Planning for a fulfilling retirement

Mention the word “retirement,” and a host of images come to mind. On one hand, there are dreams: leisurely days on the beach, trips to Europe and visiting grandkids. However, there may be worries about health and finances. Let’s consider retirement from two different vantage points: attitude and financial preparation. 

Your financial plan for retirement should be driven by your retirement goals, and your retirement goals should be consistent with God’s will for that time of your life. There’s a mistaken notion in our society that recognizes work only as a burden. Many people fail to see that work also has creative and redemptive qualities. As a result, people often desire early retirement so they can get about “enjoying” life. That’s not necessarily a good goal to set. 

When most people read the story of the abundant farmer (Lk 12:16-21), they focus solely on how hoarding gets in the way of keeping God first in our lives — an important message for sure. But there is a second, more subtle message, and that is how we view the use of the time and talents Our Lord has given us. The farmer’s attitude was “take your ease; eat, drink, be merry,” but along with hoarding, the Lord considered that as foolishness. 

Our Lord has granted us time and talents for a purpose. They are to be developed and used for our well-being and the well-being of others. Using our time and talents well is part of the responsibility of being a steward of Providence, which continues throughout our life. Of course, how we use these gifts is bound to change over time. 

For the elderly with physical limitations, being a prayer warrior on behalf of their families and culture is powerful. For those who have retired and have an abundance of time, putting that time to use in ways pleasing to God is a great way to be faithful. Likewise, for those who have retired with an abundance of resources, being prayerful about how those resources should be put to use is a responsibility God expects them to fulfill. As you develop your retirement plans, make sure they are worthy of the high calling that is the Lord’s. 

In addition to issues related to time and talent, there are, of course, financial concerns. With an aging population and increasing pressure on Social Security and Medicare, it has become more important for you to take charge of your own financial future. I’m confident Social Security and Medicare will continue in some form, but they can be expected to provide fewer benefits in the future. 

To financially prepare for your golden years, I suggest you start by using an online calculator (ours can be found at veritasfinancialministries.com) to estimate how much you need to save for retirement. One of the benefits of these calculators is that they require you to think through a number of important issues, including: 

◗ When do you expect to retire and how long do you have to save before retirement? 

◗ What retirement lifestyle expectations do you have? Are you saving at a rate commensurate with meeting that lifestyle? 

◗ What is your life expectancy? 

◗ How much in retirement savings do you have today? 

◗ How much can you expect to earn on invested funds before retirement? After retirement? 

Based on the assumptions you enter, online calculators will help you determine whether your retirement plans are financially realistic. If your current plans fall short, you can adjust your assumptions accordingly. The earlier you do this, the greater the flexibility and choice you’ll have to develop a plan that works for you. God love you. 

Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries (VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and the author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free(OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to askphil@osv.com.