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Will Retirement Change Your Identity?

May 1, 2019

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. ~ Acts 20:24 NLT

A recent Harvard study found that new retirees often face not only a challenge about how to spend their time, but an identity crisis as well. A Harvard Business Review article about the study opened with two key questions commonly asked among the newly retired: “Who am I now?” and “When people ask me what I do, what do I even tell them?”

I’m sure those questions are on the minds of many people who have recently wrapped up long careers. And since I’m not retired, I’m equally sure that I can’t fully appreciate the identity-related issues that must accompany such a significant turning point. Still, I can’t help but wonder about the role that faith can play in navigating the transition away from full-time paid work.

A believer’s retirement

While the cultural view of retirement as an extended time of leisure has no biblical basis, it’s highly likely that most of us will one day step away from the paid workforce. So, it’s important to prepare for that time of life—financially, as well as spiritually and emotionally.

Teresa Amabile, organizational behavior professor and lead researcher, shared what prompted the study: “My previous research discovered that people are happiest when they feel that they’re making progress in meaningful work,” she said. “And I wondered: What happens when you’re leaving that meaningful work behind?”

But what if retirement isn’t about leaving such work behind?

A starting point for dealing with identity issues such as “Who am I now?” is to recognize that, at a foundational level, nothing has changed. You’re still a Christ-follower. You’re still a child of God. And you still have an important purpose and can make a difference. In fact, being free of the demands of marketplace employment could allow time for your greatest Kingdom impact yet! And that should make for an especially meaningful “retirement.”

Of course, how you pursue purposeful retirement may look very different depending on your interests. It may involve the type of work you did during your career, or perhaps an activity you were spending your free time on becomes a focal point. You may do your work as a volunteer instead of for pay. Or you may start your own business, whether part-time or full-time.

A different type of planning

While many of us spend a lot of time preparing for our later years financially, it’s just as important to consider what you’ll actually do in retirement—how you could make the greatest God-glorifying difference during that unique season of life. If you’re retired, how has it impacted your sense of identity? If you’re not retired, how much thought have you given to what you’ll do in your later years?

This fall MB Foundation is hosting a gathering focused on this topic—Living With Purpose. We invite you to join us in Omaha NE on September 27-29 for Celebrate 2019! This national gathering will help us discover life with a purpose. We will look to God to define our lives for His purposes!

See all the details at You won’t want to miss it!

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