I don’t like the word retirement but know that one day, if I live long enough, I will have to retire — or at least transition to working at a different pace. Like many of you, I have a retirement account and occasionally think about the adjustments I will have to make to ensure that my modest retirement funds will outlast me. Retirement is big business. There is no shortage of retirement planners and consultants, retirement plans and calculators, and a variety of options for socking away our hard-earned bucks. That’s not a bad thing, but that’s not all we should be concerned about when it comes to retirement. We will need more than cash in our golden years.
Over the past thirty-four years in ministry, I have had more than one sobering conversations with guys who had worked hard, invested shrewdly in their IRAs and other retirement plans, but neglected to invest in their personal R.R.A. — and as a result, made a junk heap of their retirement. You are probably wondering what I mean by an R.R.A. since it’s not something you will read about in any financial literature about retirement accounts. An R.R.A. is a Relationship Retirement Account. What we invest in this account can make our retirement more meaningful than a pocket-full of Benjamins.
The concept of an R.R.A. came to me early in my ministry when a very successful church member who was getting ready to retire made an appointment to talk with me. As he began to unfold his story I discovered that things in his life were not as good as they had appeared to me and others. While he had invested brilliantly and made every financial provision for retirement, he neglected to invest as wisely in the relationships that mattered the most — his wife and kids. “I will retire this year,” he said, “and have more than enough money to do so.” Then he looked down and continued, “But, my wife is leaving me and my kids do not want to have anything to do with me. I have made a junk-heap of my retirement because I did not invest in them.”
It was too late for this man. Because he had failed to invest wisely in his personal Relationship Retirement Account throughout the years, his account was empty when he retired. There were no dividends to look forward to. Even his money could not buy him what he longed for the most — the relationships that give meaning and bring joy to our lives, especially in our Winter years. Earlier this month I wrote a blog entitled “Start With The End” in which I wrote about how having a clear vision of the finish line impacts the decisions you make along the way that can get you there successfully. If the man in my office had factored in relationships and envisioned a retirement blessed by meaningful relationships, he might have made different choices along the way to his retirement.
Regardless of whether we have more or less money to invest in our I.R.A. or other retirement plans, there is no excuse for not investing in our personal R.R. A. We can do this by loving, caring for, and nurturing those closest to us — the people who will be around when we retire. We are most foolish when we allow distractions, addictions, stubbornness, pride, and other things to keep us from loving the people who really do matter the most. But, the choice is ours. I don’t want to make a junk heap of my golden years. I may not get to the end a rich man in terms of money, but I am working to make certain that I get there rich in terms of relationships.