Volunteering – Retirement’s Secret Sauce

volunteering in retirement

Consider these four healthy retirement essentials: daily structure, status, purpose and a social network

When we leave our working career, we leave more than a paycheck. Retirement experts say we lose four other healthy retirement essentials: daily structure, status, purpose and a social network. Volunteering in retirement solves this problem!

When the concept of retirement first arose, retirement age and life expectancy were practically the same. A few lucky workers were able to enjoy a life of leisure, while the vast majority toiled until nearly the end of their lives.

The world has changed enormously since then, and that is good news for those entering retirement. Now the average retiree can expect to spend several decades in retirement, and sometimes considerably more.

These days it is not the amount of leisure time that is the problem – it is how those idle hours are spent. Studies show that the average 65 year old spends more than 40 hours a week watching television, hardly a stimulating or engaging activity. And this was in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended lives and generated even more screen time.

The Good Side of Work

Working full-time has some downsides, from the frustration of the daily commute to the expense of an office-suitable wardrobe. But employment also has some advantages, including the development of some positive habits.
During the average career, workers enjoy a daily structure to their lives, along with status, purpose and a strong social network. Whether you loved your job or hated it, you probably derived these benefits, and perhaps a few more along the way.

Entering retirement means giving up those things, and that can create health challenges. In place of a social network there is TV. In place of structure there is aimlessness. It is no wonder so many retirees find themselves bored and in search of purpose, but there is an answer to that quite common problem.

Why is Volunteering the Secret to a Happy Retirement?

Time to Make a Difference

Your dedication to the causes you believed in did not start in retirement. When you were working, you probably wrote a check or two, supporting the organizations you loved in the only way you had time for.
Now things have changed, and while you may have a bit less money you definitely have a lot more time. That means you can dedicate your newfound free time to make a real difference. Put another way, you have time to make a difference.
Volunteering is often an afterthought for working people, especially those with demanding jobs and vibrant careers. Those busy workers may wrap packages during the holidays or serve meals at the homeless shelter on special occasions, but for the most part their philanthropy is expressed in monetary terms.
There is nothing wrong with check writing of course, and many charities could not exist without the generosity of the workers who provide that largesse. But there is something even more special about direct involvement, and as a retiree you are in the perfect position to provide it.

How to Get Started Volunteering in Retirement

It is clear that volunteering in retirement has enormous benefits, not only for organizations but for retired workers as well. Volunteering for a worthy cause can improve your mental, physical and spiritual health, giving you a reason to get up in the morning and get out of the house. So how can you get started, and how can you begin to do well by doing good? Here are a few tips to get your journey to volunteerism off to the best possible start.

You can begin by taking a quick inventory, one that looks at your skills, at what you like to do and at the institutions and organizations you feel most passionately about. Here are some key things to think about as you start on the path to volunteering:

Once you know what you want to do and what skills you bring to the table, you can begin to match those abilities and interests with available volunteer opportunities. There are a number of websites that match volunteers with the organizations that need them, and that is always a good place to start. If you prefer the direct approach, you can always do your own research, getting in touch with the group by email, phone, or their website, bringing the same passion to volunteerism that you once brought to the office.

Get Insight from a Certified Retirement Coach

One of the building blocks of a successful transition to retirement that we focus on in our coaching practice is the Second Career. Volunteering in retirement is a big part of the conversation. We can help you get started; book a free call to find out more.