An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life by Jeff Haanen. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. 2019
Having recently retired, reading this book came at a good time for me. Actually, if I had read the book before I retired it would have been the perfect time. There is much wisdom in this book and I highly recommend it for believers who are retired or will soon be retired. I read the book in two days and then read and discussed it again with a few friends who retired the same time as I did.
The author, the executive director of the Denver Institute, writes that there is a growing sense of uneasiness among Americans ages 50–70. Baby boomers, and even early Gen Xers, are asking new questions about life, work, calling, and purpose in retirement—questions that our society is largely unprepared to answer. This book will help with those questions. One of the biggest of those questions is “God, do You have a purpose for my retirement?”
The author states that finances are a major concern for most older Americans, with the number one financial concern among the recently retired is how to pay (or who will pay) for rising healthcare costs as they age.
He writes that the dominant paradigm of retirement today is about vacation—how to afford it, and then how to make the most of it. But this type of lifestyle leads to boredom at a minimum, and sometimes to despair. Vacation as an ongoing lifestyle is often an attempt to escape from reality. Vacation isn’t the answer. Instead, the answer is to begin retirement with a stretch of deep Sabbath rest. A sabbatical is a way to structure time in early retirement to heal past wounds, seek God’s voice, and find God’s call for the next season of life. A sabbatical is the time to ask the honest question, “God, what are You calling me to do in retirement?” Listening to God’s voice is at the heart of discerning your calling. Retirement is the chance to pick up the strands of your calling that might have been latent during your career and develop them more fully into your life’s work.
The author tells us that a Christian perspective on retirement needs more than “never retire, keep working.” It needs a restoration of work, rest, and service that matures over a lifetime. For many, retirement offers a budding hope for work that better aligns with calling, yet is less subject to the deadline-driven pressure of their careers. Though work changes over a lifetime, he states that there’s nothing to suggest that work should completely cease at 62, 65, or 70. For Christians, work is fundamentally about contribution to others, not compensation; it’s an expression of our identity, but not the source of our identity; it’s about serving others, not personal success. However, working in retirement is filled with possible challenges that you should anticipate as you start planning your next season of life. Retirement is a season of possibility yet also of increased reminders of mortality. The author suggests that you decide what is important, and make a plan to do it, as the path toward effectiveness and impact. He tells us that studies find that those who write out their plan for retirement are far more satisfied than those who don’t.
The author states that learning in retirement can be preparation for a new job, career, or volunteer position that flows from a God-given calling. He discusses mentoring, indicating that today many are swapping a traditional idea of mentoring for the practice of intergenerational friendship. He adds that young people want to hear more about your mistakes than your successes.
He writes that reconnecting with family is a genuine joy of retirement. For many, serving kids, grandkids, and aging parents is central to a sense of vocation in this season of life.
The author writes that the church has been nearly silent on the topic of retirement, and then asks “What would it look like for the Christian church in America to transform our narrative about retirement?”
The “Afterword” is written by Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. He writes that God is calling our generation to repurpose, not retire. He urges the reader to move away from thinking of retirement and to reframe this season of life as a time to repurpose.
The author includes helpful stories to illustrate his points throughout the book. He also contrasts “Common” vs. “Uncommon” approaches to retirement. An example is: “Common: Fear, doubt, and uncertainty in retirement” vs. “Uncommon: Retirement has hope because the Christian story is true”.
One suggestion for future editions would be to include “Questions for Discussion and Reflection” at the end of each chapter. That would aid in reading and discussing the book with others. (Note: A Discussion Guide is available for free download from a site that is listed in the book).
Below are 10 of my favorite quotes from the book:
- To be like God—and to become fully human—we need both work and rest in proper proportion.
- Work was created to be an expression of our identity, not the source of our identity.
- Discerning your calling is to move outward toward the majesty of God and a lifetime of service to Him.
- Work is inherently good and a way we reflect the image of God.
- Work is an expression of love because it’s the principal way we serve the needs of our neighbors.
- Work is the primary avenue for fulfilling Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.
- Reconnecting with family is a genuine joy of retirement.
- Caring for the spiritual nourishment of the next generation is a way to think about a deep vocation in retirement.
- Retirement is a chance to pause and ask deeper questions about the next season of life.
- The biblical sense of hope is complete trust in God, for this life, for eternal life, and for the “life of the world to come.”