The idea of a spiritual retirement can carry with it a variety of connotations. It’s generally a taboo subject that few planners and clients ever address simply because there’s no guidebook or suggestions on how to best cover this topic. But I think it’s important to break the ice and start talking about it. I want to be clear upfront, that I’m not looking to debate religion, sign anyone up for a church committee, or post a list of Thou Shall Not’s. Instead, I want to push the bounds of retirement conversations and plans by addressing it simply because no matter how you define spirituality, it is a real aspect of retirement that shouldn’t be avoided or ignored.
The topic of spirituality and retirement came to light after I was done with a revision of my book and I asked a friend to review it for me. A couple weeks later we met for lunch and I asked for his feedback. I was hoping he’d say he submitted it for Pulitzer Prize consideration, or at least brought in a flash mob to applaud my efforts. Neither happened. However, his perspective pushed my thoughts and comfort level for the book to a new level. After some casual conversation, he politely said, “You’re book is very good but misses an important point. It assumes that retirement is life’s ultimate reward and end point, but it’s not. Getting into heaven is.”
I realized immediately that most traditional retirement plans address life up-to-death through life insurance and various estate planning techniques to create a financial legacy and ensure minimal taxation. However, what I see missing is one of the most important retirement questions all of us face: Where and how do I plan to spend eternity?
That’s deep and spiritually moving… to some. However, this is a taboo topic and not everyone agrees. The very same week I had a discussion with another friend about adding a spiritual chapter and he commented “Whatever you do, don’t ruin your book by putting anything about God in there.”
I can say, that level of divergence was a sign to dig a little deeper and find out the state of religion and God in retirement. So I started having more conversations with clients, family and friends, and digging into the available research.
What’s been interesting, is that like other areas of retirement, most people had some spiritual thoughts and ideas in their heads yet hadn’t taken the crucial step of writing them down and discussing them with others (spouse, family and friends). For example, during one conversation, I asked a friend if he believed in God. He forcefully responded, “Well how do you define God? If it’s some white guy with a beard, sitting on a golden thrown resting in the clouds, then NO I don’t.” It was a reminder of just how delicate such conversations can be. Eventually, I was able to say that I wasn’t asking him to use my definition or someone else’s interpretation, but rather if he had a belief and definition of his own.
The statistics paint an interesting picture. According to Gallup Polls, the United States remains a largely Christian nation.
- More than three-fourths (77%) of American adults in 2012 identify with a Christian religion, including Protestantism, Catholicism, other denominations.
- In 2011, 92% of Americans said they believe in God.
- Religiousness increases with age: Americans are least religious at age 23 and most religious at age 80
Therefore, as boomers age and face their own mortality through the loss of family and friends, they are likely to seek out and spiritual outlets, particularly because faith has also been linked to overall well-being and health.
- The Journal of Gerontology completed a survey of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC and found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not.
- A National Institutes of Health funded study, found that individuals who prayed daily were shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice.
- Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious.
Combine this with the fact that more Americans have been re-locating to more religious rather than less religious states over the past decade and baby boomers may once again influence retirement is a way no one expected.
As you approach retirement, consider these spiritual questions and considerations:
- Do you have a spiritual component to your retirement plan? Will you set specific time(s) aside for worship including church attendance or Bible study?
- If you’re married, what spiritual commitments will you seek together as well as independently?
- What temptations may pose the biggest threat to you and your family during retirement?
- Do you plan to gift or leave a legacy to your church, a specific denomination, or other religious cause?
- What spiritual traditions do you want to pass on and be remembered for?
- If you plan to relocate, will you move to a more or less religious community?
Source: Forbes Business