I was reading a paper recently entitled “Spending in Retirement: Determining the Consumption Gap” that talked about how retirees are dying with more money than they had when they actually retired. Specifically, the researchers studied 704 retirees between 2000 and 2010 and found that across five quintiles of wealth, each group had more financial assets than when they initially retired. What’s also interesting is that in the top three quintiles, average income following retirement (through social security, pensions, etc.) continued to exceed average spending.
This is insane to me.
When people think about retirement, they think about saving enough money to comfortably live on it as it dwindles down over 2-3 decades. This is often the primary motivation of work, and – largely – of living: to get to retirement and stop working. People work themselves to the bone, neglect their physical health, emotional well-being, family, and dreams, deprive themselves of many opportunities and experiences, hoard, give far less than they could to churches or charities or causes they believe in – all to make sure they have “enough” when they retire. It largely dictates everything they do.
People work themselves to the bone, neglect their physical health, emotional well-being, family, and dreams, deprive themselves of many opportunities and experiences, hoard, give far less than they could to churches or charities or causes they believe in – all to make sure they have “enough” when they retire.
This is true even though the average person will have more than enough.
To reiterate what I mentioned above: the average person actually brings in more income than they spend after retirement.
These facts also mean that most people die with way more money than they thought they would need or could possibly use.
Is this what you hope for in your own life?
Is this what you’re working so hard for?
I know we all worry about some sort of emergency happening where the stock market crashes or we deal with major medical expenses. I know most of us have been taught to save and be financially responsible and rarely spoil ourselves. I know we have been conditioned to always fear the worst by the majority of news headlines and media soundbytes. But think about all of the rich life experiences you are missing out on now – while you can actually enjoy them. Think about all of the good you could be doing for others while you’re still alive to see exactly how it blesses them, and how God smiles at – and rewards – your generosity.
We cannot predict the future, but we are not supposed to live in fear of the bottom falling out. Yes, we would be fiscally wise, but we should also seek to live a full, generous life – before our health deteriorates and our energy levels and interest in doing different things (outside of watching TV or reading a book) is still somewhat high. Let’s face it, when we get old, we are not going to feel like going on adventures that take us out of our comfort zone – especially if the preceding decades were filled with an ever-declining frequency of such adventures. And even if we had the interest, most of us will be largely incapable of doing the activities we wanted to do during the previous decades. When we retire, most of us won’t be able to run or jump or be super active. The hope is we’ll still be able to walk pretty well.
When we get old, we are not going to feel like going on adventures that take us out of our comfort zone – especially if the preceding decades were filled with an ever-declining frequency of such adventures. And even if we had the interest, most of us will be largely incapable of doing the activities we wanted to do during the previous decades.
Here’s the takeaway: having enough money when you retire should not be the primary driver of what you do and what you don’t do. What is the use of dying with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in your accounts, but also with tens or hundreds of regrets? Failing to do what you wished you would have done when you were younger. Constantly postponing what you as a child dreamed you would do, and then running out of time. Missing out on the opportunity to have a true legacy and impact in the broader community and world because you prioritized oversaving during the best years of your life.
You have the freedom to live how you please, of course. I don’t know your story and what you are currently facing. But I encourage you to remember that God takes care of the birds of the air even though (and maybe because?) they aren’t obsessively filling barns or storehouses with what they think they may need. Jesus tells us we are way more valuable than those birds, and that He will do way more in providing for us. Sadly, most of us pick and choose which promises of the Bible we will actually walk out in faith, and which others we can’t really risk living out.
But that promise in Matthew 6:26 is as true as any of His other promises. You can bank on it.
And if you choose to do so, it may very well free you up to make the most of your life now to do what you dreamed you would do, and to generously impact others in the ways that can make a profound and lasting difference. It can keep you working yourself to death, and help you work yourself to life – the truly fulfilling, impactful life that isn’t bogged down with preventable regrets.
PS. It’s not too late.
Image source: – https://bit.ly/2KZ6wIE – Carl Banks