Retirement: Not what I thought it would be

Retirement: Not what I thought it would be

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Now that I am retired, I often wonder how many hours I spent during my career thinking about, planning for, and attending to my retirement. I often wonder if this was good stewardship of the time and resources God has given me. I remember the process of retirement planning beginning the first week of orientation. This process included an introduction to the various plans being offered, the consultants to work with and the decisions to be made.

 

Little did I realize at the time that these initial decisions were just the beginning of forty two years of financial planning considerations.

When I retired from my first career at age fifty two, I decided that I should probably start another career. The considerations and decisions this time around were complicated by the need to tailor two distinctly different plans to achieve the financial goals I had set for myself thirty years ago. When my retirement became a reality six years ago, I was confronted with yet another set of considerations, such as, countering down markets, increasing health care costs, hedging against inflation, withdrawing from tax deferred accounts, “bucketing” cash and bonds that I will not use to meet my expenses, deciding when to claim social security and, of course, developing my “bucket list”. During this forty two year process, I was convinced that this was a wise and responsible use of my time and resources. I never questioned this idea of planning to maintain the standard of living that I had become accustomed to and to be able to do what I wanted to do for as long as I wanted to do it.

 

I began questioning this idea about retirement when I was on one of my “bucket list” motorcycle trips. I attribute this questioning to what happens when one encases their head in a motorcycle helmet all day long for an entire week (try it sometime).

I began questioning this idea about retirement when I was on one of my “bucket list” motorcycle trips. I attribute this questioning to what happens when one encases their head in a motorcycle helmet all day long for an entire week (try it sometime). I began to think about all the time and energy I had expended so that I could do what I wanted to do for the remaining time I had left on this earth. However, God reminded me that He has His own “bucket list” for my life and notified me of this through some rather dramatic events in my life.

The first significant event was the death of my mother. She left instructions in her will that twenty-five percent of my inheritance was to be used in ministering to and serving the needs of others. My initial thought was to develop a list of charities and distribute this money. However, during another of my “bucket list” motorcycle trips the thought that kept coming to mind was my mother’s words of ministering and serving. By the end of the trip it was clear to me that mom intended me to do something rather than simply give her money away. This epiphany has transformed my retirement experience over the past six years. This simple and striking realization has prompted me to do things that were not on my original “bucket list” but things that have blessed me immeasurably.

The first action I took was to sign up for a trip to Cuba with Hillside’s ESL team to teach English in Jaquey Grande. The first class I taught included a young man by the name of Daniel Suarez, currently a Hillside member. Daniel and I connected immediately and continued to communicate via letters and email throughout the year. It was through his encouragement that I committed to go to Cuba a second year. It was during this second trip that Daniel told me that he might show up on my door step some day. We laughed knowing how difficult it was, either legally or illegally, to leave Cuba. He did not share with me at the time that he had met Kate Nieuwsma, a member of the Hillside music team that travelled to Cuba to teach music , one year earlier and they had developed a romantic interest. Daniel applied for and was granted a visitor’s visa, an event that can only be explained as divine intervention. He showed up at our door step like he said he would and ended up living with Jan and me for eighteen months. When Daniel and Kate were married eighteen months ago, Daniel’s parents were denied a visitor’s visa to attend the wedding. They requested that Jan and I act on their behalf as father and mother of the groom. Today, Daniel is finishing his second year at Calvin College and has been accepted into the nursing program. In February 2017, I completed my sixth annual trip to Cuba. I have had some of the students in my class for five years and have developed many friendships, including, Daniel’s parents and his friends. I have discovered that my bucket list pales in comparison of what God had planned for me.

The second event that has significantly impacted my retirement was when Jerry DeWeerd, Hillside member, asked me if I would be interested in joining a jail ministry that other Hillside members have been doing for ten years. Jerry knew that my first career was working in Family Court with incarcerated parents and children. However, Jerry did not know that I served an internship in the county jail while working on my under graduate degree. Once again mom’s words of ministering and serving came back to me. So five years ago I joined Jerry and Dave Miedema in leading a Bible study based on a book written by Don Cousins and entitled, Uexplainable: Pursuing A Life That Only God Can Make Possible

I have come to realize that all the time spent on thinking about, planning for, and attending to my retirement was good stewardship of the time and resources that God blessed me with during my careers. This is not because of the “bucket list” that I have, although these are still exciting to do, but because of the “bucket list” that God is revealing to me.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:31

By Ron Apol

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