Bruce Bruinsma wants to change how Americans think of retirement, not so much about their financial needs but more about what they plan to do once they are no longer working.
The 77-year-old CEO of Envoy Financial, a Colorado Springs-based company that manages $300 million in retirement savings for 8,000 employees of churches and religious organizations, wants retirees to think about more than just golf, tennis and taking it easy. He hopes to persuade retirees to become more active volunteers in their churches, nonprofit groups and other causes.
“When I ask more people about retirement, the first and only thing they think about is money,” Bruinsma said.
“I spent 30 years helping people with saving enough for retirement, but no matter how many books I write, speeches I make or interviews I give, I won’t be able to create a tipping point for people to find meaning and purpose in service to others in the last 30 years of their lives. It needs to be a movement.”
Bruinsma said most retirees he has talked with don’t have a plan for what they want to do after they leave the workforce, which in some cases could last 30 years or more. About 10,000 Americans a day are turning 65 and by next year, he said, the number of Americans over 60 years old will exceed the number under 20 years old and represent a huge potential source of volunteers for churches and nonprofits.
“People are quite clear on what they have freedom from (work), but not on what they have freedom to do,” Bruinsma said. “I was on a plane a year ago and a man in the next seat told me he had sold his business six months ago. I asked him what he had been doing since then and he said, ‘truthfully, nothing.’ I asked him how that was working out for him. He said ‘not well and I’m about at the end of nothing.’”
That conversation spurred Bruinsma to start thinking about how retirees spend their time, often trying to “jam as much leisure as they can into it.” He eventually came up with a vision for a “retirement reformation” and brought together 16 authors and “thought leaders” on retirement for a roundtable discussion about how to persuade millions of retiring Americans to become active volunteers.
“Our culture says retirement is a timeframe that is downhill both physically and mentally that ends in death. People feel undervalued, unappreciated and very much at loose ends,” Bruinsma said.
“When you realize that retirement can be 30 years for many people, that is about the same amount of time as your prime working years between 20 and 50. Think about all the changes you went through in that period. The same is true of retirement.”
Bruinsma divides retirement into three stages: an active period where most retirees enjoy good health, a mentor stage when retirees share their wisdom and experience with others and period of sharing and reflecting when retirees share what they have learned more widely. Those stages can help bring meaning and purpose to the lives of retirees by focusing them outward on others instead of inward on their needs.
“Churches are missing an opportunity. There will be 32 million church members over 65 in the next 10 years,” Bruinsma said.
“Their message now to older members is to not stop giving and don’t be grumpy. The church needs to help form intergenerational relationships to take advantage of this opportunity to share wisdom and energy.”
Bruinsma believes that each stage of life prepares someone for the next stage and in retirement they can continue growing spiritually and maturing emotionally even as they stop working.
“By unleashing 32 million people into service to impact the lives of others and make a difference, the net result will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control,” he said.
“People are quite clear on what they have freedom from (work), but not on what they have freedom to do.” Bruce Bruinsma, CEO of Envoy Financial