Mikestrathdee’s Blog

Retirement- a welcome or worrying prospect?
January 21, 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: retirement | Tags:

Retirement . How do you feel when you are asked about it?

Are you somewhat jealous of teacher friends, who, in their early 50s, are already counting the days, only a few years away, when they can say goodbye to their day job while enjoying a full pension?

Do you wonder how your circumstances will ever make retiring possible?

It is pretty difficult to find any Biblical support for the modern notion of retirement – turning our back on work at a certain age. God made us to be productive. But society has taught us all to look forward to retirement, if not how to plan for it properly.

Concerns about retirement are increasingly common in media and government discussions as the largest generation of Canadians ever approaches and enters the “retirement years.”

Fear about not having enough is a dominant theme.

One recent poll of Canadians aged 50 or more found that about half of them weren’t sure that pensions, government and otherwise, would provide them with a comfortable retirement.

Close to two-thirds of people polled in another recent study said they think the Canada Pension Plan will have to reduce payments in future. (This is unlikely given the way that the federal government has increased premium payments in recent years to ensure CPP has more than enough money to meet obligations for decades to come. Full CPP and Old Age Security benefits are designed to replace 25 per cent of working income.)

Part of that pessimism may relate to ever-increasing expectations of what a “comfortable retirement” means. Most North Americans now view as necessities many things that previous generations would have called luxuries, or in many cases, not even have dreamed of.

The financial industry contributes to the retirement fears/gloom by insisting that people need to save $1 million or more to avoid being in dire straits in the autumn and winter of life. Hearing what seems an impossible goal induces paralysis and denial for some.

It is also true that many of us aren’t making retirement savings a priority.  Some may be better off paying down debt or contributing to the new Tax Free Savings Account (especially people earning $36,000 a year or less). Only a third of Canadians put money into an RRSP this year, and 30 per cent haven’t yet started saving for retirement. This suggests many people don’t have the cash to save for retirement or are spending it on other things.

The picture is not all bleak. Actuary Malcolm Hamilton says even people who start saving for retirement at age 50 with their debts paid off, and make large contributions every year until they retire, will be ok.

He thinks many Canadians can live comfortably on a much lower retirement nest egg than what other expert voices claim. Saving $300,000 in an RRSP and receiving full CPP and OAS benefits, a retired Canadian would have an annual income of about $30,000 after tax.

What’s the church’s role in all of this? Will leaders help people to live within their means, save for later years and to maintain God-honouring expectations?

Help us oh Lord to number our days and to count the cost of getting there.


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