I can retire in two years at age 65. Our home is paid for but we have almost nothing saved for retirement. We can get by on Social Security but it will be tight. How are others getting by who are in this shape?
Dear Retirement Planning,
It is great that you are thinking about your options now. There is still time to make some adjustments to put yourself in a better position.
The typical approach to retirement negates an aspect of God’s design for man: work. It normalizes something that was never intended to be normal – not working. Now, I don’t think retirement is wrong. But I do believe that retirement for Christians means having time to serve others more fully without the necessity of being paid for it. It is a time to repurpose the how and why of time and resources.
Consider Your Options
47% of workers are relying on Social Security as their primary retirement income. The average benefit for a retired worker in 2020 is $1,503 per month. Many of those with only Social Security income live with family members, in low-income senior housing, or in small apartments. If they own a home, they have to budget wisely to pay for taxes, maintenance and repairs. Some depend on the generosity of others. Creativity, community, and frugality are vital.
There are several things to consider in planning for your future:
● Why should I retire?
● What will I do?
● Can I afford to retire?
● What if my retirement plan fails?
● What if I can’t retire?
The amount needed in retirement is different for everyone, but many worry they will outlive their money. In fact, the number one financial regret of older Americans is that they did not begin saving sooner.
Knowing ahead of time that “it will be tight” is an important reason to continue working. Remember, work is a blessing from the Lord. It keeps our bodies active and our minds sharp. Like ants, we can store up for the day when we want or need to cut back on hours. Aim to max out a 401(k) plan and a health savings account (HSA) if available. Because life expectancy is increasing, consider extending the date that you plan to retire. By working until you are 70, you could set aside a substantial amount of retirement funds to supplement your Social Security benefits.
Delay Social Security Benefits
You can increase your monthly benefit by waiting to draw until your full retirement age, but it is not always the most beneficial choice. Your health, financial condition, lifestyle and retirement plans will influence the decision. Do your research. Run the numbers and make a choice when is best to begin drawing your benefit. I can see advantages to both sides of the argument of whether to draw early or delay.
Work Part-time or “Repurpose”
My father owned his own business. This enabled him to work full-time until he was 83. His mind is still very sharp as he has remained active and involved in the community.
The knowledge, experience and wisdom accumulated over a lifetime can be shared with others. The Bible emphasizes helping younger generations to grow in faith, to live godly lives and to strengthen the family unit. It grants purpose and structure to your days. I have personally benefited from several retired men who have served on our board of directors.
● Consult: Use what you know to create a small business that allows you to work with clients and still remain flexible with your time commitment.
● Learn: Develop new skills to create future income streams. Or skills that will be useful to support your children’s business or career. One friend learned QuickBooks to be able to manage the finances for his son’s automotive repair business.
● Start up: Consider starting a business or working part-time. One of my friends retired from an executive job on Wall Street and now works as a firefighter/EMT.
● Phase Out: Those accustomed to heavy responsibility should consider a gradual reduction in responsibility as they phase out of their career. For instance, a doctor may work part-time, take medical mission trips or do volunteer work in the inner city.
● Go: Get involved in missions. I met a widow that spends six months a year in Tanzania serving in an orphanage. She loves it!
● Disciple: Take up the challenge to disciple your grandchildren or other young people in your life. Plan events and activities for their spiritual growth. Everyone benefits from this repurposing.
● Volunteer: Consider schools, churches, foster youth who are aging out, ESL programs, Crown, or organizations that help refugees, immigrants or the poor in your community.
Regardless of your income, retirement is a matter of making lifestyle choices. By lowering your cost of living, you can stretch available funds to meet your needs.
Financial planning is essential, especially in an environment of low interest rates on low-risk savings products.
Get on a budget and reset your financial habits. Recruit a wise person to hold you accountable. Quiz older friends to learn what to expect financially. Don’t forget the cost of inflation, taxes, travel and long-term care. Will you want to move near family?
Eliminate debt. Negotiate your bills and find ways to cut back. Sell what you don’t need and consider downsizing unless your home is appreciating. Find ways to save with joy and multiply income streams if possible.
See your work as a means to glorify God, to serve your employer, to help your customers, and to provide for your future.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.