How Much Should We Worry about Planning for Retirement?

When considering saving for retirement, how much is enough or too much? How much should we worry about retirement income in light of Jesus’ words “Do not worry about tomorrow”?

The sort of retirement advice one typically finds on the internet consists of building up a nest egg of, say, a million dollars, or perhaps setting a goal of ensuring an annual return of 90% of one’s pre-retirement income. Another commonly offered strategy is to set aside, starting in one’s 20s or 30s, a percentage of income each year (15% or so) as a virtually religious obligation.

There is nothing inherently wrong or unfaithful in these suggestions, formulaic as they may be. Note, however, that these ideas come from a sector whose profits lie in maximizing investments and, like much of advertising, inducing fear in people that they currently do not have enough. Lying behind the suggestions is an assumption that people’s retirement goals include lifestyle choices that are both consumptive and expensive. Surely everyone wants to travel the world and enjoy the more sumptuous things of life!

While Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, what he does not say is do not plan for tomorrow, always aware that tomorrow’s uncertainties are in God’s hands. So how not to worry about retirement?

Find a good financial/retirement planner whose own financial success is not dependent on getting you to invest in a particular financial package and who is willing to look at your whole array of potential assets and risks—savings, retirement benefits, pensions, insurance, Social Security, medical bills, and so forth. Thankfully, there are such level-headed people around who understand modest lives and the contentment inherent in the word “enough.”

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church who teaches religion, ethics, and ecology in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan.