Jeff Haanen

Category

Retirement

""/
RetirementTheologyWork

How will I spend my time in retirement?

“The first thing you have to know about retirement,” says Allan Spies, a 68-year-old retired US West executive, “is that you could live another 40 years.”

Spies recalled a conversation he had with his pastor when he was on the cusp of an early retirement in his 50s. The pastor reminded Spies of all the time he had ahead of him As Spies started to spend his newfound time, he was also jarred by how much his schedule changed. “The other thing you’ve got to know,” he says, “is that suddenly your clock changes.”

Many enter retirement busied and harried from the last few months of work. Then, like jumping off a moving train, the forward momentum comes to an abrupt halt. Weekdays melt into weekends. Long breakfasts can become early lunches. The time that was lacking in the pressure of raising a family and pursuing a career now floods into a quiet home.  

After an initial honeymoon period, many early retirees find themselves quickly looking for structure to their days and weeks. “I had to do something,” says Lynn Haanen, about her early retirement. “My days lacked a schedule and a sense of purpose.” Initially relieved to leave the “grind” of teaching third graders, Lynn (my mom) gloried in finally having time to herself. But eventually, she realized her weeks were amorphous and needing structure.

Her life in retirement had traded the stopwatch for the lava lamp, with hours and days slowly blobbing into each other without direction.

For millions of Americans, early retirement can feel like entering Dr. Seuss’s “The Waiting Place.” In his classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Seuss warns about “a most useless place” for “people just waiting”:

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Fear of being caught in a useless cycle of waiting leads many to backfill their days with activities, errands, and “busy work” to avoid the anxiety of purposelessness. Time becomes a burden, something to be used up, like too much corn overflowing a silo after harvest. “Oh, I stay busy,” becomes the anxious response to “How’s retirement?”

New research shows that human longevity is giving people a newfound abundance of years – a change few have planned for.

Time, Time, and More Time  

In 1900, the average male could expect to live to age 46, and the average female age, 48.[1] Today, “if you are now 20 you have a 50 per cent chance of living to more than 100; if you are 40 you have an even chance of reaching 95; if you are 60, then a 50 per cent chance of making 90 or more.” Over the last 200 years, life expectancy has increased at a rate of more than two years every decade.[2]

If you retire at age 65, this means that you will have an evens chance of living 25 years beyond retirement. (Studies show that half of Americans retire from ages 61-65, and a full two-thirds of Americans are out of the full-time workforce by age 66.[3]) If you exercise, eat healthy, minimize alcohol consumption and have generally healthy relationships, plan on at least three more decades of life.

In Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s fascinating book The 100 Year-Life, they see drastic changes coming to the world in the next 50 years as it ages – and lives longer than ever before.

  • Out of necessity, people will work into their 70s and 80s. Gratton and Scott ask their MBA students at the London Business School, “If you live you 100 years, save around 10 percent of your income and want to retire on 50 percent of your final salary, at what age will you be able to retire?” The answer: in your 80s. Human longevity is changing the equation of financial planners and government pensions.
  • There will be new jobs, skills, and a new need for life-long education. If you live to 100 and work into your 70s and 80s, the economy will likely have been completely transformed since your high school, undergraduate, or graduate education. The need to learn new job skills – and to take time to re-invest in your education – will rise in importance.
  • Family and home relationships will be transformed. Four generations living at the same time will become a norm, and as Baby Boomer budgets are stressed, intergenerational living will become commonplace.
  • People will be younger for longer. With advances in medical technology, many reporters and social observers have said “60 is the new 50.” Though we should carry a healthy skepticism of the “forever young” narrative of our culture (as we’ll explore in the next chapter), we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that people are now living longer, healthier lives than ever before.

One of the most fascinating changes already happening due to human longevity is that the three-stage life is starting to lose its meaning. For generations, it was assumed that you lived in three stages: first education, then employment, and finally retirement. (Many Christian books have adopted this paradigm and called retirement a “third third,” or a “third calling.” Other books have assumed that “aging” and “retirement” are the same topic, which is no longer true. “Old age” is something that – for most – will happen decades later.) But today, the seasons of life dedicated to work, family, education and rest will become more fluid. You might start a new career at 50, become an undergraduate at 60, and a great grandparent at 70.

Christianity can, and should, dump a bucket of cold water on much of a secular culture’s near-worship of the medical technology that has elongated our lives. “From dust we came,” we say on Ash Wednesday, “and to dust we shall return.”

But Christian thinkers, pastors, and leaders also need to lead the way in communicating that retirement is quite simply no longer a life stage “preparing for the end,” but instead a contemporary social construct that allows men and women to prepare for a new season of life.  

We’ll have to start asking better questions: what will you do with all of this time in retirement? What might Christian faith say about these newfound hours, days, weeks, months and years that lay ahead?

This is an excerpt from my book an Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.


[1] Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott, The 100 Year-Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 2.

[2] Emily Brandon, “The Ideal Retirement Age – and Why You Won’t Retire Then,” US News & World Report, 12 May 2014, Accessed on June 15, 2018: https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/05/12/the-ideal-retirement-age-and-why-you-wont-retire-then.

[3] Dan Kadlec, “The Ages When Most People Retire (Hint: Probably Too Young),” Time, 1 December 2016, Accessed on August 12, 2018: http://time.com/money/4584900/ages-people-retire-probably-too-young-early-retirement/.

""/
RetirementWork

Should I Work Even After I “Retire”?


For many, the thought of working in retirement surfaces feelings of both pain and possibility.  

On one side is weariness. In Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert Bellah interviewed executives, government employees, school teachers, and small businessmen on how they felt about retirement. He found they were “sick of working,” hated “the pressure,” had “paid their dues,” and “wanted to get out of the rat race.” So they chose to retire to “lifestyle enclaves,” as Bellah puts it, or retirement communities built around leisure and consumption, usually unrelated to the world of work.

Today Gallup reports that 87% of the world’s workforce is disengaged from their work. If retirement offers a way out of painful or unsatisfying jobs, it’s no wonder most choose to retire as soon as they can.

On the other side, however, is a spark of energy, enthusiasm, and genuine curiosity about new possibilities for work in retirement.

My friend Dr. Mark Roberts leads the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. In a series of focus groups he conducted with recent retirees, he paraphrased many who said, “I felt like it was time to let younger people lead; but I still have gas left in the tank. I’m not ready to be completely done yet.” For many, retirement offers a budding hope for work that better aligns with calling, yet is less subject to the economic and deadline-driven pressure of their careers.

Caught between “by the sweat of your brow” and the creative “work of your hands,” millions of Baby Boomers are dipping their feet in the waters of working in retirement.

After a “purposeful pause,” Barry Rowan decided to go back into business working as the CFO of two public companies. “I came to see that the purpose of business is to bring about a better society as seen through the eyes of God,” Rowan said. His work was endowed with new peace and purpose after his sabbatical. He saw his work as not just a way to make money, but a God-given opportunity to build businesses around “responsible value creation, creating an environment where employees can flourish, serving customers, and being good corporate citizens.” Now in his sixties, he is also seeking to mentor young, Christian business leaders. “I don’t think I’ll ever fully retire,” says Rowan.

A 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the proportion of Americans over age 65 who were employed, either full-time or part-time climbed from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 18.8 percent in 2016.  Some call it “unretirement” – others, a “purposeful retirement.”

Today a growing number of Boomers are making a shift from a Let’s vacation mentality to a life of service; from purposelessness to re-engagement; from consumption to “wisdom and blessing;” from free-floating days to committed work for the well-being of their neighbors over a lifetime. 

The possibilities are exciting – but the challenges are real as well. In a 2016 report by the Federal Reserve, 38% of adults aged 60 or over said they planned to continue working in retirement. Yet a Gallup poll found that only 4% of retirees worked until age 70 or beyond, and only 7% had income from a job. Why the disparity?

Research shows that health problems, age discrimination, caring for loved ones, social class, and the lack of work arrangements for older adults today all help explain why Baby Boomers who plan to continue working in retirement sometimes abandon those plans. 

Yet Rebecca Sahr, a 61-year-old accountant in Colorado, thinks the biggest problem is a lack of planning. “I’ve seen so many friends,” says Sahr, “completely fail at retirement because they weren’t intentional. They didn’t write anything down, didn’t talk with friends – they planned to save for retirement, but not what to do once they did retire.”

As you start making your plan for working in retirement, new questions need to be answered: What is God’s original design for work? Why do people choose to work in retirement? What are the challenges older adults face while working later in life, and how can they be overcome? What questions should I ask when making my own plan for working after retirement?

Made in the Image of a Maker

Christian faith offers a corrective to contemporary views of work in retirement. On one side of the cultural spectrum, work in retirement is seen as a curse.

This story about work is prevalent today in the financial industry. In 2018, E-Trade, a financial services company, ran a 2018 SuperBowl commercial featuring people working into their 80s. “Dropping sick beats, they call me DJ Nana,” says an 85-year-old granny at a turntable in a dance club. The refrain is sung to the Day-O (the Banana Boat song): “I’m 85 and I want to go home.” An elderly man picks up a fire hose – and is propelled across the room. A small, white-haired woman is dropping UPS packages, clumsily. The punch line: “Over 1/3 of Americans have no retirement savings. This is getting old.” The tag line: “Don’t get mad. Get E-Trade.”

This commercial points to a disturbing economic reality for America, as well as the stewing resentment of the I can’t afford the vacation camp. But it also suggests that if you work in retirement, you’ve failed. It’s as if the financial prophets of Wall Street are saying, “Who sinned, that you are working so late in life? You or your financial advisor?”

For many, the story about is that it is was just something you have to do until you make enough money. “Mr. Money Mustache,” leader of the FIRE (financial independence and retiring early) movement, advocates austere living in order to, as quickly as possible, stop working and live off of investment income. Work is seen as an unholy trade of hours for dollars, and its central purpose is…to work no more.

In stark contrast, ancient Christians and Hebrews believed work is inherently good and a way we reflect the image of God. In Genesis, God’s creative activity is called work (“By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing”), which he blesses and calls good (1:31, 2:2). Poems and songs in Hebrew history celebrate God’s creation and his work: “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24). When God creates humanity, he too gives them work to do as a way of reflecting his own character. Gardening (manual labor) and naming the animals (intellectual labor) were part of an original, unstained world (Gen. 2:15,19). “We are made in the image of a Maker,” wrote dramatist and essayist Dorothy Sayers. Work is intrinsic to our nature and essential to a full human life.

Yet Scripture doesn’t idealize work in retirement or at any time of life. Unjust working conditions, under-compensation, dehumanizing or mind-numbing tasks – work has been twisted by the Fall (Genesis 3). Yet even when work reflects our “crooked timber” human nature (a phrase philosopher Immanuel Kant used to describe our human condition), Christianity offers a clear hope. Even painful work, offered to Christ in worship, can be redemptive.

On the other side of the spectrum, our secular age tends to idolize work and success. Pastor Timothy Keller writes, “Many modern people seek a kind of salvation – self-esteem and self-worth – from career success. This leads us to seek only high-paying, high-status jobs, and to ‘worship’ them in perverse ways.” The essence of work in a secular culture is about individual achievement and personal fulfillment. In this framework, work in retirement becomes another way to prove individual worth. Those caught is this web struggle in retirement with letting go and finding identity apart from formal job titles.

Again, in contrast to this view, for Christians work is an expression of love because it’s the principal way we serve the needs of our neighbors. Just after World War II, theologian Elton Trueblood said, “A Church which seeks to lift our sagging civilization will preach the principle of vocation in season and out of season. The message is that the world is one, secular and sacred, and that the chief way to serve the Lord is in our daily work.” Through our work, thought Trueblood, we provide legal systems, electricity, health care, clean water, groceries, and innumerable goods and services that provide for the needs of our neighbors. Work is the primary avenue for fulfilling Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.

For Christians, work is not fundamentally about compensation but contribution; it doesn’t define our identity but is an expression of our identity; it’s not about personal success but humble service of others.

If work is an act of love, whether paid or unpaid, then for Christians, work is an activity that should continue, in different forms, as long as we’re alive – even in retirement.  

This is an excerpt from An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.

On August 21 we’re hosting a gathering for pastors, financial advisors, and those entering retirement to ask better questions about aging, work, money, calling, rest and a fruitful life. You’re invited.

Image credit.

""/
RetirementVocationWork

What should I do if I can’t afford to retire – and still need to work?

Though I generally received positive feedback from my March 2019 story for Christianity Today “Saving Retirement,” I also received some pretty significant pushback. One reader, Rodney, wrote in:

“Your article ‘Saving Retirement’ in the March issue was a good summary of the situation facing retirees today. However, most of the examples of retirees doing something purposeful after retirement were people who had held leading positions in their field of work with presumably large salaries. The article definitely needed to portray what some ‘ordinary workers’ have gone on to do.”

Theology editor Caleb Lindgren wrote, “We agreed with Rodney that there is a much broader picture of post-work life that needs to be acknowledged. Do Christian understandings of work and aging accommodate those who can’t afford to retire?”

The brunt of the critique was that the article was class-biased. Since I’m rather sensitive to this subject, having written “God of the Second Shift,” a look at the class bias in the faith and work movement, I was rather miffed to read this! Especially since an earlier draft of “Saving Retirement” cut out a story about Joanne, a “retired” woman who chose to work at Eistein Bagels each morning rather than join her husband for golf – simply because she enjoyed the relationships of the workplace.

But after swallowing my pride for a moment, I came to the conclusion that the question is a good one: “What should I do if I can’t afford to retire – and still need to work?”

The Financial Crunch Facing Older Americans

In my book, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life, I note that if the dominant paradigm for retirement today is a never-ending vacation, the fastest growing group of retirees are those who know they can’t afford it.

The economic problems facing most Americans at retirement are mounting. A recent Wall Street Journal article featuring Ted Benna, the “Father of the 401(k),” noted that 25% of Americans have no money saved for retirement at all.

If the great American dream is “financial freedom” in a blissful retirement, the great American frustration is that such a dream is out of reach for the majority.

A mix of factors is creating a perfect storm for Baby Boomers entering retirement:

  • Baby boomers are one of the largest generations in American history.
  • A growing number of Americans struggle financially during their working life, and struggle to save enough for retirement in the first place.
  • Pension plans – from corporations to state governments – are underfunded and some (like the state of Illinois) are facing insolvency.
  • Health care costs are rising.
  • Americans are living longer than ever, thus outstripping their savings.

The question is, what should you do if you – like millions of Americans – find yourself having to work well past official retirement age?

Working in Retirement

Christian faith offers a corrective to contemporary views of work in retirement. On one side of the cultural spectrum, work in retirement is seen as a curse.

This story about work is prevalent today in the financial industry. In 2018, E-Trade, a financial services company, ran a 2018 SuperBowl commercial featuring people working into their 80s. “Dropping sick beats, they call me DJ Nana,” says an 85-year-old granny at a turntable in a dance club. The refrain is sung to the Day-O (the Banana Boat song): “I’m 85 and I want to go home.” An elderly man picks up a fire hose – and is propelled across the room. A small, white-haired woman is dropping UPS packages, clumsily. The punch line: “Over 1/3 of Americans have no retirement savings. This is getting old.” The tag line: “Don’t get mad. Get E-Trade.”

This commercial points to a disturbing economic reality for America, as well as the stewing resentment of the I can’t afford the vacation camp. But it also suggests that if you work in retirement, you’ve failed. It’s as if the financial prophets of Wall Street are saying, “Who sinned, that you are working so late in life? You or your financial advisor?”

In stark contrast, ancient Christians and Hebrews believed work is inherently good and a way we reflect the image of God. In Genesis, God’s creative activity is called work (“By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing”), which he blesses and calls good (1:31, 2:2). Poems and songs in Hebrew history celebrate God’s creation and his work: “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24).

When God creates humanity, he too gives them work to do as a way of reflecting his own character. Gardening (manual labor) and naming the animals (intellectual labor) were part of an original, unstained world (Gen. 2:15,19). “We are made in the image of a Maker,” wrote dramatist and essayist Dorothy Sayers. Work is intrinsic to our nature and essential to a full human life.

The Bible calls Christians to never tire of doing good (Galatians 6:9), because “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).  Though work changes over a lifetime, there’s nothing to suggest this posture ceases at age 62, 65, or 70. 

Working in retirement in modern America, however, is filled with practical challenges. Here are five:

1. You’ll have to make a counter-cultural decision to work in retirement.

If 19% of people over age 65 are were working at least part-time in 2017, that means 81% didn’t. Bucking the trend of increased golfing or television watching is not easy (the average retiree spends 4 hours per day watching television!). If your friends travel three months a year, and you limit your travel to three weeks a year, it will feel strange. It might also feel strange filling out job applications to work for people half your age.

2. Society doesn’t often provide flexible arrangements to work in retirement.

Sociologists like Matilda White Riley have developed the idea of “structural lag.” She says that social institutions – like corporations or policies – are resistant to change and lag behind cultural trends. One example is that when older adults look for meaningful work, instead they often find systems built for a complete cessation of work at retirement.

For example, many companies lack the flexible work arrangements for experienced, older professionals, whether that be part-time work or more time off during the year. A survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) found that 47% of workers envision a phased transition into retirement, but only 5% of employers offer a formal phased retirement program.

3. Ageism is a reality.

“I quickly found that with being older, people don’t call me for an interview,” said Sarajul Islam, a 60-year-old man living in the U.K. “When contacted personally or over the phone, a few recruiters have directly said, ‘We don’t call back old people.’”

Often older adults are passed up for jobs or opportunities because of false assumptions about age.  Though outlawed in most countries, tacit ageism is still active in many companies and cultures.

4. Health and family issues impact work more frequently in retirement.

Many find that staying healthy in retirement is one of the most important factors in being able to work. Nearly 40% of workers retire for unexpected health reasons. Personal health issues affect your ability to work in retirement – and can quash plans to work into retirement if not addressed.

5. Social class and income will deeply impact your view of work in retirement.

And this point directly addressed the concerns of our working-class friends who often have a very different view of retirement.

There are two very different visions for work, depending on which of the two very different Americas you inhabit. If you have a college degree and worked in the professions, the challenge in retirement will be resisting the temptation to splurge on grandkids, over travel, or otherwise live for yourself. But you’re far more likely to work in retirement – even though you may not have to financially. You probably enjoyed your career, and wouldn’t mind doing it part-time well into retirement.

But if you’re a part of America’s working class, working in retirement may feel very different. Doug Muder grew up in farm country, Illinois. As a kid he remembered his dad working in a factory that made cattle feed. He “came home stinking of fish oil,” Muder recalls. It was a good job in that it paid the bills, but his dad had a very different relationship to his work than Muder did as a journalist.  Muder offers an important insight on work in retirement:

“Here’s what sums it up to me: When professionals retire, we keep dabbling. The retired newspaper editor in my hometown still writes. When the professor retires, he’ll keep reading journals and going to talks. But in the thirty years since my Dad took early retirement, he has never brought home some fish oil and mixed up a batch of cattle feed in the garage. When you retire from Wal-Mart, you don’t set up a bar-code scanner in the basement, just to stay busy. You do that stuff for money, and when they stop paying you, you never, ever do it again.”

Working class Americans experience more barriers than their college-educated peers when attempting to re-engage work in retirement. For example,

  1. Physical labor is much harder to do at 65 or 70, making re-entering the workforce especially difficult for those in the trades or manual labor.
  2. Wages are likely to be lower for working-class Americans, providing less incentive to work.
  3. If you didn’t enjoy your work or you’d need significant education to find a new job after retirement, the road back to work may have more obstacles.

Fully acknowledging these challenges, if you find yourself having to work – either full-time or part-time – later in life, might Christianity reframe our conversation around work in retirement?

Is Working Part-Time in Retirement “Significant?”

In the aforementioned critique, Amy Zietlow, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Decatuar, Illinois, told the story of Bob, one of her congregants who retired at age 58 from a career working at a local power plant. Because his work was physically taxing, he was counting down the days to retirement. Yet he knew that financially, he couldn’t completely stop working. So he got a job at a local Home Depot. He now works from 5am-10am at a loading dock.

Zietlow followed this story with a critique of the article:

I found it interesting in the article, the sense of even if you do seek part-time employment or an encore profession vocation, that that should be one of significance. So, I started thinking about the folks in the pews here in Decatur and realizing I think Bob would even tell you, he’s a pretty funny guy, like ‘look my work at Home Depot is not significant.’ You know, it does draw on some of his skills some of his background in terms of his expertise in life, but he would say this is a necessity, and not necessarily something he would say he feels called to do in the sense of other people who find ways to do maybe more what they might consider more significant work. However, having that part-time employment allows him to do other significant things, so it’s more of a means to an end.

Bob doesn’t necessarily want to be working, but needs to work to maintain his standard of living. But I’d ask Bob – and Zietlow – this question: is working at Home Depot part-time less significant than working during your career?

Zietlow goes on to say, “And I find for folks like Bob—and we have many kind of recently retired late 60s, mid-60s folks in our congregation—it both frees up time for them to serve more at church and be more actively involved in sort of the day-to-day maintenance and care for the church—which isn’t necessarily exciting, but is really necessary in terms of just cleaning, and yard work, and general maintenance for the church.” But is general maintenance for a church building more important to God than general maintenance at Home Depot?

Here’s the big picture: Only Christianity crowns the daily work of laborers – even done out of necessity – with intrinsic worth and dignity. The truth is that meaning does not come from “meaningful work,” but from the God who endows every moment with a sense of meaning when it’s offered back to God in worship and love. Even when our lives are painful.

Today a growing number of boomers are making a shift from a Let’s vacation mentality to a life of service; from purposelessness to thoughtful re-engagement; from consumption to “wisdom and blessing;” from free floating days to committed work for the well-being of their neighbors over a lifetime.  And the Christian church could encourage many who have to work well into the retirement years to re-engage both well-paid and poorly-paid jobs as “elders” who see the needs of their neighbors in whatever they do and respond with love, humility, and wisdom (Matthew 25).

As millions of men and women find themselves in a tight spot financially as they enter retirement, Christian leaders can whole-heartedly help the men and women who are not living the retirement “dream” to go back to work and live a better, deeper dream, borne not of self-actualization but self-surrender.

This article adapted several sections of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement (Moody, 2019).

""/
BusinessEconomyFinanceRetirementWork

A Manifesto for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors play a critical role in the future of America.

They are stewards of a sacred trust, helping clients to save money for when they can no longer work, live a life of generosity, invest in businesses that align with God’s purposes for the world, spend wisely, and re-discover their calling to work and serve their neighbors over a lifetime.

If you’re a financial advisor, or you know one, what might it look like integrate Christian truth into this entire field, a $27 trillion-dollar industry that is shaping the destinies of millions?[i] (Click here to access a free downloadable pdf of this “Manifesto for Financial Advisors.”)

Here’s a place to begin.

1.Christian financial advisors help clients save money for when they can no longer work.

Saving is wise (Proverbs 21:20). Financial advisors have the privilege of encouraging people to prepare for the day when they cannot work due to old age or health. They also have the honor of helping clients still have enough to share with others (Proverbs 13:22; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

But Christian financial advisors resolutely resist the narrative about saving for retirement built on utopian dreams of travel, never-ending vacation, and a care-free lifestyle. They recognize that sin and the Fall have affected all people, both wealthy and poor, and that there is no such dream of heaven on earth until Christ comes again. They also boldly call into question fear-based motives for saving in retirement, pointing people to trust God alone for their daily bread.

Also, since retirement (the cessation of work for a lifetime) is essentially a foreign concept to the Bible, Christian financial advisors work diligently to help people save for the day when they can no longer work due to health concerns, not for the day when they don’t want to work.

To work is to be human.

Financials advisors help their clients save money for retirement in order to provide for themselves in old age or illness, their family, and their community.

2. Christian financial advisors encourage clients to live a life of generosity.

God’s call to generous giving could not be clearer (Matthew 6:19-21; 10:42; Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 1 John 3:16-18; Proverbs 11:24-25). Generous living most closely reflects God’s grace toward his people (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Christian financial advisors counsel clients toward sacrificial giving toward the mission of the church, the well-being of the poor, and the critical social, economic, and cultural needs of our day. They explore creative ways to facilitate their clients giving their cash, assets, time, skills, relationships, and influence. They lead by example.

Even though Christian financial advisors often don’t have a financial incentive to encourage generosity amongst their clients, they do so anyway because God first gave generously to them (John 3:16). 

3. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to invest in businesses that align with God’s purposes for the world.

Christian financial advisors believe that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1), including both their client’s money and also the money that is invested in companies through stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

They are leaders in the space of socially responsible investing (some Christians also call this values-based investing, or biblically responsible investing). They believe God’s purpose for business is to provide for the needs of world by serving customers and creating meaningful work, while giving glory to God.[ii] Profit, therefore, is a means to an end, not the end of business. They believe investments are intended to help businesses grow and bless their communities. Christian financial advisors also believe business has been tainted by the Fall, and today corporations, like individuals, are bent toward greed and injustice (Micah 6:8-10). There are no “neutral” investments.

Inasmuch as they are able, Christian financial advisors seek out investments for their clients that align with their client’s values and God’s good purposes for business. They take leadership in providing ample returns for their clients and multiplied societal blessing through their client’s investments.[iii]

4. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to spend wisely.

God has given us money to be enjoyed and spent wisely. But Christian financial advisors also recognize that “godliness with contentment is great gain,” and Christian history is filled with vows of poverty and commitment to simple living for the sake of more deeply enjoying the riches of Christ (1 Timothy 6:6, 17-19).  Frugality is not a curse but a means to experiencing the abundance of God’s love, care, and heavenly riches.

Christian financial advisors are uniquely able to speak to our cultural moment and the current “retirement crisis” because they believe God himself, not the pleasures of this world, is our greatest joy. They believe in a deeper wealth than what money can offer.[iv]

Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to avoid debt, live within their means, defer gratification, and discover non-consumeristic ways to enjoy life and God’s good world.

5. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to consider the different seasons of work over a lifetime.

Christian financial advisors see God’s pattern of six days of work and one day of rest as a blessing that lasts for a lifetime.

Rather than preparing clients to completely cease from work at retirement, they encourage sabbaticals and seasons of rest to renew a sense of calling for the next phase of life.

Therefore, they are instigators of a deeply counter-cultural movement. They begin to help clients save money for both sabbaticals and for when their clients can no longer work. They ask pointed questions to help their clients see a deeper purpose to life than entertainment or pleasure.  Christian financial advisors, then, become sages, mentors, theologians, and philosophers who help their clients prepare for the next season of work, whether they are 60, 70, or 80 years old.[v]

Christian financial advisors are the innovators who call for a new movement of work, sabbatical, and re-engagement based on God’s design for work over a lifetime (Leviticus 25).[vi] They openly challenge the Let’s vacation paradigm of retirement, and honor the men and women who work later in life as the dignified elders of our churches, communities, and society.

They are the first to point out the valuable, brilliant, and creative work of men and women stewarding their skills, knowledge, and abilities into the sunset of their lives.

For a free downloadable version of this manifesto, visit https://www.uncommonretirement.com/financial-advisors.


[i] Nick Thornton, “Here’s What the $27 Trillion US Retirement Industry Looks Like,” Think Advisor, 2 January 2018, Accessed on August 10, 2018: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2018/01/02/heres-what-the-27-trillion-us-retirement-industry/?slreturn=20180714204623.

[ii] Jeff Haanen, “Theology for Business (Video),” Denver Institute for Faith & Work, Accessed on August 1, 2018: https://denverinstitute.org/video-the-purpose-of-business-today/.

[iii] Organizations like the Christian Investment Forum and faith-friendly mutual funds like Eventide Funds actively explore how to pursue competitive returns for their shareholders while upholding Christian values. For examples of philosophies of Christian faith and investing, watch the video “Investing 360 – The Story of Eventide Funds”: https://vimeo.com/223488058 or read “Integrating Faith Into the Way We Invest,” by Tim Macready, CIO of Christian Super, an Australian Pension Fund: https://denverinstitute.org/integrating-faith-way-invest/.

[iv] For an excellent treatment on faith, money, and retirement, see: Chad S. Hamilton, Deep Wealth (Denver: PFI Publishing, 2015).

[v] I recognize this is almost unheard of today. But my thesis in this book is that this rhythm of work and rest is more biblical than the contemporary idea of retirement and it more closely aligns with God’s intent for us to work, in different capacities, over a lifetime.

[vi] Rob West, the CEO of Kingdom Advisors, a Christian ministry to financial professionals, says, “One of the roles of the advisor is to not only help the client to answer the question, ‘How much is enough financially?’ – in terms of our financial finish line so we can maximize giving – but also, ‘What are you going to do in the retirement season?’ Even if we stop our vocation, what are we going to do to be of service to the Lord full-time for God’s glory?” Both Rob West and Ron Blue, the founder of Ron Blue Co. believe both wise financial decisions and a lifetime of work, which changes in different seasons, are biblical.

""/
RetirementWork

5 Ways to Leave a Legacy Through Mentoring in Retirement

Mentoring in retirement sounds like a wonderful idea. “Invest in the next generation. Share your life experience. Feel a renewed sense of purpose.” But in reality, far too often mentoring feels awkward for both mentor and mentee.

To the mentee, it can often feel like a mono-directional exchange of information, the older imparting “wisdom” to the younger during weekly or monthly appointments. Interactions are often confined to stiff formality and contrived “coffee chats” in which a mentor is supposed to (halo glowing) grace the young Padawan with Yoda-like insight. Anxiety bubbles under the surface for the mentee: will I be heard in this meet, or just get “should upon” for the next hour?

To the mentor, the high expectations surrounding mentoring can create a sense of pressure and a feeling of inadequacy that deters people from mentoring in the first place. Doubts creep in. Do I really have something to share with the next generation? Would they want to listen?

There are few things so human and so cross-cultural as the older grandparent, parent, boss or teacher sharing insight and life experience with the grandchild, child, employee or student. But I’ve found the entry point into a mentoring relationship makes all the difference. The best mentoring relationships often look more like intergenerational friendship.

Skilled mentors often share five characteristics.

1. Skilled mentors find genuine delight in the next generation and develop friendship based on common interests.

It might be baseball, city government, or philosophy. But rather than starting a mentoring relationship with a “you need this” mentality, talented mentors often develop the relationship because they’re actually curious about the young person, want to learn alongside them, and they share a common interest. This kind of humility cracks open the door for learning to be mutual and shared, rather than one way. This mutuality builds the trust necessary for not just skill transfer but spiritual formation to take place.

2. Skilled mentors bless and affirm a younger generation.

Rather than pointing out deficiencies, elders who become effective mentors are first people of wisdom and blessing.

For example, in Clint Eastwood’s colorful film Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski, a hardened, cursing, and angry Korean War veteran, ends up mentoring Thao, a Hmong teenager in Detroit who tried to steal Walt’s car. Out of shame for his offense, Thao’s family makes him do yard work for Kowalski for two weeks.

During those two weeks as Thao does chores for Kowalski, Kowalski enters Thao’s world by eating food with his family, showing him his garage full of tools, and by encouraging him to date “Miss Yum Yum,” a Hmong teenager that Thao struggles to even make eye contact with. Kowalski affirms the confidence-less Thao and even lets Thoa borrow his precious 1972 Gran Torino to bring his girlfriend to the movies.

Thao – like so many mentees – didn’t first need advice. Rather, he needed to know he was valuable and had something unique to offer the world. He needed an elder to affirm his identity and point out his unique talents and value.

3. Skilled mentors share their stories and are genuinely vulnerable with their mentees.

The truth is, young people want to hear more about your mistakes than your successes. Having done hundreds of panel presentations for my work, I’ve found that vulnerability always goes way further than expertise. Advice is fine – when asked for. But hearing honest stories allows mentees to learn from a mentor’s mistakes, and, hopefully, not repeat them.

4. Skilled mentors are patient and commit to long-term relationships.

Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, says about mentoring, “What does matter [for the success of young adults] is the formative influence of an adult who speaks into your life and who has sustaining relationship that you carry with you.” If each of us thinks of the people who’ve deeply influenced our lives, these are generally people we’ve known not for weeks or months, but for years. And they’ve endured our silliness, our sin, our mistakes – and are still there for us.

5. Skilled mentors ask more questions than they give answers.

Jesus himself was master of the penetrating question. Questions like “What do you want me to do for you?” made Jesus’ disciples stare into their own souls, and ask what they truly desired. Of course, Jesus gave answers too. But genuine spiritual formation requires introspection, reflection, and prayer that is often the fruit of the right question at the right time.

Shaping the Next Generation

Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam says about the growing social divides in America, “If America’s religious communities were to become seized of the immorality of the opportunity gap, mentoring is one of the ways in which they could make an immediate impact.”

What if the 87% of Baby Boomers who believe in God decided that a central way they were going to spend their retirement was by mentoring young people through their local church? What if America’s retirees traded comfort for purpose, and swapped retirement villages for communities of intergenerational friendship?

What if retirement became a source of renewed purpose for older Americans who decided to share their lives especially with young adults who needed their affirmation, delight, vulnerability, and patience?

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” said Jesus (Acts 20:35). But Jesus also says that it’s not knowledge but action that brings the blessing. 

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

This article is an adapted excerpt from my book An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.

""/
RetirementVocationWork

Today is Launch Day! An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life

Dear Friends,

Today is the official launch day for my first trade book An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.

We have an opportunity in this moment to push on our culture’s view of retirement, and give our friends, parents, family members, neighbors, and co-workers a more beautiful vision of work, rest, eldership, and a life a sacrificial love based in the hope of the gospel.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post on this blog excerpts from the book. Can I ask you a big favor? Would you consider taking about 3 minutes and posting a review of the book on Amazon.com today?

Here are a few themes you might consider mentioning. An Uncommon Guide for Retirement helps readers:

  • Discern God’s call for their retirement years;
  • Challenge cultural assumptions about retirement;
  • Adopt a healthy vision for Sabbath rest, work and meaningful contribution for a lifetime;
  • Embrace a biblical view of time and a deeper understanding of what human longevity means for the retirement years;
  • Live out practical insight for retirement living on topics like learning, family systems, mentoring, and health.

Thanks for allowing me to to learn from you. If you’d like more information on the book, group discounts or the free study guide, make sure to visit UncommonRetirement.com. And feel free to leave comments on this blog!

Thanks again,
Jeff

1 2