Each semester, I find 30 minutes to provide a mini financial seminar to my students about why it’s important to start saving for retirement while in their twenties. These four thoughts fuel my passion:
1. Companies are not going to take care of today’s college students. I have watched the pension system in our country quickly disappear. My students are expected to take care of themselves with regard to saving for retirement, commonly in the form of a 401-K.
2. The clock is ticking. The longer any of us waits to start saving for retirement, either the more we have to contribute to make up for lost time, or the less we have at the end. College students have the greatest key to success in their hands….time.
3. It takes ten years for compound interest to gain traction. Nothing makes us scratch our heads more than starting to watch a 401-K grow in a way that no longer makes sense based on the contributions we are putting in. Now that our young people are staying in school deep into their twenties, this generation is losing a decade of getting that much needed traction started.
4. Our twenty-somethings are saddled with college debt. There are multiple reasons why debt is on the rise, which is not the subject of this post, but my students will find it harder to save for retirement while they fight to survive in their first entry-level position after graduation with student loans already in the budget.
I give it the good ol’ college try.
For 30 precious minutes, I show them the charts that compare how much they would have to save each month, and at what interest rates, to have one million dollars by the age of 65.
And then I present a challenge to them.
“When you leave a job,” I say, “and the company gives you your 401-K amount in one lump sum, I want you to hear my voice in your ear, ‘Don’t spend it! Don’t spend it! Roll it into another 401-K!'”
They always respond the same way.
What if I need a new car? What about a down payment on a house? What about paying off credit card debt?
And I stand in the classroom and say, “Remember my voice in your ear. Don’t do it. You need to have something saved when you are old. No one else is going to take care of you. You have time on your side right now. Get started and don’t quit.”
As fate would have it, I received a retirement fund buy-out opportunity last week. I opted to keep it safe until I am 65 but that opportunity for a lump-sum pulled at my heart for days. A large check right now would bring such relief. The bills it could have paid. The nest it could have padded.
I made a decision for the future, not for today.
I didn’t have my former employer cut the check. I deferred to retirement.
Jesus tells us not to live for today either: So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Feeling the financial pull this week put me in touch with the spiritual pull every single day of our lives to live for earth instead of heaven, to live for now instead of then, to live for ourselves instead of God. The pull is relentless, palatable, and powerful, requiring intention and decision to resist, but resist we must.
Have you been saving for retirement in heaven?
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Just like no company is going to provide retirement for us — we need to do that ourselves — no one is going to store up treasures for us in heaven either. We need to do that ourselves. Let’s all do a heart check this week and make sure we are not succumbing to the lure of the here and now. Let’s all make our decisions in light of God’s Story that lasts forever.
Picture Explanation: A camping trip brought with it some funny signs and foods we don’t see at home.
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