The Stewardship of Retirement

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In this article in our series Finishing Strong, Glynn Young discovered that retirement is not a biblical concept. The Bible actually teaches us to be stewards of all that God has given us, all the way up to when we are done in this life.

As the time approached for me to seriously considering retiring, I discovered something: retirement is not a biblical concept.

Moses led the Israelites until he died and God buried him somewhere in Moab. David was king until he died. Paul and Peter continued their ministries until they were martyred. Even the Apostle John, exiled on Patmos, the only disciple who (it’s believed) died of old age, was still working, writing down the vision given him.

The Bible has no retirement road map. But it does have a concept that applies to retirement in the twenty-first century, and that concept is stewardship.

I voluntarily retired, something not as common as it once was. There was no early retirement incentive, no one suggesting or encouraging me to retire early. I chose the timing and planned for it and gave my employer nine months advance notice.

It was no spur of the moment decision. It was done with considerable thought, deliberation, and prayer. It was, in fact, an exercise in stewardship. It was the stewardship of resources, the stewardship of transition, and the stewardship of time.

The Stewardship of Resources

Four in ten people in my Baby Boom generation have saved nothing for retirement. Many of the rest haven’t saved enough. My wife and I are in a different position: We saved throughout our working lifetimes. We didn’t travel much until recently. We live in a nice but not ostentatious home. We still tend to drive cars for a long time—my wife’s car is a fifteen-year-old mini-van and mine is a seven-year-old sedan. I am thankful for my wife’s stewardship in this area of finances (and I give her all the credit).

Months before I gave notice of my retirement, I talked with our financial advisor, asking him to determine the best time for us to retire. He came back with, “What are you doing this afternoon?” In other words, I had unwittingly set myself up to have the freedom to retire.

It was still work, however. We had to make sure the finances and medical benefits were in place. We had to meet with lawyers and make sure the legal considerations were addressed. We updated wills. We had to consider that I would be retiring more than a year before I was eligible for Medicare. We had to answer questions about the kind of pension I would receive (my company is one of the dwindling few that still had a pension plan).

It felt like we were living in meetings! And while I generally dislike meetings, these meetings were critical. I viewed these meetings as a major part of the stewardship process.

The Stewardship of Time

My retirement was from my “day job.” I was not planning a retirement that would be primarily a time of idleness and recreation.

I had a good idea of what I hoped to do in retirement. Writing. Working with The High Calling and Tweetspeak Poetry. Volunteer work. Some freelance work.

I didn’t have a formal, typed plan, but I knew at least in general what I would be doing. In the two months since I retired, I can say that some of that has happened.

I had hoped to spend my first two weeks just relaxing. Instead, I discovered that my company’s human resources department submitted the wrong date for my retirement into the benefits system. All of the careful planning I had done was turned on its head. An error of only two days had a domino effect across pension and benefits. I spent my first two weeks of my retirement dealing with that chaos.

About the same time, The High Calling announced the change for its future.

The lessons were straightforward and basic: the stewardship of time is not only about determining how you will spend your time in retirement, but also about allowing time for the inevitable surprises and having the ability to change plans.

The Stewardship of Transition

Management of the work I was leaving had to be planned for, and a good portion of that was beyond my control. I told the company my intention to retire ten months before I actually did. I didn’t think of myself as irreplaceable, but I had a fair idea of the difficulty that it would be to replace me. My management set a goal—have a replacement on board thirty to sixty days before I retired so we could have a good transition.

I looked at my work and helped the people working for me plan for taking it over. I went through a decade of paper and electronic files, deciding what was useful and what wasn’t. I moved electronic files to a shared drive, accessible to the team. Responsibility for the company’s archives was transferred to another team. Personal belongings were gradually transferred home.

The company began seeking my replacement in February. By late March, outside resources were used to try to find one. By mid-April, there was no replacement or even the possibility of one. As I write this, the position is still vacant, and a temporary outside resource is being used.

The Stewardship of Retirement

Not everything has gone as planned for my retirement, and some things are still in flux. But approaching retirement with the concept of stewardship allowed for the surprises and the unexpected. I left the work in as good a position as I could. I had the outlines of a “go-forward” plan in mind. And the financial considerations were accounted for.

I tried to finish my old “day job” strong, if quietly. And now I’m in the next phase of my working career.