Jeff Haanen

Jeff Haanen is the founder and executive director of The Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people serve God, neighbors and society through their work. Haanen and his team provide theological education on issues related to work, calling and culture. As a nationally recognized voice on the intersection between faith and work, Haanen is a regular contributor to Christianity Today. His latest book is “An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.” Haanen lives in Denver with his wife, Kelly, and their four daughters.

What are the origins of retirement?

Retirement is a constant conversation for the young, who are told to save up, and the old, who are told to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

While retirement is not found explicitly in Scripture, Haanen says it has its roots in politics.

“Retirement is a new concept,” Haanen said. “That really started in the last century in America with the 1935 Social Security Act. This idea of stopping from work at 65 is a relatively new concept.”

When the first money was drawn for retired workers from Social Security, 60% were in the workforce at 65 or older. By 1999, that number dropped to 16%.

Haanen cautions us to be careful not to move to all or nothing in these types of retirement debates.

“You hear this in the church, ‘Never retire, it’s unbiblical,’” Haanen adds. “Which is true, but I sometimes push back on that because it’s also not Biblical to work for 30, 40 or even 50 years with sometimes never getting a couple of weeks off at a time when you look at the rhythms of rest in Scripture.”

What is a “common” view of retirement?

“One is a view of retirement as basically a never-ending vacation,” Haanen said. “You’re either thinking about it in terms of consumption, leisure, entertainment, buying things, playing golf or taking a trip down to Mexico. The vision is you’ve worked hard your whole life, now it’s time to invest in just you.”

What is the “uncommon” view of retirement?

Rather than retirement revolving around isolation and independence, Haanen said we are to invest in the next generation.

“The uncommon vision of retirement is how do we embrace rhythms of rest and reengagement in our community as elders and influencers?” Haanen said. “Someone who is older that has accumulated knowledge, wisdom, experience and then gives that to a coming generation for the well-being of the community.”

During life in retirement, the way a person works and contributes changes.

It doesn’t necessarily mean still receiving a paycheck. Uncommon retirement includes pouring into the relationships around you, working as an unpaid volunteer or mentor or being a part-time employee.

Haanen said it is crucial to consider choices while waiting in the on-deck circle.

“What we’re seeing now is a lot of bright, competent baby boomers retiring in their mid-60s,” Haanen added. “They’re healthy, have a lot to give and thinking of a new season of life. We’re talking about decades upon decades here, so we’ve got to think about what does a full human life look like and how does contribution change from your 20s to your 60s?”

How does culture ready people for retirement?

After retiring, a person sometimes goes from working 40 hours a week to twiddling their thumbs.

Haanen said it’s similar to jumping off of a moving train.

“Our culture does a good job of talking about retirement, principally about how much money you need to save to be able to afford it,” Haanen said. “People save up this nest egg, but there is a vast under-preparation for everything else, such as what will life look like? How will you care for grandkids or ailing parents? What are the frameworks for calling in the next season of your life?”

What is retirement shifting toward in the coming years?

An estimated 80 million baby boomers will retire in the next two decades. Haanen said society is shifting for their future.

“People can’t afford the vacation paradigm,” he said. “Not only are people not saving enough for retirement, but people are living longer, and thus, health-care costs are rising. People are frustrated because they can’t have the retirement dream.”

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