Why Are You Still Working?

All that glittersA couple of weeks ago I ran into someone who used to work at my school. In fact, it occurred to me as we talked, he used to occupy the office that I now call home. He looked at me and asked, “Are you about ready to retire?”

I hate it when people ask that question. First, do I really look that old? Second, do you just assume that I can’t wait to get away from my job? No, I’m eligible to retire in less than a year, but I don’t expect to actually pull that trigger for another nine years or so.

During that hallway conversation, he urged me to consider how much I was actually earning by continuing to work. He named someone we both know: “He did the math and realized he was basically earning $1.50 an hour by working rather than collecting his pension.”

I decided to check that matter out. Maybe I was being a sap by waiting to hang up my spurs. When I plugged in all the numbers, I discovered that I’ll be earning about $14 an hour more next year than if I were to simply head into the retirement system. That’s a good deal more than $1.50, but it’s not as dramatic a number as I might have expected. So should I retire?

Continuing my calculations, I discovered that my projected retirement earnings will increase by roughly 50% over the next nine years. That’s 50% or the equivalent of getting an extra paycheck each month. Plus, I realized, that differential is one that I’ll enjoy for the rest of my days. So I’m not just working for that $14 difference but for a future difference that will last until they pack me into the hearse, hopefully decades from now.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do I get to earn more today and more tomorrow by staying employed, I also enjoy my employer paying almost all the freight on my health insurance, effectively increasing my pay even more. As in spiritual matters, my investigation discovered that sticking to God’s plan means a richer life here and hereafter. How marvelous!

In Luke 12:16-21, a rich fool decides to take early retirement. I’ve been fascinated by that parable before. The folly of that farmer is that he wasn’t really thinking ahead. He wasn’t thinking about what his bounteous harvest would mean next year and the year beyond. He wasn’t thinking about the benefits of working or the impact that his industry had on others. Instead he just saw himself relaxing and consuming.

The day comes when it makes sense for all of us to leave our employment, but rushing into that decision is not only imprudent but irreverent.