I can remember a coworker having a screen saver that counted down the days and minutes until retirement years in advance. It was a plan in place and a reminder of a new season waiting around the corner. For some the decision about when to retire may feel clear, but for others the decision is made with a fair degree of speculation and trepidation. For some, making the decision to retire can carry the anxiety of watching a high stakes game, and one you don’t want to be wrong about. When is the right time to leave a career that has defined a good deal of your adult life? How much do you need set aside in savings to retire well? When is the stress of continuing to work too much for your health? How do you weigh the pros and cons?
All of life runs better with prayer. It important to keep God at the center of your decision making by taking all of your concerns to God and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Journaling prayer concerns can take the stress out of your head so you can lay the burden down at God’s feet. Putting the pros and cons in writing can help to gain perspective about how God is leading you in this next season.
Your physical, spiritual, and emotional health are all important. God has blessed us with bodies to care for and we need to listen the cues that our bodies give us. Working ourselves into exhaustion or persisting in a job that is damaging to our mental health is not being a good steward of your body’s health. Recognize your limitations and care for yourself. Consider the things that fill your soul day to day and week to week. Take an inventory of your emotions surrounding your employment. Do you feel anxiety and dread on Sunday nights when you start thinking about work again after the weekend? What things do you need to make time for so you can have joy and peace in your life? What boundaries do you need in place?
Consider the needs in your family and what might be the best way to support them. A spouse might need more support with health concerns or a child may appreciate you taking time to support your grandchildren. It can be helpful to explore what boundaries need to be in place to find a healthy balance moving forward. Retirement can be an opportunity to support your family in new and unique ways so consider what opportunities God may be inviting you to be a part of.
Consider the big dreams that God has placed on your heart. Have you always dreamed about hiking the El Camino or the Great Wall of China? Maybe you long to sample the foods of South American or take an African safari? Consider when the best time is for taking the adventure that excites your heart. You don’t want to put off hiking tour of the Holy Land until a time when you don’t have the strength to take the tour. If your bucket list priority is quiet days spent relaxing with friends and family retirement may feel less urgent. If your heart’s desire takes a financial investment it may influence your retirement timeline.
Although we may retire from a job or career, we never retire from service to God’s kingdom. Our call to serving God is lifelong. Discipleship opportunities are present in every season of our lives. Consider the ministry avenues that interest you. Are you wanting to have more time to engage with mentoring in your local church? Have you always thought about traveling to do disaster relief work? Maybe you have a desire to travel to a foreign mission field that you can’t coordinate around a work schedule.
Your mind needs stimulation so it is good to consider what intellectual pursuits will call for your attention in retirement. It is valuable to read a good book and thoughtfully engage ideas. Your retirement plans may include exploring some lifelong learning opportunities or connecting with a monthly book club or meeting friends for regular conversations.
We are interconnected people, and our relationships significantly impact our lives. Consider the affect that retirement might have on your relationships. Will you still be able to connect with those whose lives are intertwined with you? Will retirement give you more time for connecting with family and friends? What relationships would you choose to prioritize cultivating?
It is important to be good stewards of the resources that God has given to us. Our time, our talents and our treasures are all gifts from God and provide us with opportunities for service. Choose to make responsible choices that will provide for your retirement needs without creating an undue financial burden for others.
Sometimes our sense of identity becomes too closely linked to the work we do and the positions we hold, yet God sees things differently. God loves you for who you are and not based on what you have achieved. God gives us a lifelong calling of serving and worshiping. As you consider the next steps you want to take in your life, give yourself grace to explore the decision thoughtfully and prayerfully. And while you don’t need a screen saver to count you down into retirement, I hope you find some excitement for exploring what opportunities God might be setting before you in this next season.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster