I’ve been retired for three years. When I was first retired, I somehow felt I was doing something wrong. After nearly 38 years, I was no longer going to work each morning to the employer I worked at all of those years. My wife Tammy and I had agreed that we would take it easy, and not make any big commitments for a while. So, I spoke at a local church conference, and did a few teaching assignments at church, but didn’t commit to any more than that. What we were doing, though we didn’t know it at the time, was what Jeff Haanen writes about when he states that “the early years of retirement provide the perfect time to take a much-needed sabbatical”, in his excellent book An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.
Tammy was worried about how I would adapt to retirement. She knew that I had loved being a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, working with some wonderful people over the years. Would I be left without my identity as a leader? Fortunately, I made a very good transition into retirement, with a new found love of writing and additional time to pour into relationships. But that’s not the case with everyone. Many people, after enjoying the first months of retirement, and perhaps a few trips, find themselves feeling lost in this new season of life. After looking forward to no longer having to work, having more time to travel and play golf, they find themselves singing the old Peggy Lee song, wondering “Is that all there is?” That’s why I highly recommend that you go into retirement with your eyes wide open. You need to prepare yourself for what God has next for you.
Keep your eyes wide open in these three key areas:
- Identity. No matter how much we love what we do in our vocations, they are not our identity. Our identity comes in being loved as a child of God. No job can give us our true identity. Many people struggle in retirement without the drive for success and affirmation that doing a good job can provide. I enjoyed my vocation as a leader in a major organization, but that season is past. I didn’t get my value, significance or worth from my job. A job, money, homes, cars, boats, etc. can never truly satisfy. I love the Keith and Kristyn Getty song “My Worth is Not in What I Own”, and these lines are appropriate here:
My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross
- Finances. In a perfect world, you would have been putting money in your 401K for years, and maximizing your annual contributions when possible. You would have also occasionally been meeting with a financial advisor to determine how much money you would need for retirement, and if you were saving appropriately to achieve that amount. We tried to do just that, and attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class helped me to get on board with Tammy to reduce debt and build wealth. There are many financial questions related to retirement, including when should you begin taking social security. Don’t underestimate the financial impact of retirement. Prepare ahead of time and go into retirement with your eyes wide open about your finances. In some cases, you may need to continue working on a full or part-time basis.
- Work in Retirement. Haanen writes “Though work changes over a lifetime, there’s nothing to suggest that work should completely cease at 62, 65, or 70.”. Many people will take a part-time job or start a second career after retirement, based on their interests, health, and financial needs. You may know when you retire that you are going to pick up a part-time job after a while. That was the case with a former team member who retired about a year before I did. She knew that after taking some time off (a sabbatical), she was going to work part-time for a local insurance agent. If that is the case with you, Haanen recommends that you put your plan for work after retirement into writing.
Retirement is a new season of life for you, uncharted territory. Some adapt better than others. Some thrive, while others may find despair. So, go into retirement with your eyes wide open about your identity, finances and work.
P.S. I wanted to share a final word about relationships in retirement. Retirement is a wonderful time to further invest in family and friends. I’ve had many wonderful meals with friends, deepening relationships that time didn’t allow for when I was working. Tammy and I have also had more time to spend with family members as well. Deeper relationships are one of the true joys of retirement.