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Monday, August 1, 2016

Putting Retirement to Pasture

I am sometimes asked, “How long do you plan to work?” For some reason, it sounds better than people asking about “retirement.” Of course, it gets to be a logical question when one approaches the age of 65—which I am just months short of doing.

Times have changed. Views of retirement have changed. And certainly how one handles ending career life and becoming part of the leisure crowd is also changing.

As far back as the 1960s, we knew a Presbyterian minister who was in his 90s and still working! In fact, he traveled a good part of the year, filling in the pulpit at churches around the country. Senior executives with corporations stick around longer these days. Media types, like those 60 Minutes hosts and Barbara Walters, want to keep doing what they love.

And why not?

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune featured a story headlined, “More Americans plan to retire after 70.” Willis Towers Watson, a human resource consulting firm, reports those who plan to stay on the job into their 70s is up from 16 percent in 2009 to around 23 percent now.

As noted, if you enjoy your work and feel very up to it as I do, that’s one thing. But of 30,000 surveyed in 19 countries revealed, “employees who expected to work longer were ‘less healthy, more stressed and more likely to feel stuck in their jobs than those who expect to retire earlier.’” So there is a dark side!

Other interesting findings from the survey included U.S. employees being more pessimistic about whether their generation would be worse off in retirement compared to their parents. Women, more so than men, felt less financially secure for extended retirement. The percentage of men 65 or older still on the job in 2003 was 15 percent. Now it hovers aound 22 percent. Other countries are seeing significant jumps as well.

A second story regarding the aging of our workforce has troubling news, too. The Washington Post carried this gem in March, with this headline: “Not ready to retire, but not finding work.”

The brutal truth came from a 2012 GAO report showing that workers who were 55 and older—currently unemployed—were the least likely to find another job. It isn’t that these people aren’t looking. They just face great challenges in landing the next job. As the Post reports, “The elephant in the room is age discrimination.”

Many workers hoping to stay on the job are not well equipped financially to do otherwise. A survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates revealed “fifty-seven percent of retirees reported having less than $25,000 in savings and investments, not counting their homes or traditional pensions. Twenty-eight percent said they have less than $1,000.” This forces many to take Social Security before they had planned which can mean thousands less during a lifetime.

One man who set his course differently is Christian leader Rick Warren. Even after the success of his multi-million selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick had chosen not to pursue a life of lavish spending. He’s chosen a simpler way.

As Forbes magazine reported, Rick said “I drive a 12 year old Ford, have lived in the same house for the last 22 years, bought my watch at Wal-Mart, and I don’t own a boat or a jet.” His reasoning is to rely on Scripture and “time-tested money-management principles to guide his personal and financial life.”

Three years ago, when this article was first published, Rick announced his “retirement plan.” He would work until age 65, and then turn over the leadership of the church to someone younger. But wait—is he retiring?

No. Rick Warren said he won’t ever “retire,” explaining that the word “retirement” is not even in the Bible. So here’s a quote from Rick to take to the bank for aging workers: “The Bible says that as long as your heart is beating God has a plan and purpose for your life…to grow personally, to get to know God, to serve others, and make the world a better place.”

He challenges us all to consider what will be the “center” of our life as we age. How will we keep growing? What will be the character of our life?”

Several years ago, I decided to view my career steps differently. Regardless of where I would serve, I would pray that God would direct my steps to my next assignment. Which He has.

Proverbs 19:21 states: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (ESV)

If you yield your life skills to His direction, you need never retire.

And as for my trade, as one soul has stated…old broadcasters never die. They just change frequencies.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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