May - June 2017

By Don Walter
From his column A Minute With Don

minute-with-don-07-16_article.jpgI recently visited with a man who retired several months ago. Our friendship began as a professional relationship, and the personal connection grew stronger over the years. As we caught up on the details of each other’s life, I realized how genuinely happy he was with his decision to retire. He had been successful in his profession, and his sharpness had not diminished. Selfishly, I’d regretted his decision, since my office often relied on his counsel.

As I reflected on our conversation, I identified several keys to success in his story. They tend to align with elements in the lives of others who, like my friend, have successfully transitioned from full-time employment to retirement.

One thing I know for certain, my friend planned over several years for this transition. Since he was in a business which worked closely with retirement issues, it was no doubt difficult for him to ignore the need. While he has not shared personal details, it is evident that planning was important.

He made some basic decisions in the last few years of his working career that enabled his transition to retirement to go well. These included matters about his health, family, and housing. Like a coach preparing his team for a big game, the choices leading to the event were as important as the game itself. It was part of a strategic plan formulated over time.

There was nothing in his professional performance which necessitated a need to leave work. He could have continued to serve his employer effectively for a number of years. But as a man with a keen eye for performance and a healthy self-awareness, he knew when it was right to make the transition. When he first announced his decision to me, I instinctively offered pushback. All he said was, “It’s time.” I knew those words represented much diligence in his decision-making process.

He was a man who had "retired to" a new adventure of life.

During our recent conversation, it was also evident that he had mastered perspective and focus in his transition. While he has many wonderful memories of a lifetime in his profession, his joy from the activities of his present was evident. He was not a person whose perspective was on having retired from a profession. He was a man who had retired to a new adventure of life. His identity was not wrapped up in title, employment, or skill set.

The providences of grace allow us many opportunities to find resources in the world around us. Friends and family who model good behaviors are often as valuable as books, websites, seminars, and professional guides. Given the fact that a significant percentage of our current active lead pastors in the Church of the Nazarene in the USA are over 55 years of age, many of my ministerial colleagues will themselves be working through this important transition process in the next decade.

As I’ve watched this large cohort of ministers move toward retirement, and as I’ve observed them retire over the past three decades of work in this office, I’ve often recommended resources to assist with this transition to retirement. There are many good ones. Recently I completed a book by Steve Harper, Stepping Aside, Moving Ahead. It is subtitled as “spiritual and practical wisdom for clergy retirement.” Though written specifically for those in the Methodist tradition, it is a valuable resource for clergy at any age.

The retirement planning resources available to those in the Nazarene 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan at the Fidelity website are very helpful—and cost nothing to access. From time to time P&B does seminars to assist ministers in the five to ten years prior to retirement. Also, there are countless helpful resources to assist with the decisions and preparation for retirement transition.

But one resource we often overlook is those in our lives who have modeled the transition well. Most of us understand the value of mentors when it comes to our faith, relationships, or profession. It makes sense that we can truly benefit from them when it comes to the time when we’re moving from an active work life to retirement. I encourage you—at whatever stage of life you’re in—to look around you to find persons who are doing retirement well. If it’s appropriate, talk to them about the things they did to make it successful. It could be that one of the best and most rewarding helps for your retirement planning may be someone God has brought into your life for that purpose.

Don Walter is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.

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