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CJ CagleC. J. (CHRIS) CAGLE is a retired IT professional, having worked as a manager and architect/strategist for several large financial institutions for almost thirty years. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology. Chris serves as a deacon and leads the stewardship ministry at Crossway Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he’s not writing about stewardship or retirement or working in his church, he enjoys hiking and fishing. Chris and his...more
What’s God’s idea about retirement? Author CJ Cagle help us construct a vision of retirement reflecting His values, priorities, and purposes.
Dave: So here is a stat you don’t hear every day.
Dave: It’s a stat you should hear every day; it’s a really important stat.
Ann: Oh, no.
Dave: Are you ready?
Ann: You are going to teach me something right now; aren’t you?
Dave: You’re going to like this, I think.
Dave: A third of people have nothing saved for retirement, financially.
Dave: Well, a little less than a third—33 percent—have nothing saved for retirement.
Ann: That’s depressing.
Dave: Here is the question: “How much do we have saved for retirement?”
Ann: More than that! [Laughter]
Dave: More than zero?!
Ann: More than zero!
Dave: I hope we are more than zero. [Laughter]
Ann: We win!
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: The funny thing is you have no idea.
Ann: I kind of do.
Dave: Do you?!
Ann: I have a little bit of an idea.
Dave: You’ve been looking at the balance sheets?
Ann: I don’t look at it, but I hear our financial guy every two years talk about it.
Dave: Every two years; it’s like every six months now. [Laughter]
Anyway, the reason we are talking about this, which we’ve never talked about on FamilyLife Today;—
Ann: —not with us being the hosts.
Dave: —this is an important topic.
We have Chris Cagle with us today, who really—Chris, welcome to FamilyLife Today, first of all—thanks for being here.
CJ: Thank you; great to be here.
Dave: I mean, you have spent your life sort of thinking about this—wrote a book, obviously—we are going to talk about it: Reimagine Retirement. But this wasn’t like your life’s work; you worked in IT most of your life; right?
CJ: I did. IT mainly in the financial services industry. I even spent about ten years working in social work in the juvenile court system, right here in Florida, as a matter of fact. So yes, not a professional finance guy.
Dave: So how did you get into this? I mean, we read your book—and our audience is going to love this conversation—because it is so—
Dave: You know better than anybody how critical this conversation is.
Ann: I’m going to say, too, this is helpful for every stage of life that you are in. If you are younger, don’t think, “I don’t need to think about this.”
Dave: “Oh, I wish I had been…” Seriously, I wish I had been thinking, and learning, and making decisions when I was 20—
CJ: Right; right.
Dave: —not just when I’m 60. So yes, Ann, this is so critical.
How did you get into this? This isn’t your life work.
CJ: Yes, pretty simple actually; just got involved in the financial stewardship/financial coaching/counseling ministry in my local church. I kind of gravitated a little bit, first, for my own personal needs in terms of planning my future and working out my own stewardship plan with my own family and, then, just a desire to help others. That led to seeing the need. I started a blog, and the blog kind of led to the opportunity to write the book for B&H.
Ann: But you’ve also been married for almost—
CJ: —50 years.
Ann: —50 years; yes.
CJ: It will be 50 years next year.
CJ: Yes; thank you.
Ann: That’s pretty cool.
Dave: Well, help us start this conversation. How should we start thinking—I’m not going to say “start” because, hopefully, we have been thinking about retirement—but how should we think about this? You call it “reimagine retirement.” Explain what that means.
CJ: Right; yes. The reimagine concept comes from this notion that all of us, really, regardless of our age in this current culture, are bombarded with kind of a worldly view of retirement: work long, work hard, save as much as you can, and then retire to a life of just doing whatever you want to do—leisure, recreation—we see pictures of people on the sea shore, people on the golf course, people on the tennis courts.
Dave: Hey, we’re here in Florida.
CJ: And Florida is—yes, it’s kind of the Mecca—The Villages/the largest incorporated retirement center in the world, I guess; I’m not sure.
Dave: We drove through The Villages not too long ago. I was actually looking for a motorcycle on Facebook® Marketplace, and we ended up down there.
Ann: I had never seen more golf carts in my life in one place.
Dave: Golf carts everywhere.
CJ: Right, which is probably a good thing once you get about 80/maybe, 90. Maybe driving golf carts, instead of motor vehicles, might be a good idea; I’m not sure. [Laughter]
Ann: Safer; save a lot of gas money.
Dave: But in some ways, as we drove in there, there was this thought of: “This is the vision.”
Ann: —“that most Americans have.”
Dave: I’m not saying there is anything wrong or right about it; it was just, as you drove into it, you thought, “That’s what retirement looks like.”
CJ: I think there is this constant pressure to: “How can we amass enough wealth and do all of these things in order to create heaven on earth for ourselves?” You know, God doesn’t promise us heaven on earth. He promises us heaven in eternity. Actually, He tells us that life is going to be full of trials and tribulations; but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy things on this earth—and certainly living in a nice community, or having a pool to go to, or a tennis court to play tennis on—taking the occasional trip is not a bad thing.
But in Reimagine Retirement, I’m trying to kind of recast that or ask my readers to reimagine what retirement would look like, based on a God-centered, Christ-exalting, God-honoring and glorifying view of retirement that would be informed by Scripture. That’s really what my goal was.
Dave: Okay, so teach us.
Ann: What is that?—yes.
Dave: What would that look like?
CJ: It’s based on the principle of stewardship: that we were created by God/created in God’s image; we belong to Him; and that everything we have actually belongs to Him/also belongs to Him, and that we kind of been given these things to steward on His behalf. Our mission, as Christians/as believers, is to live our lives for Him—to glorify Him, to serve others—for the furtherance of God’s kingdom on this earth for as long as we live.
There is not a hard-stop at 65, or 70, or 75. The vision here is that, God willing, as He enables us and gives us the gifts and ability and resources to do so, we continue to live our lives for Him as long as we can, knowing that that will look different for someone who is 70 than someone who is 30; right? I’m not doing the same things now in my local church that I was doing, now at 70, that I did at 30; but I’m doing a lot of the same things. I was teaching in children’s ministry when I was 30; I’m teaching in children’s ministry when I’m 70.
As a matter of fact, I have a little girl in my class today/right now—her first name is Allie—I taught Allie’s mother in children’s ministry.
CJ: To me, there is nothing more glorious than that/more fulfilling than that for me personally: to know that I, not only had the opportunity to impact her mother’s life in a small way as a Sunday school teacher, but now, I have her daughter in my class.
Ann: It’s legacy; yes, that’s amazing.
CJ: Those are the kinds of things God has called me to do, and I think He has called older people to do. I’m almost 70—I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to do that—but I’m going to do it while it’s today and while God gives me the ability to do so.
Dave: So is it the right perspective/is it God’s perspective to have the thought that: “I will never retire”?
CJ: Yes, it’s kind of a trick question—[Laughter]
CJ: —kind of a little nuance/there is a lot more nuance here than we sometimes imagine; it’s not a black-and-white thing. The world’s retirement is: I stop working for pay, and I go on vacation for the rest of my life. The Bible gives us the freedom to stop working for pay—there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits that—what the Bible doesn’t seem to give us the liberty to do, in Christ, is to not live for Jesus for the rest of our lives.
Part of mapping out a retirement/imagining a retirement—why the subtitle on the book is Planning and Living for the Glory of God—is to plan out that last phase of life in terms of what it might look like: “How am I going to serve Jesus more?” If I have the resources to be able to stop working fulltime—and don’t have to work for pay; meaning, that I relieve that pressure and I have more time—“How can I use those gifts”—and they truly are gifts from God—“to serve Him more, serve others more, and glorify Him?”—while at the same time, playing a game of tennis, going to the pool, going to the beach, playing with grandkids.
I like to hike and fish—I do it whenever I can—but if all I ever did was go hiking and fishing, I’d get pretty bored. God created me to do things, to make things, to work. The book, for me, is an example of that. You know, I would say to your audience out there: “If there is somebody out there/if you’ve thought about writing a book, go write a book. If you think it is going to serve people, and lead people to Christ, and lead people to a God-glorifying kind of view of something, then write about it. Share your life in that way. You can do it.”
Dave: One of the things that we thought in our 20s, and when we were starting in our first career—which is still our career: ministry—one of things I said from the pulpit, as I started our church 30 years ago, is: “We will never retire,” which in some ways was your perspective, like, “We’re never going to stop working for the glory of God; it will look different.”
But here’s another part of that—that was a bad part of that—was: “We don’t need to save money. We’re going to be working until the very end; so you know, obviously, save a little bit; but you don’t really need to be concerned, because there won’t come a day where you’re just going to have to live off of what you’ve saved.” That was not good wisdom.
Dave: I want you to talk about that, because you are much wiser about these things than me. If you had a 20-year-old, or a 25-year-old, or even a 30-year-old—and by the way, they are listening right now to you—talk to them about that thought of: “What should they be doing, as a younger person,—
Dave: —“financially, to think about retirement, and even a mindset?”
CJ: Yes; let me first speak to the kind of affirming part of that, or positive part of that, if you can imagine that there might be one.
Dave: There is.
CJ: There is; and that is, that it goes to: “What should our attitude be toward money? What does the Bible say about money?”
- It’s says we can’t serve two masters; we can’t love God and money.
- And that the love of money is the root of all evil. If we spend our lives pursuing money, and amassing large amounts of wealth, we can so easily be tempted to make those things our god such that our safety, our security, our joy, our satisfaction—we start to look to those things—we start to look to money for those things.
Ann: They become our security.
CJ: They become our security instead of God’s love for us, His mercy, and His promise of provision.
Dave: Do you remember the commercial—I don’t know who it was—the financial commercial, where people are walking around; they have a number above their head?
CJ: “What’s your number?”
Dave: Yes; “What’s your number?”
CJ: Yes; yes.
Dave: I remember, when I saw that years ago, I thought, “That has often been my security: that number.” You know, I say it is God, and it IS; but there have been times when I lay in bed—and it’s like, “Oh, I’m anxious; I’m worried,”—and it’s about the number. If that number had an extra zero or two, I’d be like, “I’ll be all good right now.” I’d be saying, “Oh, it’s because I’m trusting in God”; I’m really trusting a bank account number. That’s what you are saying; right?
CJ: Yes; that displaced trust is where we get into trouble. And in some ways, it can even begin to become idolatrous.
Ann: Yes; right.
CJ: You know, because if you think about: “What is idolatry?”—it’s not just worshipping another god in some literal way—it can be putting trust and faith and trying to find value and worth in something other than our Creator. Money, in our society/unfortunately, money can be that thing for far too many people.
So trying to kind of speak against that or combat that, especially within the Christian church, is a good thing; but yet, we also have to balance that off against the biblical wisdom that says that it is wise to assume that things are going to happen, because the future is uncertain; and it is wise, in effect, to save for a rainy day. That starts very early in life and continues all the way through to the end.
Ann: So if you are talking to 20- and 30-year-olds, what is your advice on that saving part? Are you saying, “Now is the time”?
CJ: Absolutely; absolutely.
CJ: In fact, if you look at some of the math—and I speak to this a little bit in my book—you save a little bit in your 20s and 30s—if you didn’t save anything, you could actually—assuming certain things hold, which may or may not hold in terms of how the markets grow and income and things compound—you could actually end up with more money, at age 60, than if you waited until age 30 or 40 and started saving a little a month and save that same amount every month to age 60.
If you started at 20, saved until you were 30, and quit and didn’t do anything, you could possibly end up with more money because of the way that—
Dave: —compound interest.
CJ: We have a real problem getting our heads around exponential growth. We understand 3 + 3 + 3 = 9; right? We don’t understand that 93 is an exponential number—right?—and how things compound that way.
Dave: Yes; and I mean—and you’ve done this probably more than anybody—when you look at compound interest, like you said, that a 20-year-old or 25- or 28-year-old put away five grand or ten grand and just letting it compound—
Dave: —it’s crazy; it’s like, “Why wouldn’t we do that?”
Ann: Because there are a lot of people who are paying off college debts and [other] debts; and they are thinking, “I don’t have any extra money.” What do you say to them?
CJ: Right; yes. In the book, I use a word—and it’s not a word I came up with; it’s a word that Ron Blue, well-known financial advisor, author himself, much more well-known than I am came up with—called financial margin. It’s about creating margin in our lives.
Debt is a margin killer—whether it’s student loan debt, loading up too much on other installment loans, auto loans, mortgages—you hear about people being mortgage-rich; house-rich; mortgage-poor—whatever—or vice versa. Not having the margin to save is a dangerous place to be. So getting out of debt, dealing with debt, minimizing debt is really tantamount to being able to create enough margin to do the other things that God really wants us to do with our money, which is to spend wisely, give generously, and save diligently. It doesn’t mean save every penny that you can get your hands on, like I was talking about a minute ago; but saving—you know if you are in a 401k plan—and they match 2 percent of your contribution/salary, dollar for dollar; then, at least, save that and get the free money; you know?
If I walked in here and threw a $100 bill on the table and said, “That’s yours,” would you pick it up?
Dave: Oh, yes.
CJ: Probably would; right? Well, that’s effectively what your employers are doing—
CJ: —when they hand you free money. Non-biblical principle number one: “Don’t say, ‘No,’ to free money if it’s given with integrity, and with good intent, and honesty, which—
Dave: One of the things I would say, as a pastor from the pulpit, when we talked about money—and by the way, as a pastor, talking about money, they think you’re only going to talk about giving—[Laughter]
Dave: —but I used what I called the “10-10-80 Plan”; I’m sure you’ve heard of that.
CJ: Yes, yes.
Dave: What do you think of that?—“Give 10; save 10; live on 80 percent.”
Dave: “Give 10 percent; save 10 percent; live on 80 percent.” Talk about that: “Is that a good plan?”
CJ: Very, very reasonable plan, especially for young couples, just starting out. You know, what I tell people—when it comes to, say, giving 10 percent; 10 percent is often referred to as the tithe—but you know, the tithe is not a law: “Only give 10 percent; don’t give any more, don’t give any less.”
CJ: I think it’s, in many ways, reflective of a biblical principle. It is a good starting place; because if someone, who is making $20,000 a year, if they are giving 20 percent of their gross income, that is $2,000; that is a lot of money.
Some of the principles we see in the Bible about giving: sacrificial, proportional, and cheerful/generous giving out the heart; right? Sacrificially and proportionality has a lot to do with how we should give. I think 10-10-80 is a great place to start; but I tell people: “If you are giving 5 percent, and you’d like to give 10, make that your goal,” “If you’re giving 10 percent, think about 15 percent.”
God loves a cheerful giver. He has made a lot of promises to us in His Word that aren’t always absolute; but He has made a lot of promises that seem to say that there are these blessings that accrue to people who—have generous hearts, live generous lives, give of themselves to others, give of their finances to others—the money just seems to come.
We were talking earlier with some folks, visiting here, from one of the earlier programs.
CJ: The young lady was talking about how she stepped out, took some risks, wasn’t sure where the money was going to come from, but she was just doing what God called her to do—obeying God and His will for her life—and the money just kind of seemed to come. That’s not always going to happen—you know, we can’t assume on that or presume on that—we can always trust God and say, “God, I’m trusting You to meet my needs as I obey You and step out.”
Dave: Here is what I would often hear, as a pastor, after talking about the 10-10-80 or any kind of plan; I often would hear: “If I did the 10-10, I can’t live on 80; there is no way. So I do the 2-0-98.” That was sort of what they would say; in a sense, “I’m not giving as much, because I just can’t. So I give a little bit to God.”
Dave: The average, I think, in church is about 2 percent—
CJ: Yes, it’s relatively small.
Dave: —and then, “I don’t really have enough to save right now; I’m going to do that someday. But man, our bills are high; and we’re living/that’s an impossible plan: 10-10-80.” What would you say to them?
CJ: Well, you know, in some ways, you have to kind of take them at their word; but I think I’ve been at this long enough to know that, if I was to sit down with that person and really kind of asked them to [open the books], if you will—the checkbook in other words—some people are not particularly anxious to do. But to really dig into their finances—we might find where there is discretionary spending that could be reined in; there is maybe some debt that could be retired that could free up margin—“What could be done to create margin within the confines of your current living situation and your current income?”
A lot of times, I find situations where there just isn’t any; so now, we have a different conversation about:
- “What can we do to create more income?”—have you, maybe, acquire another skill; take on another part-time job. “What can you do to get more income?”
- Or maybe, you should consider downsizing. Maybe, you should consider selling that brand-new car, that you got that big car payment on, and buying something that is more affordable and create margin that way.
Those are very hard conversations to have, but there are times when they are necessary.
As a coach/counselor, mostly in the context of my local church, I always go at this with a heart of empathy, of kindness, patience, and mercy—and realize, as Dave Ramsey likes to say, “I’ve done stupid with my money just like everybody else,”—he likes that word; I don’t use that word a lot, but he likes it. I have done stupid with my money; I’ve made mistakes. I wish I could do over some of the things, and that’s really my heart when I’m engaging with a younger person.
You know, it’s tough; and there is so much pressure to buy, consume, to have more. And to war against that in our hearts and in our minds, as Christians, can be very challenging, especially when you’re young, just starting out.
Ann: I think we all know that this topic can create a lot of conflict in our marriages.
CJ: Oh, yes.
Ann: It’s a hot topic. A lot of times, you have a spender and a saver.
Ann: Chris, I am the spender—[Laughter]—it’s not for me—and this has created tension in our marriage.
Dave: Did she just say that out loud?
CJ: Yes, she did.
Ann: I did say it; and I like to spend on other people.
Dave: She does.
Ann: So that does create tension in our marriage.
I think, even as a couple, having this conversation, when you’re not heated about it/when there is not already conflict on the table, but just to talk about: “How do we feel about our retirement?” Even if you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, it’s a great topic. It might be wise to have a counselor/a financial helper come in—a mentor—just to give you some tips/some advice if it’s hard to talk about it with yourselves.
I would add this, too—and this has nothing to do as the last step—but to really pray about it, because God talks a lot in the Bible about money, and it’s a topic that He addresses. I think it is a great topic to talk to Him about too.
CJ: So true.
Dave: I would just add—CJ, you would know better than anybody—but I know this as a pastor and even as a Christ-follower—if you want to know where your heart is, money is a great indicator. We often sort of want to put our head in the sand and pretend it isn’t; but we always say, “If you want to know what is important to me, look at my calendar/look at my money”; it does reveal. I can say anything I want about my walk with God—if it is not showing up on my calendar, that I am spending time there; or if I’m not able to show you my checkbook and go, “Look, I’m generous; I give because it’s an overflow of what God has done in my life,”—it’s a great gut check.
I know this program for people is going to be like, “Wow!”—like Ann just said—“We need to have a conversation in our marriage. It’s time to talk about this.” It may lead to conflict; it may be one of the best conversations ever—especially if you are younger or older—but man, if you made decisions now that were different than you’ve been making because you want to be a great steward as Chris said—that’s the term—it could be a legacy-changing moment in your marriage.
Shelby: As Christians, our mission doesn’t stop at retirement; and we should always be willing to actively pursue communicating the gospel and living out the Christian life beyond just the age of 65. Ultimately, all that we have—when it comes to our time; and our relationships; and of course, our money—it belongs to God; and the goal is to honor Him and thank Him in everything, and that includes our finances as we consider retirement.
CJ Cagle has written a book called Reimagine Retirement. We’ve got copies over in our FamilyLifeResource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to order your copy online, or you can order at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Many of us, when we examine our life, we don’t like our story; and honestly, when we look at our spouse, we don’t really like their story much either. That can make for a very, very turbulent marriage, which is one of the reasons why we have created the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® getaway. Right now, through Monday, April 4th, when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, you can scroll down, look at the different dates and geographical locations for the Weekend to Remember event, find one; and when you sign up, you will get 43 percent off the regular price for a Weekend to Remember event. This is a weekend you can enjoy: three days of romance and reconnection with your spouse.
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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking, again, with CJ Cagle about that scary word, as we think about retirement, called debt. I hope you can be with us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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