Thursday, March 26, 2015

Notes on retirement: number two

Our society wants us to believe that the foremost retirement questions revolve around finances. Certainly, those are important questions. One does need some income because the bills do not stop in retirement. There is no limit to what retirement advisers think we need. The advice seems to be the more the better. Figures like one million dollars are  offered as a starting off place. One million in retirement funds assuming 6 percent growth a year and taking our 4 percent a year should do it. Maybe. Depending on how long you live and how well you live. And what your idea of retirement is. In our society, retirement is seen as that time in life when you do all those things you put off doing while you were working, raising a family, etc. Now, it is your time! Check off that bucket list. Buy that dream home perhaps. That cool two seater convertible. Take those trips to exotic places. Discover the perfect place to live. Or play golf every day. Whatever. You need money for all of those things so money should be your primary concern.

A contrarian point of view says it should be the least of your concerns. You do need money. There are lots of ways to get it including part time work. You need money to live. Question is how do you want to live now? It might take a while to figure that out. Our culture wants us to think we can have it all and in retirement the time has come to make up for what we have been denying ourselves all our lives. Can we have it all? Or has that been a temptation from the beginning. We have desires that crave fulfilling. Maybe retirement is a time to probe and ponder the sources of those longings. By this time in our lives we know that fulfilling our desires can be a fool's errand. Thus, we move on to spiritual concerns some of which mask themselves as financial.

What if the most important questions are spiritual? Who are we going to become in retirement? How will we grow up? What will matter? What is this time of our lives for? What are we going to read? How will we pray? Where are we going to worship? Who are we going to serve? How is our longing for God to be expanded?

What if retirement is the time to sort out our desires and focus on those that matter? Marilynne Robinson wrote: "To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it?" Belden Lane talks about cultivating a "catch and release" spirituality. " The world is shot through with God's splendors which we can enjoy without possessing. (Backpacking with the Saints).

We need money to pay the bills. But we need little more than our senses to unleash the "power of exquisite delight" that is available to us. What if God has given to us what we need in retirement if we only stop and look around and be mindful of his presence and his gifts of grace?

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