Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

February 19, 2009

Rethinking Retirement

Filed under: Contentment,Earning,Goals,Retirement Planning,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 11:36 am

       Mike at The Oblivious Investor has a thought-provoking article today titled Don’t Retire., which was inspired by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s book Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan. Mike discusses why retirement as we imagine it today is probably an unreachable goal for most Baby Boomers and subsequent generations. Given the fact that many workers no longer receive pensions and don’t seem to be very good at saving on their own, I’d have to agree.

The History of Retirement

       The idea of retiring when you’re older is relatively new. It only seems to have become popular in the last century. There are several possible explanations for this, but the most likely ones are higher incomes (we enjoy a standard of living about eight times higher than Americans a century ago) and the creation of Social Security and pension programs (though the future of Social Security is unclear, and pensions are largely a thing of the past). If you’d like to read more about the history of retirement, I suggest these articles:

Economic History of Retirement in the United States (a more academic article)
The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P. (not quite as dry as the first)

       The truth is, retirement was never really an option for our earlier ancestors. They didn’t have very long lives or the economic systems we have today. We also find no discussion of retirement in the Bible as we think of it today. There is one reference to the priests (Levites) retiring at age 50 from temple service, but they were to stay on to help the younger men (probably in giving advice and guidance). The only other semblance of retirement we see in the Bible is old men sitting at the city gate. The city gate was a place of honor, and those who sat there offered advice and counsel to those in the city. Again, the older people didn’t really retire but found other ways to serve their communities. Instead of working, they lived with their children and received support from them. But that’s rare today (unless you’re Amish).

How Should Christians View Retirement Today?

       Given the nature of the labor force today and the interaction of families, we do need to be saving for a time when we won’t be able to produce as much income as we can when we’re younger. Children are moving farther away from their parents for jobs or other reasons than they did in the past (or in the Bible). Several generations of a family living in the same house or very close to each other is no longer the norm. And the complication of health problems and other issues when you’re older can definitely impact your ability to earn income.

       However, the American view of retirement is far from God’s ideal for His followers. How does spending every day on the golf course, or sipping sweet tea on the back porch every day, or traveling the world for pleasure glorify God? The work of the kingdom of God is never ending. By focusing our entire lives on a retirement where we sit around, do whatever we want, and relax, we miss the picture of what God could be calling us to do when we no longer have to work as much to earn all of our money. On the other hand, a Christian retirement focused on contentment and serving God can allow for some leisure (just as during your working years) without neglecting the valuable work we can do to further God’s kingdom and show His love to the world.

       22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

       27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

       29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Luke 12:22-31 (NLT)

       We are not to seek a life that’s merely full of the pleasures of this world. God calls us to seek His kingdom first. When we put our focus on God and trust in Him, we no longer have to worry about our retirement accounts, government policies, economic disasters, or any other worries. When we have the glorious gift of Jesus Christ, we remain wealthy despite what happens to us in this life. We have riches that cannot fail, that cannot disappear, and that will never leave us—even after death.

A Different Retirement

       I’m not saying you should stop saving and investing for the future. There will most likely come a time when you will not be able to earn all the money necessary to cover your needs. It is prudent and wise to save for such a time, and the Bible commends and encourages such wisdom. But you should rethink your hopes of buying that second home, taking luxury cruises three times a year, or endless rounds of golf during retirement.

       A Christian can most definitely follow God’s teaching and will if they save up for retirement and reduce or eliminate their workload. But a Christian retirement should be focused on meeting your needs (not extravagant needs, but your daily bread—just enough) and then using your abundance of time to do God’s work. Minister to the needy, volunteer more, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort those in mourning, reach out to those on the margins of society, pray and study God’s Word—these are all wonderful activities to fill a Christian retirement. But seeking a permanent vacation, a time when you do little that is useful or glorifies God, is only a product of greed, selfishness, and the World—it is a tool used by Satan to distract you from furthering God’s kingdom. Flee from it, and seek God’s counsel for your older years. Ask Him to guide you and show you His ways so that you can continue to glorify Him.

The Results

       This new view of retirement has profound implications for your life—now and when you’re older.

  • You no longer need to be obsessed with saving and investing all of your money. You’re free to be extremely generous—following God’s teaching on giving. You won’t have to save as much, but you should still save prudently.
  • You will avoid the depression that often comes at retirement. Many workers realize they actually enjoyed the interaction with their coworkers or the public and feel lost after they retire.
  • You’re free to do work that you enjoy even though it may not pay well. You don’t have to run after the highest paying job just so you can secure the retirement you’re told to dream about.
  • You don’t need to be a workaholic. You can focus on family and serving God during your working years—glorifying God much more than if you spent 80+ hours a week working. This also leaves you with more time to develop your relationship with God.

       Seeking a retirement where you can glorify God even more than you did while you were working brings you much closer to God than a retirement where you spend every day out on the boat. I challenge you to reconsider your ideas about retirement. Rethink retirement, and pray for God to show you what His will is for the later years of your life. Let God transform and renew your mind—clearing out the messages the World and Satan have planted in there and putting His teaching and will in your heart. Then plan and save for a retirement that glorifies God.

P.S. Yesterday marked Crackerjack Greenback’s 100th post! I’ve had 7,044 visitors and 193 comments since November 2008. Thank you for reading and visiting! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, please tell your family and friends about Crackerjack Greenback!

December 11, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: Leisure

Filed under: Earning,The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last week, we talked about Little Strokes in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth. By diligently working towards our goals little by little, we can accomplish great things. Does all this talk about diligence, hard work, and industry make you feel like Franklin doesn’t expect us to ever take time for leisure? Here is today’s quote:

       Methinks I hear some of you say, must a man afford himself no leisure? I will tell thee, my friend, what Poor Richard says, employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour. Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but the lazy man never; so that, as Poor Richard says, a life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

Yipeeee!!! by lepiaf.geo on Flickr       Much of Franklin’s writing is devoted to the power of industry and frugality, but what about fun? Without hard work, you’ll never have much time at all for leisure and pastimes. If you don’t work hard enough to save some money while covering your basic expenses, how do you ever expect to be able to take time off for relaxing (and be able to afford it)?

       Instead of viewing leisure and laziness as the ultimate goal in life, focus on using your time well and profitably. Labor brings more comfort than idleness. When we’re bored or idle, we often get ourselves in trouble. And we can’t sit around on the couch all day forever—eventually, we’ll need to work for something lest we starve or go homeless. Though the life of idleness and no work sounds appealing, it often leads to a lack of meaning and complete boredom. This is why many people find out retirement isn’t as great as they had once thought while they were slaving away at a job they hated.

       Find useful things to do with your time that you enjoy and work hard at them. Once you begin to enjoy your work and the results of your labor, you may start to view leisure in a different light. Success is likely to follow your hard work, and you’ll get the leisure time you’ve been dreaming of.

December 4, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: Little Strokes

Filed under: Goals,The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

Black & White Stones & Water by Johanna Garlike on Flickr       Last week, we talked about Time Management in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth. Even with top notch time management skills, we can often run into huge tasks that seem impossible or become so busy that it seems like we’ll never get anything done. Franklin’s advice is to remember that we can accomplish great things when we tackle them little by little. Here is today’s quote:

       ‘Tis true there is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak handed, but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects, for constant dropping wears away stones, and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks, as Poor Richard says in his almanac, the year I cannot just now remember.

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

       In nearly everything we take on, there is much to be done but often little time to do it in. Franklin’s advice is to “stick to it steadily” or keep at it until you accomplish your goal. Nature provides us many great examples of this truth. Some of the most amazing rock formations on Earth were formed by the power of steady work from water. Even a tiny drop can bore a hole through the thickest rock if given enough time. We, too, can reach astounding goals by simply working at them little by little over enough time.

Johnson's camp by flickr-rickr at Flickr       I really like the quote “little strokes fell great oaks”. It’s easy to remember and it’s a powerful example. Have you ever chopped down a tree with an axe before? Each stroke of the axe only takes out a tiny bit of the tree, but after enough strokes the tree falls over. Taking small steps to achieve your dreams may seem trivial at the time, but every little step gets you that much closer to the goal. Even the tiniest step forward is better than standing still or moving backwards.

       Do you have some huge task waiting for you right now? Perhaps it’s a large project at work, or starting your own business, or getting your finances in shape. Even if it seems like you’re a long way off from finishing these things, start taking small steps to achieve them now. A little progress here and a little progress there—you’ll soon be done!

November 27, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: Time Management

Filed under: Earning,The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last week, we talked about Wasting Time in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth. Part of the solution to wasting time is time management. Here is today’s quote:

       Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy, as Poor Richard says; and he that riseth late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night. While laziness travels so slowly, that poverty soon overtakes him, as we read in Poor Richard, who adds, drive thy business, let not that drive thee; and early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

       By carefully managing our time and working hard, we make it much easier to get things done. If we get a late start to the day, we can hardly catch up. Keeping a schedule and giving time to the tasks we need to accomplish helps us avoid wasting time and get more done in a day than if we wander around aimlessly.

Time by John-Morgan on Flickr       Having control over your business and keeping track of your plans is important to successful work. If you let emergencies and interruptions dictate your activities for a day, you’ll probably find it difficult to do any of the stuff you wanted to. Distractions destroy our focus and make it tough to do anything very well. This is part of the reason why multitasking is a myth.

       Finally, we have one of Franklin’s most famous quotes. Getting enough rest at night is very important to keeping our bodies healthy and our minds clear. If we avoid sleeping in late we have more time to work, which invariably leads to wealth if successful. Franklin’s point in this quote is that careful time management makes our lives easier and less stressful, and hard work is bound to make us successful when combined with time management.

       If you have some time you’d like to spend learning more about personal finance, make sure you check out this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance. But make sure you don’t neglect the more important things you might need to do right now!

November 24, 2008

A Meaningful Christmas

Filed under: Consumerism,Contentment,Frugality,Giving,Saving Money,Spending,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       What if Christmas meant more than shopping in packed malls?

       What if you spent more time with your family than you spent trying to pick out gifts?

       What if you could wake up on December 26th with no debts from the day before?

       What if you could throw out all the stress, traffic, and shopping and just focus on worshiping Jesus, giving to the needy, and loving all people?

       What if we gave up Consumermas and went back to Christmas?

       The folks at Advent Conspiracy have a great little video (2 minutes and 39 seconds) about a meaningful Christmas.

       So why not make Christmas meaningful again? Why not do it this year? If you want to change how you celebrate Christmas, here are some good resources:

              Buy Nothing Christmas
              Alternative Christmas Gifts
              A Do-It-Yourself Christmas

       Finally, here’s “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” as sung by the David Crowder Band. I hope it reminds us why we’re celebrating Christmas in the first place.

November 20, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: Wasting Time

Filed under: The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last week, we talked about The Lazy Tax (or the tax of idleness) in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth. This week we’ll talk a little more about wasting time. Here is today’s quote:

       But dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of, as Poor Richard says. … If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be, as Poor Richard says, the greatest prodigality, since, as he elsewhere tells us, lost time is never found again …

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

Love Life? Then Don’t Waste It!

Old Clock by macinate on Flickr       If we truly love life, then we’ll quickly realize that when we waste time we are wasting our lives. What counts as wasted time? I can’t answer that question for all people as we’ll all value our time differently. But I think we can safely say any time that passes by when we don’t derive some value from it (however you define that value) is wasted.

       Once we waste time it’s gone. There’s no way to get it back. The average human in the world has a little over 578,500 hours in a lifetime (over 657,400 if you’re American). Waste one of those hours and you can’t really get it back. Sure, you can do things to try to make up for that wasted time. But in truth, there’s no way to recapture the value of the time you have wasted.

       Franklin’s admonishment to us is that we should never waste time—because wasted time is wasted life. If we really want to live a purposeful life and live it to its fullest, we must be on guard against wasting time.

November 13, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: The Lazy Tax

Filed under: Taxes,The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Continuing our series on Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth, here is today’s quote:

       “It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service. But idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute sloth, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle employments or amusements, that amount to nothing.”

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

Diamond-Tipped Government?

Fat Sam by Randy Son of Robert on Flickr       When I read the first part of this quote, I wanted to laugh. I personally pay 25% of my income for federal, state, and local taxes including Medicare and Social Security taxes. Franklin says a hard government would tax its people 10%. What would he think of 25%?! 🙂 I often wonder what our Founding Fathers would have to say about the current state of America.

Wasted Time

       On the other hand, how much time do I waste and how much is that time worth? I’m not talking about the necessary leisure to rest from work and spend time with family and friends – but just the shear amount of wasted time where I’m neither working nor involved in some leisure I truly enjoy. How many hours are wasted in front of the television just watching whatever happens to be on (so many better options here)? Or sitting around waiting for a doctor’s appointment (we could be reading instead)? Or time we spend just surfing around on the Internet letting time slip by while we’re so easily distracted with the millions of things you can find online?

       What if we put a dollar value to all that wasted time? How much would it be worth? Would we be able to pay our taxes easier if that money were in our pocket? Would our taxes even need to be so high since there would be more income to tax? Franklin’s point about taxes was that we probably wouldn’t need to complain about them if we actually used our time wisely. What do you think?

November 10, 2008

New Cars or Retirement?

Filed under: Consumerism,Contentment,Frugality,Retirement Planning,Saving Money,Spending,The Basics,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Bob at Christian Personal Finance has a great post about how cars affect your financial freedom. Definitely check out his post. He estimates that eliminating a $400/month car payment could mean $1,000,000 more by the time you retire. Even a $200/month payment could mean an additional $600,000 over 40 years. Granted that’s not adjusted for inflation, but it could easily mean the difference between retiring and having to work a few more years for many people. It’s just another great reason you shouldn’t buy into consumerism. There’s nothing wrong with buying a used car, and it could save you a lot of money in the long run.

New Car

OR

One Million Dollars

?

Your Choice!

       Be sure to check out this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at The Digerati Life! It’s a very interesting theme this week!

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