Over the recent past, I have had the opportunity to have many conversations with a cross section of people about their individual financial situations. That is not unexpected when you are serving as the CEO/Administrator of a Pension Plan, served for more than a decade in the financial services industry, and in ministry. One of the primary questions asked is, “Am I (Will I be) in a position to be able to retire?”
Begin with a concept of where you want to be!
Everyone wants the answer to be, “Yes.” The concept of what an answer of yes means is inconsistent. The specifics of the situations may differ, but there is a distinct similarity. The one characteristic that is common for all who are in a position to retire is that they all have flexibility. Flexibility does not equal the accumulation of one million dollars, or any specific sum of assets. It means that they have created sufficient streams of income to provide a comfortable lifestyle when the time comes to shift away from full time ministry or employment.
I have had the privilege to speak on multiple occasions with an individual who has served in several different ministry situations over his career. He has served faithfully in every role. He has not “served money,” but he has always made a point to save regularly. He never diminished his service by dreaming of (or yearning for) retirement. He did maintain a view of the future in his budget and his actions.
Our most recent conversation was an opportunity to analyze the flexibility he now has. My friend would not be characterized as wealthy by many, but he has created income sources enabling him to retire at 62, 66, 70, or whenever the time is proper. Between his Social Security, Pension Plan, IRA, RothIRA, and savings with a Christian credit union, he should be able to choose to serve in a part-time or volunteer ministry without worrying about the ability to provide for his needs. We were able to say, “Yes, you are prepared for retirement,” because of the flexibility he and God created over earlier years.
Flexibility is the result of an unbending commitment.
Beginning with an inflexible, unbending commitment to saving money in our youth is the roadmap to the destination of flexibility! If we are relentless in setting aside money that cannot be touched until retirement and unbending in our commitment to this process, we will find ourselves with options later that we never thought possible!
One challenge we face is that retirement is a goal in the DISTANT future when we are young. Retirement is vague. It is seen only through the fog when a young family is facing the immediate realities of repaying student loans, making payments on housing and cars, the medical costs of insurance and prenatal/infant care, and so many more expenses. It is when these issues and challenges are urgent that our resolute commitment to saving will be challenged.
The Christian Churches Pension Plan is a simple illustration of this principal. If a 22 year old commits to setting aside $15 per week for retirement, they will receive a monthly income of $860 for life beginning at 65. When we are young, we have time on our side. If we wait until 40 to being saving, we will need to set aside $44 per week to achieve the same goal. If we wait until we are 50, $101 per week will be needed. Wherever you find yourself, now is the time to begin!
Once we have a solid foundation for future income established, and our incomes are a bit higher, we may add other savings and investment plans to our mix. Remember, our goal for retirement is to have an income available to live on. Those streams of income will provide the flexibility we desire, enabling us to make decisions freely and not under financial stress.
Maintaining the proper perspective is paramount.
We must approach our commitment to saving with the words of caution uttered by Jesus, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24-28 NASB) Making an unyielding commitment to saving for retirement must not become THE goal in our life. Our singular goal is to be a disciple of Jesus, to follow in His path, to bring glory and honor to God through all we do. How do we preserve this proper balance of our goals in life? If we are regularly in His Word, consistently on our knees before Him, and daily in His steps as His disciple, we will serve only one Master!