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Reimagine Retirement Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Sep 10th
What prompted you to write this book?

I have been doing financial coaching and counseling in my local church for almost 20 years. Over time, I became increasingly concerned as I talked with fellow Christians who planned to retire but were not financially prepared to do so.

It was also disconcerting to see some older Christians pulling back from the mainstream of church and community life. They became more and more self-focused in their pursuit of leisure, recreation, and the pleasures of life rather than working for God’s kingdom.

These concerns, plus the fact that I was entering the retirement “red zone” (the 5 years before retirement) myself, led me to start a blog (retirementstewardship.com) in 2015, and then to begin writing the book in 2018 because I saw a great need in this area.

Although there are some good Christian books on retirement out there (I have read most of them), there weren’t any that put the right amount of focus on both the spiritual and practical aspects. So, I decided to write one and “Reimagine Retirement” is the result.

Who did you write it for?

I targeted the book at anyone interested in planning for and living in retirement from a Christian perspective. However, I think it will have particular appeal to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers–those age 40 to 75.

I also hope that the God-centered vision for later-life I cast in the book will resonate with younger people as well. Plus, it’s never too early to start thinking about and planning for the future, no matter how far off it may seem. More than half of the book is devoted to the practical aspects of planning for and living in retirement. That can help anyone, including those just starting out.

In the book,I try to “demystify” some of the more complex topics. I cover saving and investing, which may be of help to millennials and Gen. Xers. Other subjects, like Social Security, Medicare, and legacy planning, may be more helpful to the “boomer” crowd.

What do you think most Americans imagine when they think of the concept of retirement? How does that differ from a biblical perspective?

I think most people imagine it as a time when they no longer have to go to work—no more commute, no more long hours, no more difficult boss. Beyond that, many picture it as a time to pursue their favorite hobbies and recreational activities, travel, and spending more time with friends and families. (By the way, all of these are good gifts from God, given to us for our enjoyment.) Others may be thinking about a second career or starting a business, or volunteering, all of which are certainly productive uses of their time in retirement.

Our modern culture promotes a “work hard, save a lot, retire as soon as you can, so you spend the rest of your life doing what you enjoy” retirement ideal. You will hear a lot about “finding your passion and purpose” in retirement in the popular media; it’s all about self-fulfillment.

A more Biblically-oriented view would be that, while retirement can be a time to enjoy, it is also a new season of opportunity for serving God and others in a greater way. Therefore, a key goal I had in writing the book is to inspire Christians of all ages to reimagine retirement, which I define in the book as “one that is planned, structured, lived, and continually re-examined in light of sound biblical doctrine, principles, and practice. It is a retirement lived for the glory of God, his kingdom, and the good of his people.”

Where—if anywhere—do we see retirement in the Bible?

Retirement as we understand it (and practice it) in contemporary America is a very modern concept, so it doesn’t show up in the Bible. In Biblical times, people worked for as long as they could. After that, their families took care of them, and they contributed to their households as they were able.

There is however one example of retirement in the Old Testament (in Numbers Ch. 25) where the Levitical priests were instructed to “retire” at age 50. After that, they would assist the younger, newly promoted priestly interns in fulfilling their duties at the Tent of Meeting. These duties apparently involved pretty hard work. And remember, the average lifespan during this time wasn’t much more than 50 or 60.

The other ways we see retirement in the Bible is its teachings (mainly in the form of principles) on the natural and necessary cycles of work and rest that were instituted by God himself. I develop this further in the book, but the main point is that nowhere does the Bible portray any season of life as a time of nothing but either work or rest.Instead, it describes it as times of productive activity punctuated by periods of rest. 

The other principle, which I also delve into further, is stewardship, which is simply the idea that our time, talents, and treasure belong to God and that he has entrusted them to us to be used for our good, the good of others, and for his glory, for as long as we live.

When should people start thinking about retirement?

This may sound a little crazy, but I would say as soon as they receive their first paycheck. Sure, they may be 40 years away, and someone certainly doesn’t need to have it all figured out at age 25 or 30, but the sooner they start saving something (preferably in their employer’s retirement savings plan where they may be entitled to a match), the better. Beyond that, people who are in their 40s and beyond, and especially those who are 10 years or less from retirement, should start thinking very seriously about it.

And I’m not just talking about the financial aspects, i.e., how they will fund it, as important as they are. (You don’t want to get to age 60 hoping to retire at age 66, only to find that you are far from being able to do so). People also need to start thinking about how they will live it. Far too many people retire with a financial plan but without a “life plan.” Sadly, many find themselves sitting on a couch watching TV all day. That’s not the life that God created and redeemed us for!

How do you hope readers’ perspective on retirement changes by reading this book? What do you hope they do differently?

A principal purpose of this book is to challenge and counteract some of the contemporary societal and cultural norms of retirement that can cause Christians to view it in ways inconsistent with Biblical principles.

I hope that rather than imagining retirement as a cessation of work followed by 20 or 30 years of only leisure and recreation—a concept that is nowhere to be found in Scripture—readers will reimagine a God-glorifying, and therefore more soul-satisfying, alternate lifestyle in retirement. I’m talking about a lifestyle of productive activity with intermittent (and occasionally, extended) periods of rest (in the form of leisure and recreation), instead of the other way around.

Now, I want to reiterate that I don’t think the Bible is opposed to the enjoyment of leisure and recreation during retirement—they are good gifts from God. But I hope the book encourages readers to think more deeply about their priorities and how they will live in retirement in light of biblical teachings.

I also want readers to be aware of the significant financial challenges retirement can present. Not so that they become more anxious and fearful, but so that they will do something to address them in their situation.

Statistically, most people retire in their early sixties. And almost everyone will retire eventually. We are living longer and longer and may spend many years “in retirement,” more than previous generations. Unfortunately, many people do not prepare for such a long retirement. Some will not be able to enjoy the life they imagined, and others are in danger of not having the resources to meet their basic needs.

Therefore, I hope the book educates and informs the readers such that they will be more proactive, starting early in life, in taking control of their retirement planning so that they don’t end up being unnecessarily dependent on the government and others. That means saving diligently and investing wisely, while also remaining generous with the resources God has given them.