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Thursday, June 13, 2019

"An Uncommon Guide to Retirement" (Jeff Haanen)

TITLE: An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God's Purpose for the Next Season of Life
AUTHOR: Jeff Haanen
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019, (204 pages).

What do we do when we retire? For some, it is an extended vacation but the problem is affordability. Some go to other extreme by claiming they don't have enough money, and prefer to save up for the proverbial rainy day. Some Christians believe that the idea of an endless vacation is not biblical. Still others think that they need a bigger vision and purpose for retirement. Each of these options have their pros and cons. In this book, author Jeff Haanen challenges the typical views about what to do after retirement and argues that believers ought to resist fear, doubt, and uncertainty with a better sense of relationship and trust in God. He calls his counter-cultural views as "uncommon views." Many common topics are discussed. He looks at culture first, looking at the reasons why retirement is increasingly being talked about. He asks new questions of his own about work, finances, rest, family, calling, and purpose. He observes our shifting cultural climate that will have a greater proportion of aging Baby Boomers; increasing financial struggle; limited and uncertain pension plans; rising health care costs; and continued fear of the future. Haanen deals with each of these relevant matters thoughtfully with a gentle touch of realism.
One Christian belief concerning retirement is to keep working. He counters that with the need to maintain a balance of work, rest, and service over the lifetime. This calls for a restoration of the Sabbath routine into our lives. Instead of rushing into a vacation after retirement, consider becoming more like God in both work and rest. Let not work or endless vacation define our identity. Treat recreation not as leisure or vacation but as an opportunity to participate in the creative work of God. On calling, the author gives us six powerful questions on discernment. We are reminded that work for us is not just about making ends meet but to reflect the image of God. Instead of seeing retirement as a preparation for the end of life, see it as a way to cultivate and enable a new season of life to blossom. Our ailments as we age should not be suffocated by fear and despair. Instead, let the vision of Christ fill us with hope of new vision of the future. On learning, we are encouraged to keep learning to become the person God has made us to be.

Haanen also gives us other counter-views about mentoring, family, work, and others in this thought-provoking and enlightening book. There are many things to like about this book. Let me offer three thoughts.

My Thoughts
First, Haanen hits on a relevant topic for people of all ages. One does not need to be retiring or nearing retirement in order to learn from this book. Truth is, it is never too early to plan for retirement. Every day we live is a day closer to that phase. The questions about calling, work, time, health, family, etc are all relevant topics for all. The six questions to discern one's particular calling is already worth the price of the book. Many people also believe in the notion of retirement as some kind of a vacation-like venture. This needs to be corrected and the author hits the issue right on its head. Vocation is a more accurate word instead of vacation. Rather than to present solutions right off the head, readers might be surprised to see the starting point as Sabbath. This is so important. If we see retirement as a problem to be solved, we would easily jump to conclusions and often end up with answers that do not fully fit. When we take the necessary sabbatical moment, we will be more self-aware of our sense of identity, our purpose, and the adaptation to our next phase of life.

Second, the book presents ideas that are counter-cultural. The author does a good job consistently in comparing the conventional with the "uncommon" perspective. By stating the conventional, this ensures that readers are on the same page with him. This makes the reading effective and meaningful with many Aha! moments. The way the author places the "common vs uncommon" table comparisons also helps in reinforcing the thought for the chapter. He gives ample reasons why the conventional thinking needs to be revisited and revised. This is done through listing the myths surrounding typical and superficial perspectives. In doing so, we understand the reason why we ought to question the standard paradigm and to see the need for change. Like the way Jesus uses the sermon on the mount to counter the way the world thinks, Haanen uses his "uncommon" paradigm to teach us about retirement. Such a strategy is powerful and effective.

Finally, this book goes beyond merely retirement. It is essentially about changing our perspectives toward common topics that we have often assumed rather than questioned. Anyone could benefit from the wisdom sandwiched between the covers. We can learn about seeing time as something to be stewarded instead of merely being used. We need not dichotomize faith from medical care. One can believe in God and still opt for medical procedures because both supernatural and the natural things of life are ordained by God. Learning too should not be limited to the young. We all need to cultivate the spirit of learning. Truly humble people, no matter how old they are, are always eager students of life.

Overall, I am happy to recommend this book for all people, especially those who struggle with the question: "What should I do when I retire?"

Jeff Haanen is founder and CEO of Denver Institute for Faith and Work. He writes for Christianity Today, Comment magazine, and other publications. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver, Colorado.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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