Funding Missions

Should Missionaries Save For Retirement?

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Written by Lillian Hunsberger

Too many of us believe that we are going to be able to work forever. Especially as missionaries, there is a desire for us to never stop. Because of that, we can fall into an ignorance for the need of a retirement fund and one day we may find ourselves in a difficult situation where we are unable to work but needing the finances in order to get through daily life.

This is a sad reality for many missionaries. A lot of the time there are these big debates about whether or not missionaries should save for retirement, or if they should trust God’s provision in their life.  This isn’t wrong, but sometimes this idea of God being in control is flawed. We sometimes believe that God’s control means smooth sailing. That’s not the reality though. God being in control simply means that when the storms come, He will be by our side, and He knows the beauty that will come after the storm passes.

So is retirement a struggle that we will have to withstand? Yes, at least it can be. It really depends on your view as to what you do before the retirement. Are you one to save? Or are you one to believe that God will provide for those needs? Is your belief on the better side of the two opinions? Let’s see…

Saving For Retirement

There are so many different opinions on how we should save or what we save when it comes to retirement. So let’s look at a couple of opinions that I’ve found through questioning and researching.

Save Equal to Your Medical Expenses:

One thing that I’ve come to realize about missionaries is that they spend a lot on health insurance and other medical expenses. There are those who spend up to $1,000 per month in order to make sure that they stay healthy enough to stay on the field. Are we really going to believe that retirement isn’t going to cost as much as monthly medical expenses?

One piece of advice I was able to get from a missionary is to look at the budget that you should be willing to save equal (or more) than you are willing to spend on your medical expenses. Your retirement fund isn’t going to be made in a manner of years, but instead, you must be willing to build it up over the course of your life.

Save 10-15% of Your Paycheck:

I’ve heard some missionaries suggest that you save 10-15% of paychecks to be saved in order to make sure that retirement is something that you have. This is the average advice that financial agencies would give to all people. Something that we seem to forget sometimes is that we are still human.

We, missionaries, aren’t more special than everybody else. We get the same problems others face in retirement, we need money in order to survive this mundane world. There needs to be a process of saving the things we need for the future. God doesn’t give us a free pass for being in ministry. We plan for a legacy to the next generation and it isn’t only spiritual, but financial too.

Start now with a monthly amount, no matter how small, automatically withdrawn from your bank account so you won’t miss it so much. There needs to a cognitive saving of your money. You need to be aware of the future ahead of you, and how you can be stable in that future.

Check Into Your Missions Agency About Retirement:

There are some agencies that help you save for retirement. It sometimes can seem unneeded at the time, but they are the ones who will get your donations and then they will put aside a percentage of it in order to make sure you are set in order to retire. This helps in order to not even tempt you with wanting to use it. But also it sets you off on the right foot so that you can’t lose this money, and you’ll have a fund for when God does call you from the field.

The other option you have with your missions agency is looking into agencies with retirement packages.  Some supporting churches want to require agencies to provide their missionaries a decent retirement and medical-care package for missionaries. The reason for this help is because some churches have become aware that if missionaries don’t have some financial provision for the future, that they might not have a bright one.

Not Saving For Retirement

Though it seems like it would be a good idea to save for retirement earlier on, there are also those who believe that saving isn’t needed.

“Store Up For Your Treasures In Heaven”:

One stance that was taken about retirement is that we don’t have to save because money isn’t our treasure. They brought up Matthew 6:20, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” They had a strong trust that God would provide if they needed anything and believed that at this point they needed nothing.

These missionaries strongly believed that Christ was being literal when He talked about leaving everything and following Him. They had sold a large majority of their possessions, and trusted God to provide everything that they needed. They went into a foreign country with low finances, few possessions but a high expectation for how God would work.

The Biblical Model For Retirement:

When we look at the Bible we don’t see retirement as something that people having to save for. Some of the individuals that I talked to look to the Scripture in order to see the models that were set during that time and strive to replicate them as best as they possibly can.

In Scriptures, it was the community’s job to rally around the elderly and support them. We see in Isaiah 46:4 that even in our old age, God is going to support us. And since we are called to imitators of Christ, we should strive in order to carry the elderly through their time without income. Biblically, they see that it’s the community job in order to support the elderly. And though it seems like American, and even the church, is leading away from this model, there are those who choose to believe it.

Work Until Last Breath:

One person that I asked told me that they don’t plan to have a retirement. They want to be on the field as long as they possibly can. God called them to missions. Because of this, they were willing to give everything. Every moment of their life, they wanted to dedicate to God’s work.

Though working until your last breath is an extreme, there is a large majority of individuals who plan to work until they physically are unable to. They take on the mindset of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”.   The mentality here seems to be that God blessed them with the ability to work, therefore they are going to work for God until they literally can’t.

This then also blesses them without the need to build up a large retirement fund for them to survive off of for countless years.

So What’s The Best Answer About Retirement?

So what’s the answer? Should you save? Or should you simply allow God to have control in that? Honestly, I don’t think there is one answer. There isn’t a cut and clean formula that everyone can follow in order to make sure that they are stable in the future.

With both sides of the argument there are risks that you are taking. When you do save for retirement, you have to raise more support when you are on the mission field. This can put a lot of strain on yourself and those who are supporting you. On the other hand, when you decide not to save for your future, you are putting the stress on other loved ones to support you if you can’t handle your finances in your old age.

There is hope.  There are a couple things that I know God tells us, that can give us peace of mind when it comes to our future.

  • We should not be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). God has a plan for you, and He will help you through this, one way or another.
  • He will provide for you (though this doesn’t always mean that He will grant you your heart’s desires). He will give you the things you need, and the wisdom as to how to use these resources.
  • You will never have to walk through this by yourself. God is by your side through every part of your life. That means from your first breaths until your last, you’ll have someone by your side and willing to help you, no matter what.

Retirement is not an easy topic to struggle with, but no matter whether you decide to save or to rely on God: you’ll be okay. Trust God, and rely on Him in order to make decisions. Seek Him out, and willingly follow Him no matter what He tells you. For no matter what happens, that is how you are able to thrive the most.

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