The Personal Elements of Retirement
By R. Jack Hansen and Jerry P. Haas
Thanks to the advent of the Internet and World Wide Web, we live in a time and place where the character of the national conversation on retirement can be easily evaluated. We only need to type the key word "retirement" into our favorite search engine (Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) and see what we get back. When we did this, we got approximately 25 million "hits," or titles of articles, books, blog posts, and the like. The statistics on the first several thousand "hits" (which is normally representative of the entire population) were quite telling. 85% of the hits related to finances in retirement, such questions as "How much money do I need?" "How long will it last?" What is the future of Federal retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare? In contrast, somewhat fewer than 2% were in any way related to the personal dimensions of life beyond full-time work. In other words, precious little attention has been given, or guidance offered, to such important questions as the impact of retirement on family relationships, friendships, and sense of self-worth. We know that such personal considerations are key determinants of satisfaction and fulfillment in every stage of life. This includes retirement.
To understand these overlooked personal dimensions of retirement, Jack Hansen and Jerry Haas have interviewed retired men and women from around the country about their personal experiences in retirement. These interviews revealed commonly experienced personal transitions associated with leaving a career, unique personal opportunities afforded by retirement, and personal challenges we must confront as we continue to age. Their first book, "Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement," describes the interview process and these areas of transition, opportunity, and challenge.
Their second book, "Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey," was recently published. It brings a spiritual perspective to each of these transitions, opportunities, and challenges. Each topic is introduced by one or two first-person accounts by retirees. Then, the wisdom of Scripture for this theme is explored. And finally, a spiritual practice is suggested that helps us thrive in this particular transition, opportunity, or challenge.
One transition frequently experienced in leaving full-time work for retirement is a journey from a larger to a smaller world of influence, authority, or recognition. In the chapter devoted to this topic in "Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey", we are first introduced to a retired secondary school teacher. She describes her personal struggle in leaving behind her opportunities to influence high school students as she retires. The focus then shifts to two individuals in Scripture who go from a larger to a smaller world. Moses goes from the house of Pharaoh to tending sheep in the desert. And Paul's early life as a Christian takes him from respected rabbi status in Israel to relative solitude in Arabia and Damascus. In both cases, it was in this "smaller world" that God worked uniquely (calling Moses to a life of service and imparting to Paul the unique understanding of Jesus.) And finally, the spiritual practice of letting go of roles we once had is suggested as a part of our own personal journey from work to retirement.
"Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey" is suitable for use by individuals and small groups in churches. The book offers questions for personal and group reflection, suggested outlines for both small-group and adult Sunday school series. It also includes a ritual/liturgy for a church to use in honoring a man or woman who is retiring.
Both books are available from Amazon, and "Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement" can also be ordered from Upper Room Books.
Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement is available in either paperback or electronic forma from Upper Room Books at
Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey is available in electronic format from Amazon at