Retire in Luxury?|
Not for Productive Christians
Will we have enough money and health benefits to retire comfortably in 10 to 20 years? In 5 years? How about next year? Retirement magazines are filled cover to cover with photos of lush, green golf courses and cruise ships of every destination imaginable - to Bermuda or Alaska, up the deep blue Canadian St. Lawrence River and among the quaint towns lining the Danube.
Luxury retirement centers dot the pages of each issue - huge complexes with pools, gyms, golf courses, tennis courts, pool halls, and luxurious entertainment centers. These are the end result of the properly funded retiree. But, will we be able to retire in this kind of opulence?
Reacing "Critical Mass"
The message? Every aging baby boomer needs at least a "cool" one-million plus to retire comfortably. Bob Brinker of "Market Timer" newsletter calls it reaching "critical mass." Callers to Brinker's radio show phone-in bragging of one or three or ten million in assets. They have reached, "Critical Mass." They have arrived - they have "made it."
Callers to Clark Howard's radio show worry a lot about having enough for retirement. How does one know when he has enough to retire? What is "The Number?"
According to Clark when an individual can live off of 4% of his assets then he has enough. That way he will never outlive his money or dip into his principal. That means if you feel you can live on $36,000 yearly then you need $900,000 in accumulated savings to live comfortably the rest of your life. (You read that right - almost a million to live on $36,000 per year).
The Last Retiring Generation
Do you know many people who live off of $36,000 yearly in today's inflationary world?
I do. But, those who live off of $36,000 or less don't live like the rest of the Western world - at least they don't think so. They usually have pension funds from a job they kept for thirty years at the utility company or Aircraft Company - or maybe they were a school teacher or nurse.
They have a paid-for home, Medicare, Social Security, one car, and don't play daily golf or take yearly cruises. That was the generation born in the 1920s who lived through WWI and WWII.
The Entitled Generation
There won't be many of them left in the next ten years. It is the baby-boomer generation who will take their place - those born between 1946 and 1962. Probably you and me. We are the "entitled" generation - the spoiled ME people of the rebellious sixties. Hippies…Vietnam…pot…LSD…"Make Love/not War" people… That's us, folks.
What will happen to us as we "demand our rights" and wail over rising healthcare costs and inadequate Social Security funds? Rising property taxes and energy costs?
As former employers rescind on our pension funds, break contracts and drop healthcare insurance what will we do? We won't have the strength to fight back as we did in the sixties. (Look at the "boomers" in Congress to get a taste of what's coming). You know what I mean.
Euthanasia Pushed by those we taught to Devalue Life
Those of us old enough to remember the movie Soylent Green shudder at some of the current "futurists" projections about our "golden years."
It means that just as we aborted unwanted babies and murdered third trimester infants, so we will be encouraged to commit euthanasia by those youngsters we raised to devalue life. This is the future we sowed and reaped.
From Baby killers to our own Euthanasia - the fruits of a self-centered life wasted in fancy houses, furniture, sports, sports cars and vacations (Burkett 1992, 30).
Soylent-Green starring Charlton Heston
For those who don't remember, the movie Soylent Green starred Charleton Heston in a bleak, futuristic police state where the elderly folks voluntarily committed suicide and were ground-up into "soylent-green," a food source for the younger population. Ugh… (We didn't know about "Mad Cow's Disease" and the perils of cannibalism in those days).
Horrors of Inflation
Needing a fortune to retire comfortably wasn't always this way. Back in 1993 financial magazines ran stories of couples with adequate retirement funds at around $300,000 per couple.
It seemed lavish and silly then. But, as long as these couples invested wisely in top-performing mutual funds they were on their way to an adequate retirement. They were comfortably rich. Their funds would cover healthcare and living expenses supplemented by Social Security and Medicare. So they said.
But, in 1999 the bar was raised to $600,000. Finally, in 2007 adequate savings became more like 2 or 3 million - plus. This is rampant inflation - from a government who is ruining the dollar's value as fast as it can spend taxpayer's money.
Welcome to a nightmarish future of the haves and have-nots with an elitist class of the wealthy alongside a poor middle-class who service the opulent needs of the rich. Either that or the poor middle class live on the streets and die on the curbs and in the gutters…shades of Calcutta, India.
Coming to a theater near you… the best horror show in town…
All right…Let's scratch-out the above script and "Take Two." Let the camera roll for a second time. Let's start over again. Take a deep breath. We're Christians. So we need to look at all of this in light of the Scriptures.
Al Gore&Prince Charles are not our Rulers
We aren't just unnecessary protoplasm taking up space in a world of greedy youngsters who would rather "knock us off" and have us die ASAP.
Our world is not ruled by an Aryan race and the law of the survival of the fittest, a la Hitler. Prince Charles and Al Gore are not our rulers - two rich men among several who feel world population should be lowered to half a billion, by the way. We are not a "cancer" or a virus on the planet.
Nor are Joel Osteen or Paula White our Spiritual Leaders
If you are conservative Christians neither Joel Osteen, Paula White, nor Robert Schuller are your leaders, either.
You don't "give to get," demand instant riches from God, or engage in superstitious formulas to make sure you are thinking "right thoughts" to secure your retirement wealth in the here-and-now. That is just the sloppy thinking we call "tinker bell theology."
Take another deep breath and remember this:
God is our Creator. Yeshua is our Master.
God is our Creator. Yeshua is our Master.
Now, as Chuck Missler recommends, "Let's view the world through the lens of Scripture."
A Vested Interest
Most of the retirement preparation magazines and books we read are funded by the organizations they service. For example, the financial magazines are lined with advertisements from the wealthiest corporations on earth - brokerage firms and big, global banks.
They all certainly have a vested interest in keeping you in servitude, saving and saving and saving - piling up storehouses of wealth in their accounts. You pay their brokers. You pay their managers. You pay their nuisance fees and trading fees. You pay their mutual fund managers and their stock brokers. You pay their advisors and you pay fees you didn't know you paid. The more money you stockpile in their money markets, CDs and mutual funds the more they make off of you.
Servitude through Fear
They get you to do this through "fear." Through fear they encourage you to stockpile and hoard your money with their firms. You fear becoming a "bag lady" or a destitute old man. You fear nursing homes. You fear living on your principal amount and you fear not having enough to pass on to your heirs.
Yet, (and here is our wake-up call), is retirement even a Scriptural concept? Where does it talk about retirement in the Bible?
Could it be that "retiring" is a sin? Where does it say that the majority of people who reach a certain age should be idle do-nothings for the rest of their days?
One Verse about Retirement
There is only one verse referring to our concept of retirement in the entire Bible! One verse! Here it is:
"This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more" (Numbers 8:24-25, NASB).
Verse 26 continues, "After retirement they may assist their fellow Levites by serving as guards at the Tabernacle, but they may not officiate in the service. This is how you must assign duties to the Levites" (NLT).
That's it. That's all there is about retirement in the Bible.
A Short Commentary
The "Life Application Bible" notes say this about Numbers 8:24-26:
"Why were the Levites supposed to retire at age 50? The reasons were probably more practical than theological. (1) Moving the Tabernacle and its furniture through the wilderness required strength. The younger men were more suited for the work of lifting the heavy articles. (2) The Levites over 50 did not stop working altogether. They were allowed to assist with various light duties in the Tabernacle. This helped the younger men assume more responsibilities, and it allowed the older men to be in a position to advise and counsel them" (pg. 285).
Our modern concept of retirement is so new to our culture that many of us still remember our grandfathers working until they could no longer physically work - perhaps they had a stroke or a heart attack.
Never would our great grandparents have considered a life on the golf course worthy of a second thought. To "play" for twenty to thirty years would have seemed decadent and useless to them! Boring! Idle! A waste! A Saturday morning game of golf would have been fine. But, seven days of nothing-but-golf would have seemed ridiculous to them.
What happened to us?
A Basic Right
Yet, somewhere in the last fifty years Americans have become convinced that retirement is a basic right. We aren't civilized or sophisticated unless we retire - in fact, the younger the better. Laws were passed requiring workers to retire at age 65. This provided the additional opportunity for younger workers to acquire freed-up jobs. Yet, now during our latest financial crisis the younger folks are seeking out their elders for help!
Each Age Group Funds its Industries
Yet, as it still stands it's a great set-up. Those who retire young fund the travel agencies, cruise ships, golf courses, retirement centers and entertainment industry.
Each group serves its purpose: the young take salary-producing jobs and the elderly fund a vast entertainment industry. Furthermore, all along life's journey all of us fund the big-money banks and brokerage firms. A nice, neat package…with no purpose.
Inadequate Funding of Services
Then a bomb dropped on all of us. Just recently we have been warned that there is no Social Security fund to pay for every baby boomer approaching retirement. Nor is there adequate funding of Medicare to pay for baby boomers' medical needs.
Uh-Oh…oops. Even stodgy, old established firms are taking their toys and moving to China - just to get away from us. They don't want to pay us pensions or healthcare like they promised. Another "Uh-Oh."
Elderly Re-enter Job Market
Suddenly, we have awakened to a new world. This is a world where the elderly must work. They have to. There is no longer any choice. Although we can't do the same things we did in our thirties, we must do something to supplement our incomes. It will no longer be possible for Americans to retire as did their great grandfathers.
But, is this such a bad thing?
Deuteronomy 5:13 says, "You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God" (HCSB).
Six days of work and one day of rest was one of the Ten Commandments. Just think… The Ten Commandments included an assumption that we would work six days out of each week. But, we would dedicate the seventh day to God.
Thou Shalt Work Forty&Play 30?
No where does God say "Thou shalt work forty years and play for thirty years." Does He? Of course not.
He even provided for a Sabbath year in Deuteronomy 15:1-11. But, there is nothing about working 40 years and resting 30. That is ridiculous.
Burn it on the frontal lobes of your brain - There is no such thing as retirement for the productive Christian. God has a job for you to do. He wants you to work at this job until He takes you home. No one who belongs to God "retires."
Saving is Biblical
Storing up some funds for emergencies and sickness is biblical, however. Proverbs 6:6 says,
"Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest."
Proverbs 21:20 warns,
"There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up."
"A wise person lays aside some of his wealth ("treasure and oil") for the future and for unexpected times of need. The fool, however, spends all his income and unnecessarily lives paycheck to paycheck. …Circumstances arise from time to time - such as major injuries and illnesses, job losses, and natural disasters - that can have catastrophic effects in your life if you're not financially prepared. Special times also arise when you may want to give money to someone in serious need, assist your children as they get started in life, or contribute to some ministry effort. You will be able to give little or nothing if you have not saved or prepared for such contingencies" (p. 43).
"One key component of saving money, and an important way to prepare for future needs, is to invest. Toward the end of the parable of the talents, which illustrates the tragedy of wasted opportunity, Jesus said, 'Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest' (Matt. 25:27). He affirmed the value of using your money to earn money. If you have extra money, you should be faithful at least to put it into a savings account to earn interest. …The Lord is pleased if you and I can be faithful in making wise financial investments…"
Danger of Becoming Obsessed
But, MacArthur then warns,
"It is possible, however, to become obsessed with saving money. You can attempt to save at such a high level that you become a tightwad - extremely selfish and miserly with your funds, fearing that if you don't hold tightly to every penny now, you won't have enough to sustain your current lifestyle in the future. Such a mindset turns saving into hoarding and causes you to stop entrusting your financial future to God's control" (p. 44).
Friends, this is what retirement books, magazines, brokerage firms, and banks have done to our American mindset on saving for retirement. Even Christians are guilty of this one.
The Rich Fool
We have become like the rich fool who wanted to build bigger and bigger storage facilities for our goods. The fool said:
…'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'
So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater ones, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease. Eat, drink, and be merry.'
Stored up for Whom?
But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you. Then whose will those things be which you have provided?'
So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:17-21, NKJV).
Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.'
"Then He said to His disciples, 'Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing" (Luke 12:22-23, NKJV).
A Useless Idol
I'm afraid we have made an idol of our IRAs and Retirement Accounts. Our retirement funds have become our barns filled with goods we will probably never use. Our goods will go to the State, to inheritance taxes, and to many children who don't share our beliefs or values. We are like the fool who built bigger barns to store all his goods.
Proverbs 30:8-9 says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God" (NIV).
Riches or poverty are tests for the believer. Let's realign ourselves with God's Word and make proper use of it. We need to become quick studies, fast learners and good students.
New Eye-Opening Assumptions
Let's question some of the assumptions made by financial firms. Here are some things we should seriously think about and question:
1. There is no biblical requirement to retire at fifty or at sixty-five.
2. There is nothing in the bible that says we should quit working.
3. God has purpose and jobs for us until He decides to take us home.
You know what to do:
- Find your God-given gifts and use them in your local church.
- Assist the poor.
- Give money to your church and to reputable charities.
- Be kind to one another.
- Teach others about God.
- Do good, useful things with your life.
- Teach Sunday school.
- Help the widow mow her lawn.
- Read Bible stories to your grandkids.
You can make your own list.
4. There is no biblical mandate to amass fortunes to support decadent or useless lifestyles for thirty or more years.
5. There is no law that says you must never spend down your principal.
6. There is no law that says all of your principal wealth should go to your children or grandchildren. If you want to do that, fine. Just remember it is not a law. Ever think about willing some of your funds to the church? Now there's a novel idea…(It used to be standard practice).
God Owns it all Anyway
Instead, we must remember that God owns everything and controls everything we have. Haggai 2:8 says,
"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of Hosts" (ESV).
God is "Jehovah-jireh," the God who provides. David, the psalmist, said,
"I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).
If God owns everything and provides for you then there is no reason for you to be terrified for your future or to amass fortunes and to stockpile or hoard goods.
Being Content with what we Have
Rather, Christians need to remember to be content for what we have.
1 Timothy 6:7-8 says,
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these."
Hebrews 13:5 reminds Christians,
"Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you" (HCSB).
Remember the Lord
We have traveled far off of the mark in our greedy, materialistic, society whose slave-owners want you to be frightened of everything and to keep saving, saving, and saving.
To conclude, let's remember this:
"Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today. Otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God…"
Let the Unsaved Retire in Luxury
Let the world's unsaved population retire in "luxury." Remember? That was the beginning title of this article.
We Must Follow Him
But, we must - Follow Him.
- Make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19)
- Assist the widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27).
God has purpose for you in the latter years. That is your true "retirement luxury."
Burkett, Larry. 1992. Preparing for retirement. Chicago: Moody Press.
Life Application Study Bible, NLT, large-print. 2004. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
MacArthur, John. 2000. Whose money is it, anyway? Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
McCurdy, Diane. 2005. How much is enough? Hobroken, NJ: John Wiley&Sons. (ed. This is the only book I can find which has charts showing how to spend down specified lump sums to zero by age 95).
Warner, Ralph. 2002. Get a life. Berkeley, CA: NoLo Books. (ed. comment: This is the only secular book I can find which encourages retirees to develop lasting values and relationships rather than to amass fortunes).
Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA specializing in early church history. Ken received his M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.