Planning: Utilizing Money Now, Not Just in Retirement |

Planning: Utilizing Money Now, Not Just in Retirement 8


christian retirement planning

Chofetz Chaim – rare image

In the late nineteenth century, an American traveler paid a visit to the influential Polish rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, known popularly as the Chofetz Chaim. The American was astonished to see that this revered and renowned rabbi’s living space basically consisted of a simple room filled with books, a table and a bench. The curious American asked:

“Rabbi, where is your furniture?”

“Where is yours?” replied the rabbi.

“Mine?” replied the puzzled American. “But I’m a visitor here. I’m only passing through.”

“So am I,” said the rabbi.


Although the opportunities and methods have changed over the centuries, since ancient times the pursuit of wealth has been the driving force behind most of the important daily decisions within individual families as well as societies at large. It’s no wonder then, that in the New Testament, verses regarding money and financial issues outnumber verses pertaining to faith and salvation by a factor of ten.

The way we feel about our current station in life is largely determined by how we view the world. Where we fall on the economic scale is largely determined by how we use our income. When it comes to personal finances, being rich, poor or somewhere in between is not just dependent upon how much income we receive, but is greatly influenced by the way we use the money and resources that are at our disposal. In short, this whole business of personal finance basically boils down to an issue of stewardship.

And what exactly is a steward? A steward is someone who occupies a place of trust, honor, management and accountability over an owner’s possessions, and is therefore required to exercise responsible care over the resources they are entrusted with.

Thus, if we live our lives under the premise that God owns everything, then it logically follows that we are obligated to manage what is entrusted to us according to His principles. And when we do so, motivation, joy and peace of mind can then be found in the knowledge that the material things that go through our hands can be used effectively and in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

All of us will one day be accountable for our stewardship and for the type of witness it provides, and by the proper stewardship of our money we are making available the financial resources to co-opt the things of the world for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.


Why Plan?

In terms of eternity, money is meaningless, but in the here and now, money is a tool to be used. So proper stewardship and planning should not just center on saving for retirement; it also should allow for the cheerful and beneficial utilization of money in the present.

And while the basics of financial planning – stuff like budgeting, minding expenses and debt, saving and insurance – are not rocket science or a secret, they are a time-tested foundation for building financial peace of mind. But guess what? The majority of households in America don’t implement these personal finance basics; they don’t plan, and they don’t set goals for their financial future.

Oh sure, lots of folks have some nebulous goal of retiring comfortably someday by keeping their noses to the grindstone and working long, hard hours chasing after the next pay raise, or the next higher-paying job. And that’s cool because hard work is honorable, and it’s a given that we all must work hard; the Lord himself is a worker, and we’re told that “we have to tend a fig tree in order to eat its fruit”.

But many folks settle into a life of labor where they find themselves often daydreaming about some future time when they won’t have to do that work anymore. And therein lies the problem; it seems an awful lot like all that butt-busting effort is put forth for the sole purpose of earning a paycheck in the present (point A) that will somehow enable them to pursue their heart’s desire sometime in the future (point B). But, unfortunately no map was ever created to plot out how to get from point A to point B.

I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t seem like a very focused or fulfilling way to spend a person’s working years. On the other hand, clarity and motivation can be found in figuring out what your dreams are, getting a handle on your goals, and having a financial plan that points the way. It can mean the difference between slogging through work, day in and day out, in the hopes of “one day” retiring wealthy, and having financial peace, living a life of significance right now and embracing the journey of the daily work life.


Occupation vs Calling

When we work our jobs what we are basically doing is giving up big chunks of our personal time in order to do certain things in exchange for money. But what would happen in the unfortunate circumstance that we just up-and-die, right in the prime of our working years? Well, in most cases, within a short period of time our position would be filled or our work would be absorbed by our employer. We are replaceable.

But let’s say we also have a family that we really love and enjoy. In our family we are not so easily replaceable. But of course, we don’t get paid to be a spouse and a parent; we get paid to do our job at our employer. It is our replaceable position in our occupation that allows us to better pursue our irreplaceable position of significance as a spouse and parent. See, for most of us, there is a difference between our work (occupation) and our calling (in this case, a spouse and parent) and whether or not we realize it, we are constantly allocating ourselves between the two.

As we go through life continually making this trade off of money for time our perception of this trade off changes. The longer we think our time horizon is, the more precedence the gathering up of money takes. But as we get older, time slowly gains in importance until eventually the trade off ends. Completely.

This is what we Americans like to call “retirement.” It is from this point on that both money and time will slip through our fingers, in lockstep, and at an ever-accelerating pace. At this juncture it becomes a lot harder to begin to forge significance because significance is financed by some combination of money and time, and in the latter years of life, we are quickly running out of both.

That’s why it’s so important to understand and remember that to get to a point in life where money is not much of a worry will require some advance planning. And I’d say to plan not only for finances, but also for personal growth. The two should go hand in hand.

And sometimes personal growth requires the expenditure of money, which of course may affect our financial plan. But see, that’s the beauty of creating and putting a plan into action in the first place: It will allow us to simultaneously secure our future and have a positive effect on the present. We should never ignore the journey by only focusing on the destination!


Boiling It Down

So that’s kind of the essence of the whole thing; no matter what our personal views are about money, and how much wealth we’ve got or think we need to acquire, we’ve really got to come up with some kind of a personal financial plan.

And if you ask me, the main goal of our plan should be to get to a place of financial peace of mind. See, it doesn’t really matter how much money we have – if we spend most of our waking hours thinking about money, then we can’t be truly rich. And that’s because it’s not the person with the most wealth that is truly rich, but rather the person that has the least worries about money.


Are you looking forward to ‘traditional’ retirement? Are you well along in your plan? Do you have different goals for the different phases of your life?







8 thoughts on “Planning: Utilizing Money Now, Not Just in Retirement

  1. Reply untemplater

    I’m a planner by nature. I like to know where I’m headed and how I’m gonna get there. I hope I don’t have a traditional retirement though. I want to ramp up entrepreneurship and ramp down my day job over the next few years.

    • Reply Chaz Miller

      That’s a great goal! Creating your own job to retire into is one of the best ways to take charge of your future.

  2. Reply Sher@KNSFinancial

    Excellent post Chaz. My husband and I talk about these issues on a regular basis. For us, retirement isn’t when we stop working, it’s just when we stop having an occupation. We plan on working, especially in the body of Christ, until we’re physically unable or God calls us home. Our goal is that we can work for ourselves full-time to provide for our needs and so we can be a help to others. I agree that stewardship goes against the social notion of frantically saving for retirement. We do plan for the future, but that is balanced with the call to help others in need.

    • Reply Chaz Miller

      Hi Sher, you guys are operating ahead of the curve and seem destined to enjoy years of personal fulfillment!

  3. Reply Kevin@OutOfYourRut

    Chaz, I think you’ve hit the money nail square on the head. Too many people today are chasing wealth. This is true even with retirement planning – think about it – we’re told we need a million dollars or more to retire comfortably. That’s not retirement, it’s weath. The problem is that we equate weath with happiness. We’re even willing to sacrifice happiness (and a whole bunch of other things) to get wealth.

    In the end it’s all about balance. It’s about having enough money that you aren’t obsessed with it. But chasing “enough money so I’ll never have to worry again” is taking it too far, especially if you’re a Christian. We know (or should know) that nirvanna won’t happen this side of Heaven.

    I find it self-defeating that people are so obsessed with being able to retire in comfort that they’re willing to toil at jobs they hate so that they can save up enough to retire. Pardon me for saying so, but that’s just using retirement as an exit strategy from a life of misery.

    We should strive to find a balance of happiness, calling and financial independence – which is not the same thing as cashing out to a life of blessing nothingness. We can have all of that with far less money than we generally think, but only if we think beyond money.

    It’s amazing how money – which much of the world thinks of as the ultimate savior – can easily lock us in a box that we can’t see out of! I think this is why the New Testament spends so much time on the topic, and why Jesus said that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” How can we possibly see to the kingdom of God when we’re so singularly distracted by money?

    • Reply Chaz Miller

      Good points, Kevin. It is, indeed, about ‘balance’. It’s about priorities and seeing the bigger picture. One of the most regrettable things has got be getting hit with the realization that the nebulous ‘good life’ that someone worked their whole life to achieve had actually already passed them by while they were busy grinding it out and storing up for ‘the future’.

  4. Reply Anne @ Money Propeller

    I really enjoyed this! I like the conclusion that you reached, about being at peace with our financial state and being able to live in the here and now.
    We’re aiming for early retirement, we don’t love our current jobs, but we also don’t hate them either. I’m working on making a bit of extra income, from more channels, to expedite the process and to allow me to work on things that I care more about.

  5. Reply Chaz Miller

    Hi Anne, it sounds like you have created some sort of a plan and I think that’s the key to the whole thing! Obviously nothing in this life is certain and our financial plans need to be flexible, but if we have some sort of a map with pinpointed destinations we’re much more likely to enjoy the journey!

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