As they approach later life, Latter-day Saints share many concerns with people of all faiths, such as financial planning, maintaining good health, and future association with family and friends. But some things are unique. Latter-day Saints live longer and have a different set of values than people of other faiths, which impels them toward a more active life of service and personal development. The high value they place on family life also makes a significant difference. Finding fulfillment in later life will depend on a number of factors, several of which are within our own volition. As we “embrace the future,” with all its opportunities and challenges, we should remember with Longfellow that “age is opportunity no less Than youth itself, though in another dress.”1
The issue of when to retire may be fraught with considerable difficulty, as major considerations affect planning and decision-making. Questions of health, job satisfaction, life expectancy, financial preparation, family circumstances, and expectations for the future are primary considerations. To what do we wish to retire? The response to this, as with all major life decisions, will depend on our basic values and beliefs and require us to plan our later life in light of them. Here are a few things to consider as you begin planning for your own retirement.
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Health and Job Satisfaction
Health-related issues and those of one’s spouse may be basic considerations in the decision for retirement. Diagnosed illnesses or disability of either oneself or one’s spouse may force early retirement. Unduly stressful or unpleasant employment may be the underlying cause of serious health issues. In a study tracking the relationship between health issues and early retirement, it was found that “In 2002, almost 30% of those who retired between the age of 50 and 59 indicated their health as the reason.”2
The level of job satisfaction may be a major consideration for when we retire. Unhappiness with management, strained relations with work associates, unpleasant or uninteresting tasks, the accumulation of stress or fatigue, or other dissatisfactions may precipitate early retirement. In a recent study, women tended to be more adversely affected by stress in the workplace as opposed to men who were more apt to retire early because of management issues.
Because life expectancy at age 62 for males is another 18 years and 21 years for females, we need to make provisions for adequate income to cover these later years. This is particularly true for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as their life expectancy is longer than for the non-Latter-day Saint population—in Utah, Latter-day Saints live an additional 7.3 years for males and 5.8 years for females, according to BYU demographer Ray Merrill’s 2005 analysis.3
While approximately half of the increased lifespan is associated with living the Word of Wisdom—notably, not using tobacco and alcohol—recent studies show that the other half of the increase is related to satisfying social relationships with family and friends.4 Numerous studies show that people who regularly attend church live longer.5
While various personal risk factors need to be considered in an assessment of your life expectancy, the general view would suggest that the longer span of life after retirement will require more careful financial preparation and planning to enjoy the lifestyle you desire.
The next issue as we plan our future is that of financial planning in regards to our needs and expectations after retirement. Do we anticipate a level of economic wellbeing equivalent to that which we have enjoyed through our productive years? Or are we prepared to downsize and live under more modest circumstances?
I have compiled a checklist of items of particular interest to Latter-day Saints. It includes complementary suggestions that will assist you in financial planning. For example, have we made adequate provision for the educational needs, missions and marriage expenses of dependent children? Have we made provisions for the care of elderly parents and close relatives older than ourselves? Do we want to serve a mission or engage in other voluntary service? What are our expectations in regards to travel and possible relocation? If I am the principal breadwinner, have I made adequate provision through life insurance, savings, accumulation of property, and by other means, for the maintenance of my spouse should I die before her (or him)? What provision is made for our own healthcare and/or possibly assisted living and nursing care in case of disability or extreme old age? What government resources are available in our circumstances? We need to take all of these aspects into consideration in terms of our projected financial needs and expectations.
Psychological Preparation and Relationships
Another significant consideration is psychological preparation for retirement. Those who have worked for many years in a career have made a huge investment in terms of emotional commitment. They’ve developed habits and relationships focused on their work experience. Their home and family relationships have been shaped by their work. They may find the psychological loss of a career, with its sense of purpose and meaningful associations, more daunting than they had supposed. Men in particular, whose social interactions tend to center on the workplace, may have more difficulty than women, who tend to have broader social networks. 6
Retirement provides many wonderful advantages in terms of freedom of time, and it opens up many opportunities for meaningful and satisfying activities. But it also involves a significant change of lifestyle. As marriage counselor James M. Harper points out, retirement requires many personal adjustments and practical adaptations with one’s spouse. The ultimate goal has been outlined in Ecclesiastes: “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of [thy] life” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). The quality of relationships with family members and associates is one of the most important determinants of happiness in later life.
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Taking the Lord into Partnership
In all our retirement planning we should take the Lord into partnership. The Lord’s injunction to “organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing,” takes on particular significance in connection with retirement (D&C 88:119). While unforeseen events and circumstances may require us to alter our plans, we may find assurance from the promise that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). Adjusting a well-conceived plan may require flexibility and be attended with some angst, but is more likely to produce favorable results than no plan at all!
As I have reflected on the purpose of aging in the divine plan, I have come to the conclusion that later life, with all its opportunities and challenges, represents a window for the accelerated development of those divine attributes required for the next stage of our journey in the eternal worlds. Whatever our circumstances, an “attitude of gratitude” and a cheerful, affirmative approach in later life will contribute to our own well being and that of those around us. Preparation and planning, a good attitude, observance of gospel principles, and full trust in the God of our salvation will undoubtedly make our later life better, whatever vicissitudes may confront us. In happiness or in misery, in life or in death, we should remember that “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
Retirement is a very personal decision. The most that can be offered is a method: gather all of the essential information, consider it all in light of our spiritual and other priorities in consultation with our spouse, and ultimately, as with all other important decisions, take it to the Lord in prayer. His counsel, if followed, will be even better than our own planning. If we prepare properly, our retirement may open the door to even greater opportunities for service and personal fulfillment. To a large degree, we have within our volition the capacity to make of it what we will.
So go forth rejoicing! “The future is as bright as your faith.”7
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Read more about planning for retirement from a Latter-day Saint perspective in Roy A. Prete's book, Embracing the Future: Preparing for Life After Retirement, available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.
This helpful guide contains chapters from doctors, lawyers, marriage and family consultants, gospel scholars, and others who have drawn from their own expertise, experience, and research. Many of the contributors have been selected from the Emeritus Seventy and general Church officers, including Elder John H. Groberg, Elder Alexander B. Morrison, Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, Ardeth G. Kapp, and Elaine Jack. Packed with practical, user-friendly helps, this book is a must for those seeking to embrace the future, with all its opportunities and challenges.
1. “Brainy Quote, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quotes” at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/henry_wadsworth_longfellow.html email@example.com (consulted Oct. 25, 2010).
2. Jungwee Park, “Health factors and early retirement among older workers,” Perspective, June 2010, 5, at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010106/pdf/11275-eng.pdf (consulted Oct. 1, 2011).
3. See Brittany Karford, “Studies Say Religion Increases Life Expectancy,” The Daily Universe(BYU), May 25, 2005, Department of National Defense, Retirement Seminar, Canadian Forces Base Kingston, Dec.12–13, 2005.
4. See “Social Relationships Key to Survival, Study Says—Paging Dr. Gupta—CNN.com Blogs, July 27, 2010,” at http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/27/social-realtionships-key-to-survival-study-says/?hpt+T2 (consulted Aug. 2, 2010).
5. See Mark Stibich, PhD, “Religion Improves Health: Religion Might Add Years to Your Life,” 2008, http://longevity.about.com/od/longevityboosters/a/religion_life.htm (consulted Dec. 7, 2010).
6. Insight furnished by Svitlana Karavay, Financial Planner, Bank of Montreal, Main Office, Kingston, Ontario, Sept. 9, 2011.
7. President Thomas S. Monson, “Be of Good Cheer,” April 2009 General Conference, available at www.lds.org.