You’ve done everything you can to set yourself up for a great retirement. You’ve invested, saved money; you’re eating healthy, and exercising. Well, here’s something to add to that list: volunteering.
As you begin to think about retirement, you’re probably looking forward to having a lot more time on your hands. But have you thought about what you’re going to do with it?
The experts suggest you might want to spend at least some of it volunteering.
According to the Stanford Center on Longevity’s Sightlines Project, “Volunteerism can be a powerful way to engage with others and heighten one’s sense of purpose.” Encouraging involvement is a great way to make the most of your retirement.
And that engagement and involvement has some very real health benefits.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Corporation for National and Community Service found states with higher volunteer rates are more likely to have lower mortality rates and less incidences of heart disease.
And a study completed by the University of Exeter found: “Volunteering was associated with: increased longevity; improved ability to carry out activities of daily living; better health coping mechanisms; adoption of healthy lifestyles; and improved quality of life, social support, interaction, and self-esteem. Reductions in depression, stress, hospitalization, pain and psychological distress in volunteers were also reported.”
So how can you get started?
How to start volunteering If you feel daunted by the prospect of getting started, a few simple questions can help make it easier.
1. “What causes are you passionate about?” Think about the issues that get you yelling at the TV or writing letters to the editor. Consider the nonprofit group you enjoy hearing about on Facebook or already support financially.
No answer is wrong because there are so many organizations doing good work in differing ways. You might care deeply about pets while someone else you know cares deeply about keeping pets off their lawn. There might be an animal shelter nearby that needs foster parents for puppies or a parks and recreation department program may need help installing pet waste receptacles around local neighborhoods.
2. “What do you enjoy doing?” What do you have fun doing or already do in your free time. Is there a hobby you’ve been hoping to enjoy after retirement or a type of activity you like?
If you enjoy fishing, you might sign up to take a “sibling” to the lake every week for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. If cycling feels like a blast, you consider signing up to assist with charity races or volunteering to pick up trash along a favorite route. Once you start considering the possibilities of having fun as a volunteer instead of feeling obligated to do a good deed, the choices are practically endless.
3. “What are you already great at?” Some retirees leave their jobs determined never to push a pencil again, while others know (or soon discover) they miss the thrill of wielding power over the mysteries of accounting or plumbing installation. Many organizations could use specific help from retired professionals who already have the skills and expertise to be helpful.
4. “How much time do you want to donate?” Many great causes need a lot of help and are managed by deeply devoted leaders. Make sure you set boundaries for the amount of time and energy you’re willing to devote to volunteering before you start looking for ways to help. It can be too easy to overextend yourself for the best of causes instead of enjoying the well-earned rest you spent years working for the chance to enjoy.
A great place to learn more about exactly where to go and whom to help is VolunteerMatch.org, which can match skills, preferences, and available times with places seeking volunteers, both in your area and via the Internet.
Many retirees find volunteering is a great way to keep involved in their communities and maintain connections to the world. It’s a purpose-driven way to stay social and it can be as important for your retirement toolbox as regular exercise and fiscal discipline.
Learn more and participate in our discussions on the wealth meet health community.
Things to Consider:
• Find a place to volunteer that relates to one of your passions.
• Volunteer regularly. Become a part of a community.
• Create a healthy mix of exercise, social engagement, and volunteering.