Rethinking Retirement

Rethinking Retirement

Hold on now. Don’t get too excited – I’m not quite there yet. I’ve barely got this baby off the ground and I started pretty late in life, so I’ve got a while. But let’s talk about this retirement thing. We hear a lot of buzz about “planning for retirement.” Is that really what we’re doing? Can we just call it what it is? I think a more appropriate term might be “stashing wealth in all kinds of places so we’ll have so much saved up we can draw on it until we die without having to work and still have some leftover to leave our kids.” Or to be more politically correct (which most of the time I’m not), “Wealth Generation.” When I hear “retirement,” I usually reach for my Lexapro because I compare our financial position with the amount I assume others have and with the numbers our financial advisor tells us we need and I just want to cry. Into a paper bag. That’s because most of what we hear about retirement concerns finance. And river cruises, of course. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that one must have wealth generated in order to stop working, but what if there is more to look forward to than the end of work? What if we were created for more than trust funds and golf courses?* Paula thinks we were.

I had the incredible privilege of meeting Paula this spring. She wandered into our office in January asking if we needed any volunteer help. She and her husband Richard are retired and had just moved into Vickery Meadow. For those of you not familiar with the neighborhood, it’s not exactly the ideal retirement community. The only grass grows through cracks in the sidewalk and its major intersection boasts one of the highest crime rates in Dallas. I knew she was different. Intentional. The next day she showed up. Then she showed up again. And again. She had only planned to come for a few hours a week, but before we all knew it, she was in the office every day, sharing stories about life and motherhood, bringing homemade Southern desserts and loving the hijabs off of our Associates (okay, not really, but you get the point). After volunteering all day in our office, many days she would go downstairs to the after school program and help kids with their homework until dinner. She’d be back in our office on Monday mornings having spent the weekend with our Associates and showing us pictures of dinners together and parties snuggling babies. She even recruited a group of her friends to come visit her from Louisiana for the sole purpose of volunteering for a couple days. What in the world?! This is NOT the retirement we read about in the Wall Street Journal. It’s way more fulfilling and what I’ve come to admire and aspire to.

It wasn’t by accident that Paula and Richard ended up in Vickery. It wasn’t because their nest egg was too small or they’re afraid to travel overseas. They made a deliberate decision to spend retirement differently. They’re a normal couple from Monroe, Louisiana who decided to use their retirement funds to make an impact. One to two times each year, they strategically travel to a new city in the world, find housing in a neighborhood with great needs, and plant roots. They live in the local culture – meet the people and eat the food…but most importantly, they build relationships so they can (in her words) “love the people God loves.” Often times that’s people everyone else is too busy to notice. This is sacrificial and intentional love at its finest.

Love that doesn’t stop working hard until God calls them home. What an incredible challenge to those of us deep in the throes of building careers and raising a family!

Paula and Richard left last week to return to Monroe. Not because things didn’t work out, but because they had to check on their house and all that adulting business before they head overseas again this fall to do this people-loving, whole-heart-giving retirement thing in another community 10 time zones away. It’s really quiet in our office this week without her. She was a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a mentor and a friend to all of us. But relationships don’t end when a lease does and she and our Associates leverage the power of modern technology to stay in touch. I texted her to ask her permission to share her story, and she happily agreed. She wants to motivate others to consider spending their Act III in a similar way. She also mentioned,“We have a Dallas box packed to come back again.” We miss you, Paula and we’ll see you again soon!!

*Disclaimer: Calm down. I’m not saying these things are bad. I’m proposing the idea that there might be something in addition to these that we could pursue. Now go enjoy your day at the golf course!