Whether you’re about to wrap up a successful engineering career or prepping one last entrepreneurial sale, you’ve developed a wide variety of professional skills over the decades. Many seniors resist retirement because they don’t realize just how valuable and useful those skills still are once they do retire.
That’s become even more true during the Covid-19 pandemic. Community care and charitable organizations all over the country have been displaced as they try to move more of their operations online. Folks who depend on the goodwill of others have lost some of their most vital connections to the wider world. Rarely has there been a greater need for talented and dedicated people to pitch in and help their communities tackle some significant problems. And retirees who do give back get something in return: more and more studies continue to find links between volunteer work, increased longevity, and improved mental health for seniors.
Discuss these three questions with your spouse to help decide what kind of volunteer position could be right for you.
1. What are my top skills?
Charitable organizations have many of the same needs that for-profit companies do, including office management, event planning, accounting, data entry, graphic design, IT, and team building. Many of the retired engineers we work with at Keen Wealth have also developed mentoring relationships with younger engineers to pass on their experience to the next generation.
But don’t overlook skills that you might take for granted either. With a little training you could become a tutor, helping students of all ages master basic reading or mathematics. If you’re good at wrangling kids, you could help at an after-school program. If you’re good at wrangling adults, you could help your charity of choice organize groups of volunteers during large events like fund drives.
One word of caution to seniors who ended their careers in the c-suite: not being the boss can take some getting used to. Remember that volunteer organizations have developed best practices that they know will help them achieve their objectives while also keeping everyone safe. Knowing when to tap into your executive experience and when to dig in with the rest of the volunteers is just another part of retirement you’ll need to adjust to.
2. How much time do I want to commit?
One benefit of taking on a volunteer position is that it can help fill some of the hours that you used to spend working. Many seniors find that having places to be and things to do adds more structure and meaning to their days, especially when they’re giving back.
Designing the perfect retirement schedule is often a process of trial and error, especially if you’re married. As you and your spouse adjust to spending more time together, you’ll also explore ways to spend time apart. If you’re enthusiastic about volunteering, you might be tempted to jump in with both feet. But early in your retirement, building a little flexibility into your schedule might be best. After all, volunteer work is still work. In some cases, volunteering might even be more physically and emotionally demanding than your old job. Make sure you’re still leaving yourself time to unwind, bond with your spouse, play some golf, and progress through that list of great books you want to read.
3. What causes are closest to my heart?
Your retirement was already going to be very different than your parents’ or grandparents’. Today’s retirees are healthier, more active, and living longer than previous generations of seniors. Thanks to technology and new media, you’re also more connected to the wider world.
But you’re also retiring at a truly historic moment. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic struggles, and social unrest in American cities has created a wide gulf of need that will take years to fill. Your abilities and your passion have never been more valuable to charitable organizations, non-profits, schools, churches, and civic groups.
Again, you may feel compelled to start doing as much as you can, right away. But new retirees sometimes let their best intentions get the best of them. Seniors who reach for their checkbooks every time they see someone in need risk breaking their nest eggs. Likewise, spreading yourself too thin as soon as you retire could have a negative impact on your weekly schedule and even turn you off volunteering all together.
Take some time to find the best match between your skills, your experience, your interests, and what your community needs. The better that fit is, the more rewarding your volunteer work – and your retirement – will be.
If you’re wondering how to integrate a volunteer position into your retirement, my book, Keen on Retirement – Engineering the Second Half of Your Life has some exercises that will help you and your spouse design your ideal retirement. Once you’ve sketched that blueprint call up Keen Wealth and let’s discuss how we can help.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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