A couple in Canada sits next to the lake during retirement

What Should We Think About Retirement?

What Should We Think About Retirement?

by Bill High

Retirement is a relatively new creation.

In the founding of America, it was expected that you’d work until your dying breath. Of course, some of this expectation was based upon shorter life expectancy.

As life expectancy grew, the reality grew that physical work would outpace the physical capacity to do that work. For instance, it wasn’t until 1889 that German Chancellor Bismarck introduced the modern idea of pensions, according to a Seattle Times article on retirement. A few year earlier, in 1875, American Express introduced America’s first employer-funded retirement plan, and in 1880 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad followed suit. From there, private pensions grew.

The United States created Social Security in 1935 as a government-funded retirement system, followed by Medicare in 1965.

Perhaps unfortunately, retirement today is accepted as a matter of right. The idea of “saving for retirement” is commonplace. For many, age 65 is the magic number for retirement.


Rethinking Retirement

No doubt there are some realities of retirement. Some professions are better served by younger people—policemen, firemen, heavy construction. But perhaps it’s time to rethink retirement as a right and view it as an opportunity to contribute to the world in a different way.

For instance, the Bible only mentions retirement in Numbers 8.23-26. There, the Levites were to serve from age 25-50. After age 50, they could still serve their brothers by providing security for the tent of meeting. The necessity for retirement came from the fact that part of the work of the Levites required heavy lifting—a younger man’s job.

With retirement being a relatively new development, the question becomes, how best to steward those years? Is retirement meant to be a nonstop vacation?

I’ve heard the phrase, “Refire! Don’t retire…” (there’s now a book by that title, which I haven’t read). Retirement will look very different for each of us, but a clear vision and mission help to keep us focused on loving and serving others.

I imagine retirement as a focused season of blessing our families and our communities with all our resources (time, talent, treasure), even as abilities and resources change.

Along those lines, the late Bob Buford wrote Halftime (which I have read) and all the related resources that developed around the Halftime Institute. Buford sought to inspire middle-aged people to pause, reflect and plan to make the second half of their lives even more meaningful than the first.

And if reading a book is more than you want to bite off at the moment, Jeff Haanen wrote “Don’t Waste Your Retirement,” a great article posted on the Gospel Coalition blog.

So what do you think about the concept of retirement, and what are your plans for retirement?



Photo by Max Harlynking on Unsplash

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Published February 14, 2020

Topics: Family Legacy


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