the government.
Retirement planning is really nothing more than long-term planning. But, before you begin to concentrate on your long-term retirement accounts, you need to make sure that your present financial foundation is secure. The first place to look is at your reserve account. Make sure that you have adequate savings to fall back on in the event that you have a loss of income or an unexpected expense. Most financial planners recommend 3-6 months worth of your monthly expenses in a liquid reserve account, preferably one that earns interest. Next, take a look at your debt situation. Make sure you get your debt under control, especially high interest credit cards.
Once savings are in place and debt is under control, it is time to begin looking at the retirement situation. The key to achieving that desired retirement goal is to plan ahead. The earlier you begin your program of accumulation, the harder your monthly surplus will work for you. Dollars invested during your 20’s are much more valuable than dollars invested during your 40’s. Many make the mistake of postponing lifestyle sacrifices necessary in order to have a monthly surplus until later in life, when there is not as much time to let your investments work for you. They later try to make up for lost time with higher-risk investments, but they can rarely catch-up to where they would have been if only they had started earlier.
Once you have determined your retirement goals, you need to select the retirement vehicle that you are going to use to get you there. Obviously, you have numerous options to pick from including IRA’s, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and any number of other qualified plans. If your employer matches your 401(k) contributions, in most cases it makes sense to max out at least the matching portion if your budget allows. You aren’t going to find an immediate 50% or 100% return on your money anywhere else. Beyond that, the tax-free growth of the Roth IRA is an excellent alternative.
The last step is to set a financial “finish line” for your family. Your family finish line is the point at which you stop funding your lifestyle and long-term savings and divert the rest of your increase to the Lord’s work. Earnestly seek the Lord in prayer for the lifestyle the Lord has called you to. Then, as the Lord blesses, you will have already determined the point at which 100% goes back to Him.
Retirement planning can seem overwhelming to the average person, so be sure to prayerfully consider what your retirement goals are and be sure to sit down with a trusted financial professional to determine the best course of action for you.
Rob West is the Training and Communications Director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to Rob.[email protected].
The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.