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Retirement—Is it mandatory?

By Crown Financial Ministries

CBNMoney.comR.G. Le Tourneau, a Christian businessman, once told his long-time friend, Dr. Robert Barnhouse, "Maybe I will retire someday, but I’m too busy right now." He was 80 years old at that time!

To most people in our society, retirement refers to that period of time in latter years when they can stop work and start enjoying life. This idea is very appealing. However the truth is that although the majority of Americans nearing their retirement years look forward to this kind of retirement most don’t have the means actually to do it. Even if they did have the means, statistics show that for the sake of their physical and mental well-being retirees should be active and productive as long as they are physically able.

God’s view regarding retirement
A major problem develops when people and/or businesses begin to say that everyone who reaches a certain age is no longer productive and must be replaced with more aggressive and younger employees. This concept is not only out of step with the historical record of the impressive accomplishments of senior citizens, but it cannot be supported scripturally. The only reference in the Bible to retirement is found in Numbers 8:25, which concerns the retirement of the temple priests or Levites. That is not much biblical justification for the multibillion dollar retirement system America has built.

There are two fundamental points from God’s Word that need to be considered about retirement. First, most Americans focus too much on ceasing work at too early an age. Second, according to Proverbs 6:6-8, workers need to lay aside some surplus in higher-income-earning years so that the latter years can be spent in peace. "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." Statistics show that the "harvest" years for most Americans are between the ages of 25 and 60. Therefore it would be wise to lay aside some surplus income for the latter phase of life, when income-earning abilities decline, so that retirees will not become a burden to their children or the government.

Planning for retirement
Many people in America seem to be obsessed with retirement planning. They divert funds from God’s work and their families and live like misers most of their lives in order to retire in comfort.

Others act as if they will remain young and highly employable for the rest of their lives. Often these people end up living on inadequate incomes, mostly Social Security, or being totally dependent on their children.

Retirement planning in and of itself is not wrong. Although there are many different retirement plans, there is not one "best" plan that is guaranteed to work for everyone. The most biblical plan is to continue to be productive throughout our lifetimes. God never intended for us to quit working but, rather, for us to change to a less demanding alternative.

However, the absolute best retirement investment that will fit into any retirement plan is to have a debt-free home. That means to pay off the home mortgage as soon as possible, then use the money that was paying mortgage payments to start a retirement account or reinforce an existing one.

Wise stewards
Most retirement plans should begin when workers are in their 40s. If they begin sooner than that, the average investors sacrifice basic needs for the sake of retirement speculation. Besides, very few people can predict more than 30 years into their future to determine their retirement needs. On the other hand, if workers wait until their 50s to begin a retirement plan, large sums of money must be allocated to the plan in order to satisfy retirement needs—many times more than workers can afford.

Investors need to be careful about investing when they are at retirement age. They also need to remember two very important principles regarding investing: Don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose and diversify your money according to the instructions in Ecclesiastes 11:2.

When preparing and planning for retirement, workers should not try to protect against every eventuality. However, they need to pray and plan for the future. Husbands and wives should pray together about their retirement future and then trust God, who is "able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

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