Saturday, November 23, 2013

Retirement Living for the Twenty-Something

Retirement. By the time the average man retires, he should be richer and wiser than he ever was, even while in his prime. What will you do one day with all that wealth?

This is not a post about financial planning or investing. There are a lot books about how to get retired, but far too few on how to be retired. Unless you have (or are) a financial planner, you may think it's too early to prepare for that phase of life, but

What if you knew that how you live today reflects how you will spend retirement?

A friend in real estate recently told me about an elderly couple who, for the last twenty years, didn't do much more with their time than eat, watch TV, and sleep in the home they were about to sell. They were reasonably healthy. Their full-grown children had lives of their own and they had enough money to fund the remainder of their lives at a retirement home. Now, to some people, this is not a bad setup. But to my friend, this was a tragic waste. "In retirement," he told me, "you have more money, more knowledge, and more time than you've had your whole life leading up to it."

"Well, what should retirement look like?" I asked him.

He shared his vision for the winter years of his own life, which reflected his desire to redevelop communities, invest in local churches and overseas missions, make his family prosper, and teach young men to love God, live and succeed. But here's the kicker: these are all things that he is already doing when he's not selling homes.

When I shed some light on that fact, he gave me this gem:

"Retirement will look like whatever you do now in your free time, just more of it." 

He continued, "If all a person's life consists of is work and rest, retirement will be all rest. If it's work and play, then retirement will be all play." In other words, people don't suddenly have a radical shift in values when they turn 62. How we spend our resources today will accurately depict how we will spend our lives years from now.

I could talk about all the things I would do if I had more. Maybe you could too. Here are a few for me:

If I had more money I would be more generous
If I had more knowledge/skills, I would write a book
If I had more time, I would be more intentional in my friendships

But if, in the mean time, all my free hours are spent on Facebook, Netflix or in bed; if my money is spent on pleasure in the form of food, drink, or grown-up toys; if I am not giving/writing/loving with the resources I have now, chances are I will be doing none of those things when I have more.

Maybe we haven't been doing the things we want to be doing in the future. But that's the beauty of the gift of today. We currently have no control over yesterday or tomorrow. But by God's grace, we have power to choose how to spend our lives today, which will tremendously impact tomorrow.

The best thing I can do for my retirement, more than saving and investing, is to create a beautiful life with the time and resources I have now. Be generous today. Spend time with the people I love today. Learn new things, enjoy nature, lend a helping hand, give hope today. 

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt