Hitting retirement age

When you are young, you want to get older, looking forward to milestone birthdays–16 (I can drive!); 18 (I can vote!); 21 (I can drink!). After that, you don’t particularly want to get older, and the milestones acquire a negative connotation–30 (hippies won’t trust me!); 40 (but what have I accomplished?); 50 (welcome to the middle ages); 60 (I’m old!). But then comes a short span of time in which you want to get older, with retirement-related milestones–62 (I could take early retirement!), 65 (I would qualify for free health insurance with Medicare!), 66 (I could take the full Social Security benefits!). After that, I suppose, is the milestone that we don’t know when it is coming, when we really get to rest from our labors.

So today I am technically old enough to retire! That gives me a strange sense of satisfaction. Not that I am going to retire. That’s not the point. It’s just that I could. After the jump, some retirement-related questions for general discussion.

(1) Most Americans, I am told, retire as soon as they can. They start drawing Social Security at 62, even though they’ll get less money than if they waited until 66 (or whenever, depending on the retirement age for their date of birth). Of course, a bigger factor will be saving up a nest egg, with Individual Retirement Accounts usually making up more of a person’s retirement income than Social Security. So if money were no object (and it is always an object), do you think early retirement is wise? Those of you who have retired early, has it proven to be a good move?

(2) Some Christians say retirement is not Biblical. But, as with the Sabbath laws, there are commands to work and also commands to rest. And surely the Patriarchs got to the point of letting their sons and sons-in-law tend the flocks while they sat outside their tents. We, of course, have different economic systems. Do you see anything wrong with retirement, as such?

(3) How does retirement fit in with the doctrine of vocation? (Keep in mind that economic labor is only one of our callings. We also have vocations in the family, the church, and the state.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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