Five Vital Steps in Planning for Retirement by Dr. Dan Beller

Five Vital Steps in Planning for Retirement
Dr. Dan Beller

Click here to read Dr. Beller’s bio.

Planning for RetirementTony writes: Of retirement, D. Elton Trueblood said, “For the Christian, retirement is really liberation for service. The retired person may start a wholly new chapter rather than do nothing. The Christian philosophy of work is one which never ends.”[1]

I didn’t want to say a lot about retirement, because I’ve never been retired. However, I believe it’s very important to learn from those who have traveled the road ahead of us. So I’ve asked a great friend who retired several years ago from pastoring to share how he prepared himself for that transition and how he’s managing life during retirement. I believe his advice can be of great benefit in helping younger people plan and prepare wisely.

From 1980-1983, I was an assistant pastor on the staff of Dr. Dan Beller at Evangelistic Temple in Tulsa. Pastor Beller resigned in 2001 after 34 years of service, but has continued to live and serve vibrantly since that time. I asked him to share some of the decisions he made before retiring. While his remarks (at my request) are specifically targeted toward pastors, I believe the principles can apply to everyone.

Dr. Beller writes: For a Pastor, the word retirement is a misnomer because we never really retire from doing some kind of ministry (serving others). However, there are definite adjustments which must be made from “full time ministry” to “retirement ministry.” Your personal ministry continues in various ways as follows:

  • There is always someone to whom you can minister and be a witness.
  • Your personal study must continue because the educational process is a lifetime experience.
  • There are occasions when you will be invited to speak at churches and participate in weddings, funerals, and various other events.

In the Proverbs 6:6-8, we are exhorted to be wise like the ant because it gathers food during the harvest (your productive years) and stores it up for the difficult times after the harvest (after your productive years). As a retired pastor, I can say from experience that it is vital to save resources and be prepared for the retirement years. Some of the areas of preparation are as follows:

1. Prepare yourself spiritually.

Most of us identify too much with what we do instead of who we are. This is why some pastors lack a good self-image in retirement. It is therefore important to develop new areas of interest for the retirement years. My recommendations are as follows:

  • Continue to study the Bible and relevant materials. Never stop learning.
  • Continue your early morning prayer life, or at other times if you prefer. The first objective in prayer is to maintain your close relationship with God instead of just getting help for your ministry.
  • Pray for the active pastors and assist them whenever possible.
  • Continue to minister in public and private whenever there is a need.
  • Continue formal studies through the programs of your Church Association/Fellowship or online or at a local College or University.

2. Prepare yourself financially.

Zig Ziglar stated, “Money is not the most important thing but it is next to oxygen.” Inadequate retirement income can lead to a lower lifestyle and disappointment. Social Security income is only a supplement to your retirement income and is inadequate for your full support. I recommend the following:

  • Be faithful in giving the Lord’s tithes all of your life. Tithing is a pre-requisite to financial blessings.
  • While you are still pastoring, arrange for your local Church to appropriate a housing allowance so that you can own your own home by retirement. Also, set up an expense account for the senior pastor for church related car expense, travel, church-related meals, etc.
  • If your Church Association/Fellowship has a group retirement plan (like a 403(b) or Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA)), arrange for your church to make regular contributions on your behalf.
  • Make annual contributions to a tax-deferred IRA; there are a few types to choose from. A trusted, qualified financial advisor can assist you in finding the instrument that is best for you.
  • Pay off all debts before retirement. Example – You can save thousands of dollars in interest on the mortgage of your home by making extra principal payments each month. The principal payments, especially at the beginning of a home loan, are usually surprisingly low. Much of the payment is interest. Avoid credit card debt because the interest is extremely high and if you do have credit card debt, pay it off first.
  • It is imperative to start early in saving for retirement and do not spend all you make in the productive years. A wealthy man told me his philosophy – “You can have it now or you can have it later.” There are many practical ways to save and make some of your income available for retirement savings, as follows:
    • Save by shopping for quality items at a reduced price or by shopping online or being aware of sales and rebates at local stores.
    • Save by not eating out as much or buying that expensive coffee or snack, etc.
    • Use credit card which gives rebates and has no annual fee.

3. Prepare yourself emotionally.

Develop a variety of new interests. The 24/7 schedule of a pastor often precludes time for leisure and other interests. Without these interests, a person can feel idle and unproductive. It is therefore important to develop a variety of interests such as hobbies, sports, recreational reading, attending concerts, and other events, etc.

Adjustments in home and marriage – Discuss with your spouse what you mutually want or do not want in retirement. The spouse has been accustomed to the pastor being gone so much that his being home more than usual can cause friction.

Solutions may include spending time in an office at home or at a local church, volunteer service outside the home, golf or other sporting events, etc.

Conversely, it is important to be of help to your spouse to make up for the lack of time which was given when the schedule was so busy. Also, spending some private time together or going out to dinner occasionally may be a welcome blessing.

A healthy self-image must be maintained by realizing who you are in Christ instead of judging yourself by what you do. It is good to remember that we are saved through grace, by faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is important to feel that you are retiring to something instead of retiring from something. One example is to do volunteer work in a local church, hospital, community or civic organizations, etc.

If the pastoral couple enjoys travel, there should be some advanced planning for trips together.

4. Prepare yourself physically, health-wise.

Retirement does not mean that you sit down and become inactive but there must be maintenance of mental and physical health.

  • Remain active in doing regular physical exercises such as joining a local health club, golfing, walking in your neighborhood, having a treadmill in your home, etc.
  • Maintain a healthy diet with vitamins and supplements.
  • Keep your mind and thoughts healthy and positive.

5. Prepare your successor.

In addition to providing quality ministry during your active years of pastoring, one of the most important things you can do is to help secure the long-term success of the church by preparing not only your successor, but also helping raise up a strong ministry team that can work together in leading the church when you step away.

Even though I had a long tenure as pastor (34 years), I was always mindful that someday, someone other than me would be filling the role of senior pastor. I felt it was my responsibility to do everything I could to help mold, shape, and train the one was then the future leader of the church. While my long-term associate eventually did take my place, it was with the consensus of the board of the church and the congregation as well.

Closing Observation – The years a Pastor spends in retirement often equal one half or more of the years spent in active ministry. It is important, therefore, to realize that retirement is a very significant era in your life. It can be quite fulfilling and enjoyable if you make proper preparation and maintain a positive attitude.

[1] Editor Carl F.H. Henry, Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1973, Page 715.