Rethinking Retirement -- By: Howard G. Hendricks

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 157:626 (Apr 2000)
Article: Rethinking Retirement
Author: Howard G. Hendricks


Rethinking Retirement a

Howard G. Hendricksb

Retirement, supposed to be a chance to join the winners’ circle, has turned out to be more dangerous than automobiles or LSD…. It is the chance to do everything that leads to nothing. It is the gleaming brass ring that unhorses the rider.”1

Retirement too frequently is an assignment to no-man’s land, grossly ill-fitted for contemporary culture, producing a suddenly unemployed person without a mission. Studies consistently show that the average person dies within seven years after retirement, and it is not uncommon for people to die within the first two years.

The reason is clear: There are two lines in a person’s life; the lifeline and the purpose line. When the purpose line evaporates, it is just a matter of time before the lifeline ceases.

The Critical Insights of Retirement

The Concept

Retirement is a relatively recent social phenomenon. The arbitrary year of sixty-five was set in 1889 by Germany’s chancellor Otto Bismarck as the age when his government would begin paying benefits to old-age survivors. At the time, life expectancy was around fifty-five. Thus because of shorter lifespans, most eligible candidates would have died, but the idea was good politics.2

The United States adopted compulsory retirement as a result of our financial derailment on “Black Friday,” October 28, 1929, when securities lost $26 billion in value and for six years the whole

world was in economic confusion. Famine ravaged Russia, and revolution occurred in Austria. Japan was expanding, having withdrawn from the League of Nations. In the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in a landslide vote, and Congress granted him wide executive powers. As businesses failed, hundreds of thousands of people were jobless—and frightened. On August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, called “one of the most comprehensive programs for social welfare ever undertaken by direct legislation.”3 Part of this law was the old-age and survivors insurance program, to provide a basic retirement income after the age of sixty-five for insured wage-earners.

The Context

This dramatic shift in public acceptance of government support for older citizens flies in the face of Judeo-Christian principles. It spurted out of the nineteenth century...

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