Nothing takes the place of actually going through a life event.
Turning 65 is one of those events.
Understandably, many of life’s financial efforts fall short. At some point, you simply run out of time. It happens and according to Vanguard, the average 401(k) account for those 65 and older is a measly $58,000. If you’re in this situation, and to those who believe that this will never happen to them – read on.
Now, what’s interesting is that how you fair at 65 will often be the single most important factor in how many will judge you. In effect, and to many, it’s the finish line to life’s efforts. Did you win or did you fall short?
By winning I mean simply are you financially set. Nothing else is really considered. Not how you raised your family. Not what you achieved in life. You could fail in both of these events and if you’re financially set, you’re golden. Conversely, if you’ve succeeded in the other life events but are not financially solid, you’ve failed, regardless; you didn’t cross the finish line.
Although often misunderstood, Matthew 7 states we are not to judge. The concept is not to be critical, particularly when you don’t fully understand the background or the motives. What critical really means though is that I’ve elevated myself to a position where I would never be in the position that you’re in. In other words, you’re the one that got you into that situation. I, on the other hand, know way too much to ever let that happen to me.
Of course God is the perfect judge and I can leave most of the above at that.
But, this isn’t about remorse with how others are judging you. It’s awareness to be sure. More importantly, it’s about how to work through the difficulties.
Here are some practical suggestions to dealing with financial issues in retirement.
First of all, you will be judged. Get over it. God still loves you and has a plan for you. Maybe your plans didn’t succeed but His will. You need to rely on His love and grace and continue to grow and seek His will.
Understand youth poor is different than old poor. Most everyone has been through youth poor – I ate Ramen Noodles until I couldn’t look at a soup bowl any longer. This, however, is a time when all your options are opening up. Old poor is different, this is a time when all your opens are closing down. Now, of course, God can do anything and His will will be done, but the world generally is not exactly greasing the skids for you any longer. Realize that.
Watch what you communicate. I’ve noticed three different ways “not working” is stated by various social groups. Some will simply say, “I’m unemployed.” Other will state, “I’m self-employed.” Yet a third group will claim “I’m an independent investor.” Now you may say, but isn’t that misleading? I would agree. The point is what you communicate will be interpreted by how you say things.
I’ve expressed this before; financial difficulties are the least empathetic of all trials. Short of self inflicted medical conditions, you can have all the medicals trials in the world and everyone will place you on their prayer list. Yet no one is listed on the prayer lists for financial difficulties with the exception of maybe seeking a job. Financial trails are scary. Most realize that it could happen to them, in spite of the fact that they want to believe your financial trails are something you did (maybe even some hidden sin in your life?) Additionally, no one really wants to pull money out of their bank and help you out – that’s totally terrifying.
Bottom line; be careful how you communicate your situation. You want to let others in. You want to explain what’s happened and ask for their wisdom and prayers. People understand “my business is taking longer that I would like to generate revenue.” They won’t understand “I can’t pay my bills.” Yikes, that may mean God is expecting them to help. Not a comfortable feeling.
Oh come on! Certainly that’s not the case. Really? Look at Proverbs 19:7
“The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.”
The bible talks much more about being poor, widows and orphans that it does about medical infirmaries, but you would never know that by looking at a prayer list. To be honest, it’s more embarrassing to be poor than it is to have a medical issue. God however, is concerned with financial problems.
Honoring your father and mother, one of the ten commandments, actually also addresses taking care of your parents in their old age. That’s no longer an American tradition, however. But then, nor are most of the ten commandments. The following verses, however, make it clear that God intended for children to honor their parents by providing for them in their old age.
- In Matthew 15:1-6 (esp 5) the bible shows the hypocrisy of giving to God vs. taking care of parents – “anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God.”
- In 1 Tim 5:3-4 the church cares for widows when families are unwilling to do so “to make some return (or pay back) to their parents.”
Sadly, don’t count on this.
Although the church should be a resource, it also often won’t be.
God can send others, however, to help in times of need. Pray and see who He sends. Most people, even Christians, abhor the thought of giving away some of their money. Those, however, with the gift of giving or those truly mature, will look for opportunities to help. Pray for them.
Recognize you need to live within your means. Younger people often address financial difficulties with simply earning more in revenue. Practically speaking, the older you are, the more difficult this becomes. Obviously, God can do anything but, it’s difficult to get a job and solve the financial problems, as you get older. What this means is that you need to control your expenses. Get them down to as little as possible. You’ve always had dental and vision insurance, but now, you may not be able to afford it. You’ve always had life insurance. Again, you may not be able to afford it at all or very much. Sounds tough but you will learn to trust God and not your financial resources.
Acts 27:18-19 relates a story about a storm at sea “The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.” Your financial difficulties are effectively your storm at sea – what are you holding on to? Take an inventory of your possessions and determine if you need to jettison them. Take an inventory of your expenses and see what you should jettison there also.
Most financial advice involves saving up for retirement. I don’t believe that’s the only answer. I’ve seen too many nest eggs destroyed by recessions, market dips and medical expenses. Along with savings, I would encourage developing some revenue generation business, preferable before but certainly while in older age.
Why? Let me explain. If some institution were to pay me 6% on my nest egg, and I was receiving $1,000 a month that would be the equivalent of having a $200,000 nest egg. That’s ($200,000 x .06) / 12 or $1,000. Most banks wouldn’t come close to 6% (outside of an inflationary cycle.) But, assuming you could earn 6%, $1,000 a month would require $200,000 to produce.
If you could develop a business that generated $1,000 a month, that would be the equivalent of having a $200,000 nest egg.
There are businesses that will generate $1,000 a month and the point of this exercise is that instead of simply thinking about investments as a financial resource, start thinking about developing, buying, inventing etc., a business. Don’t simply focus all your attention on an investment account.
God uses trials to grow you. You will come out bitter or better. You’re goal is to become more like Christ. Like 2 Corinthians 3:18 states “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Finally, don’t let other’s judgments and failure to launch, slow your transformation.