Retirement Article

Hanging up the phone the pastor had a knot growing in the pit of his stomach as he had just been informed that his life savings had been lost by a friend in an investment.  Hindsight started to overwhelm him, he had some doubts when he did it but the trust factor had taken over.  Now he was questioning his judgment, and rightly so.  How does he tell his wife that at retirement age their savings are gone, the IRA is gone, and the home that just 2 years ago was debt free is now mortgaged to the hilt?

What is sad is that the above story is true, having recently happened to a pastor friend of mine.  Is this story an exception?  I would like to say yes, but I can’t.  In my 45 years of ministry this story has repeated itself many times over.  The results have been devastating to the family and with virtually no time in their working life to recover financially.

Is God sovereign?  Of course.  Will the Lord take care of their needs? Yes, and this family knew that.  When I met with them, they were fully trusting that the Lord would provide.  And He will.  In fact, he already has.

The church’s response was immediate.  The Lord worked in the hearts of the board and congregation in a very special way.  The love and affection expressed to him, and his family was overwhelming.  As of this writing the church has provided immediate financial help and a provision in the budget which provides for a long-term retirement benefit for him and his wife.   Was this required by the congregation?  No.  Was it the right thing to do?  Absolutely and I believe the Lord will richly bless the church for their care and generosity.  Will the pastor have to earn income in his retirement?  Yes, and the Lord will provide here also.  His pastoral and counseling skills will allow him to continue working in an area he loves.  Isn’t God good?

Are there lessons to be learned from this pastor’s experience?  Yes.  Let me list some:

Personal Stewardship – This pastor obviously got himself into a situation that was beyond his area of expertise:

  • Pastors should be very cautious about investing with people in their congregations, it can easily become a catch 22 situation.  If he’s not satisfied with the handling of his account, how can he make a change without offending a member of his church?
  • Pastors need to ask questions or seek counsel from someone with no conflict of interest who has expertise in that area.
  • Listen to the counsel!!
  • People who delay their retirement planning until later in life are more vulnerable to the “get rich quick” scenarios.  Will Rogers once said, “I’m not as concerned with the return on my money as I am the return of my money”.
  • Pastors are not trained to be investors (not many people are).  They do not have the time to do the homework, make sure the investment vehicle is sound, has a strong measure of safety, and is managed by competent investors with a track record of experience.  A pastor in his 50’s or 60’s does not have time to recover if he makes a mistake.
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