How two couples reflect a growing movement to see retirement not as an end but as a transition.
We’re planning to retire by age 50,”says Rebecca Jackson, 40, from Fort Collins, Colorado. “But it’s not that we wouldn’t work; we just might not do the same thing.”
Rebecca and her husband, Greg Feldpausch, 39, are both doctors. She’s a geriatric physician, and he works in adult medicine at Northern Colorado Hospitalists after spending the first season of his career in the Air Force. As they juggle work and raising their two boys, Clayton, 4, and Jackson, 7, they’re also looking to the future. The end goal for them is to be able to fully walk away from their jobs and be retired for life.
How will they do that? They’ve created a strategy to pay down their student loan debt and save for the future. Clint Jasperson, their brother-in-law (married to Rebecca’s sister) and a Thrivent Financial professional in Timnath, Colorado, has helped them.
“They’re very, very committed to paying off their debt,” says Jasperson. “So many people end up in what feels like indentured servitude by having ‘lifestyle creep,’ by buying a larger house or car than they need. But Becca and Greg have their priorities straight.”
Even though both now make good salaries, Rebecca and Greg essentially live on one salary, as they are aggressively paying off loans and cars, and are saving for their children’s college education.
Jasperson has been a crucial guide in Rebecca and Greg’s financial journey, helping them use their finances to live out their faith. “If we believe everything we have is a gift, then that puts us into a position of stewardship,” Jasperson says.
Their view of retirement reflects a growing movement to see retirement not as an end but as a transition. They’re looking forward to retirement giving them more flexibility when it comes to their family and pursuing other passions. “There’s a high burnout rate in medicine,” says Rebecca, explaining why they want to retire early. “And we’d just like to have options. Time with our family is really a priority.” They’ve also considered retiring in Oregon, and Greg has thought about spending more time working with his hands—possibly learning a new trade.
Jasperson helps Thrivent members save and plan for the future, especially for unexpected circumstances like a death in the family. But he doesn’t believe most people “want to just sit there and idly twiddle their thumbs all day. Retirement is really about transitioning to your next calling. You’ve got to find that next calling.”
Retirement is not always about a complete cessation from work, but often a new season of service that’s enabled by being wise with money.
Planning to Retire—But Not Completely
“I don’t know that we’ll ever actually retire,” says Mike Fornataro, executive director of Buckeye Lake Region Corporation in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. “But because of investing, we’re now in a position to do things we’d like to do rather than chase the dollar.”
Mike, 60, and his wife, Ann, 56, didn’t start investing until their late 40s, when they met Thrivent Financial Professional Jeff Ritter from Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Ann is a senior IT training consultant for Genesis Healthcare Systems.
“Our time frame was shorter,” Mike says, “but we’ve been fortunate. Jeff gauged our comfort level, and we now have stable growth.”1
Ritter helped the Fornataros fast-track their retirement savings. “I share the five principles to live by with my clients,” he says. “Spend less than you make, have a short- and long-term strategy, be wise with debt, protect yourselves against setbacks and give back.” In setting and achieving goals, it’s important to understand that you might need to make some trade-offs as you consider your needs and wants.
Ritter also coached the Fornataros to make a clear budget and ask questions about the values they tie to money. “Are you tracking—literally—the money you’ve spent in the last 90 days. Do you write it down?” he asks them. “And when I first meet a couple, I ask, ‘How were you raised with money? How did your parents define success?’” Clarity on inherited values about money can help explain why budgets either work well for people or are ignored. He also uses one of several money models when he counsels clients to make a 10-10-80 plan: Save 10%, give 10% and spend 80%.
“When I first met Mike and Ann,” Ritter remembers, “they didn’t have a retirement strategy.” So they developed a clear financial roadmap for retirement.
The Fornataros have adopted new habits of saving and investing, but like Rebecca and Greg, they don’t envision completely retiring. “Hopefully we’ll be able to work at lower-stress jobs because we have a cushion. It’s not the traditional, ‘I’m done. I’m out,’ type of retirement,” says Mike. “[We want] the freedom to choose what we do for a living that may not be as lucrative but is more fulfilling. That’s our view of retirement.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retire per day in the U.S.2 Yet couples like Mike and Ann are questioning that idea of retirement as a complete cessation from work. Mike says, “I hope to continue working in a capacity similar to what I’m doing now. A job with real community benefit.”
“What I see going forward,” says Ritter, “is how we can help people get repositioned in retirement to still give back. Maybe it’s volunteering or doing a hybrid retirement, working part time, either for pay or not for pay. What I work through with clients is, ‘What does your picture of retirement look like? Paint it for me so you, your spouse and I are on the same page.’
“I ask people, ‘Have you and your spouse sat down and talked about what you both want to accomplish for retirement? What is your game plan? What are you going to be doing? Is it travel? Write a book? Are you going to work part-time? What are you going to do for yourself, and what are you going to do for others?’”
Finances are just one piece of a fruitful retirement. Ritter guides Thrivent members to think through the stewardship not just of their wealth, but the entirety of their lives as a gift from God.
Prioritizing What’s Important
“Time with family. That really is the priority,” says Rebecca about both her present and future plans. That philosophy was inspired by the early death of her father. “My dad worked really hard, retired early and then passed away two years later, at age 65.” In working with older patients, Rebecca is constantly reminded by the fragility of life and how unexpected events can drastically change our lives.
So she takes off Mondays to take her children to swim practice. Greg recently opted for fewer shifts at the hospital. They enjoy family vacations in Michigan, Colorado and Oregon. They’re living not just for the future, but they recognize each day as a gift.
They imagine that one day they’ll perhaps have a saner balance of work and rest. “I don’t know if we’d completely retire. We may one day work at a nursery or take up a trade. But we want to be able to spend time together. That’s our hope.”
This article first appeared in the Thrivent magazine, a trade publication for over 2 million Thrivent members. Here’s the PDF.