Changing retirement plans

When I graduated college a little over 3 years ago, I had approximately $36,000 in student loans. Since then, paying off those loans has been a major priority of mine. I live very simply, so most months I am able to put at least half of my paycheck towards loan repayment. Barring any emergencies, I ought to finally be debt free by September. That will be a welcome relief.

While I have been putting the majority of the money I do not need to live towards loan repayments, I have also put money aside in investment accounts. Because I hate debt, it is hard for me to put money into these accounts when I have debts to pay, but the fact that I am making a higher return on this money than I am paying on the loans and the fact that I have heard all my life that it is important to start saving as early as possible keeps me setting aside a portion of my income for these investments. Currently, I have approximately $10,000 in these various accounts, which is substantially more than the amount of debt I have left to pay off.

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with savings and investments. However, I have recently realized that my investment strategy is woefully lacking.Lately I’ve been reading through the Gospel of Luke, and I have been captivated by Chapter 16, and especially the parable of the unrighteous steward. Jesus’ words in Verse 9 seemed to be a direct rebuke to me:

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. (ESV)

I can put half of my paycheck towards my debts, I can put another 10% into investments, but how much do I spend on eternal investments? I have long had a rule that if anyone approaches me and asks for money, I must give them whatever cash I have on me (rarely more than $20). But I have not aggressively sought out opportunities to invest money in the people around me, as I have sought out ways to invest it in accounts.

I am making a change.

I’ll still invest towards an eventual retirement, but as a large portion of my paycheck is freed up when I repay my loans I will be looking for ways to invest money in the people around me. Not just time, not just things, but money. Many Christians avoid giving money to the poor, thinking that it is better to give food, clothing, or other things than the cold hard cash that can be spent on drugs, booze, and cigarettes. Yet this attitude runs contrary to the very words of Jesus. Speaking to the rich young ruler, Jesus commanded that money, and not things, be given to the poor.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” —Matthew 19:21 (NET)

I’m not going full-out Peter Waldo, at least at this point. Maybe God will call me to that, maybe He won’t. But I am going to stop behaving like the rich fool of Luke 12, putting faith in a store of treasures for a future I may never see. I’m going to invest my unrighteous mammon in friends, that they might receive me into eternal habitations.

That’s a far better retirement plan than the one I have been investing in.

Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? —Luke 16:11 (NASB)

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