Re-thinking Retirement

investing retirement

The concept of retirement seems appealing.  After working hard for 30 to 40 years you can finally take a deep breath and enjoy life.  No more toiling through the labors of work and being told what to do. You can sleep in as long as you want, play as many rounds of golf as you wish, and stroll the beach every morning to greet the rising sun. But were we designed for such a long pause from meaningful and purposeful work? 

History of Retirement

Retirement is a relatively recent social invention designed by governments to incentivize older workers to leave, allowing the younger and more productive generation to take the helm.  Such programs had a dual impact – spurring economic activity of the younger generation while driving political favor by its constituents. The first real social program aimed at providing workers with “retirement” was introduced in Prussia by Otto von Bismark in the 1880s. [1]

“What Bismarck did accomplish, however, was even more significant.  By instituting fundamental, prototypical safeguards for the working man - protective buffers that other countries did not adopt for many year - Bismarck broke political barriers…” [1]

But the rest of Europe and America wouldn’t be far behind. In response to the Great Depression and a pivoting economy from farming to industrial production, the United States passed into law “old-age” insurance introduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“For centuries, farming and agriculture provided families with the foundation of their economic security.  Farms provided food, shelter, and resources for families to survive.  As family members aged, they were cared for on the farms. However, as economies changed as part of the industrial revolution, more and more people become employees working for someone else” [2]

Governments and businesses could afford retirement benefits because the life expectancies of the worker were generally below the retirement age as defined by the benefit.  However, with modern medicine and health education, life expectancies have grown along with the expectations of its workers [3]. And now, what started as a promise few people in society would benefit has resulted in an entire retirement industry driving our economic, political, and social landscape 

The Impact of Retirement

The history lesson helps put in context what the data tells us about the impact of such a life of leisure that no longer involves meaningful and purposeful work. The concept of retirement was not designed based on data to improve the health and longevity of the elderly. Retirement was created to spur industrial growth with younger workers and to win political favor. And new research indicates that living a life with no meaningful work or purpose could impact our cognitive health.

Binghampton University, citing research conducted by Nikolov and Hossain, found that while retirement had some benefits on overall health, the cognitive performance of their studied group was reduced [4]. This may not be surprising when considering our minds are not being used for a greater purpose within the framework of meaningful work. When we don’t use our minds, our cognitive abilities will suffer.

Purpose in Work

For many, a leisurely retirement is viewed as something we all deserve. But is this really the case when we view retirement through the lens of God’s Word? According to Scripture, people were designed by God to work.  Laboring in creation was not the result of our fall into sin, but rather a part of God’s original intent in creation.  Genesis teaches us in Chapter 2, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).  Work was fruitful and good from the beginning.

Consider the Apostle Paul as he labored until the end. The Apostle faced multiple imprisonments, whippings, lashes, and beatings. In modern terms Paul would have certainly deserved a restful retirement skipping pebbles on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea. But he was determined to finish well. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for me.” (Colossians, 3:23).  To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” (I Corinthians 3:13).  Not only was Paul interested in finishing, but he was encouraging fellow believers to finish well. 

The Apostle was not the only one who affirmed work and rebuked idleness. We read in the Old Testament a similar message, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).  People were created for a purpose.  Our lives would be better spent performing truly meaningful and purposeful work until our death rather than missing out on those valuable years.  

This does not mean you need to keep the same vocation throughout your entire life. But the Bible does direct us to live with purpose until the end.  For many, this may mean being involved with missions or working at your local church.  For others, this could mean volunteering at the local school or community center.  We were all created for a purpose.  We were all created for work.  Don’t miss the opportunity to make a lasting impact even in those remaining years of your life. 

About the author: Nate Sargent serves as a financial counselor in the Greenwood, Indiana area. Nate holds an MBA from Colorado State University and a Certificate in Financial Planning from the Ron Blue Institute at Indiana Wesleyan University. Nate also holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University and has been in the aerospace industry for over 25 years.


1.     Pakula, Hannah. Uncommon Women. Simon and Schuster, 1997, p. 395.
2.     Dalton, James F. and Michael A. Dalton. Insurance Planning. Money Education, 2020, p. 502.
3.     Laskow, Sarah. “How Retirement Was Invented.” The Atlantic, 24 Oct. 2014
4.     Henderson, Emily. “Early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline among the elderly, research shows.”, January 2023.