Use a lifetime of skills to give back during retirement

The professional skills you’ve honed during your career could be incredibly valuable, even when you’re retired. Rarely has there been a greater need for talented and dedicated people with a wide variety of abilities to pitch in and help their communities tackle some significant problems. And giving back is also good for you. Many studies link volunteer work to increased longevity and improved mental health for retirees.

Think about these three questions to help decide what kind of volunteer position could be right for you.

1. What skills do you have?

Charitable organisations 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.

However, these organisations can also benefit from skills that you might take for granted. With a little training you could become a tutor, helping students of all ages master basic reading or maths. If you’re good at working with kids, you could help at an after school club. If adults are more your cup of tea, you could help your charity of choice organise groups of volunteers during large events like fundraisers.

A word of caution to retirees who ended their careers in a powerful position at a firm: not being the boss can take some getting used to. Remember that volunteer organisations have developed best practises 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 should you commit?

One benefit of taking on a voluntary position is that it can help fill some of the hours that you used to spend working. Many retirees 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 your heart?

Your retirement was already going to be very different to your parents’ or grandparents’. Today’s retirees are healthier, more active, and living longer than previous generations. Thanks to technology and new media, you’re also more connected to the wider world.

But you’re also retiring at a truly historical moment. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and worsening inequality 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 organisations, non-profits, schools, churches, and civic groups.

Again, you may feel compelled to start doing as much as you can right away. But 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.