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Contributions to others in retirement can renew meaning and purpose in life

by Emily Koelsch | Contributor
June, 29th 2020

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Many people look forward to retirement only to find themselves feeling a little lost and devoid of purpose once their career is over. In the current environment of a pandemic and an increased focus on racial disparities, these feelings can be even more acute as for many there’s even a stronger desire to help neighbors and communities through these difficult times. Thankfully, with the right planning and actions, you can take advantage of the great opportunities for contribution and purpose that your retirement years offer.

Is living a meaningful life during retirement important?

It’s not unusual for retirees to be surprised by how much they miss the structure, community and purpose that came with their careers. Experts share that many retirees feel anxious, sad or lonely due to a lack of social interaction, a lack of purpose, a feeling of no longer being needed and feelings of disconnection. It can be particularly hard to reconcile these feelings with the expectations of retirement and after looking forward to retirement for many years.

The encouraging news is that with the right planning you can avoid many of these issues and find yourself living a fulfilling and purposeful life throughout retirement. To help achieve this goal, it’s a good idea to look at retirement not as a long vacation but instead as an opportunity to pursue things that you value and are interested in but simply haven’t had the time to previously invest in.

In talking about the natural ups and downs that come with life, author Emily Esfahani Smith asserts that “one thing we can do to get out of that slump is to figure out a way to serve and contribute to others.” She goes on to note that, “even if we may not be remembered by history, we can still contribute to this world in a positive way.”

Finding a way to contribute to your community or to those around you can help to provide an immediate sense of purpose. Further, when your life is focused on some purpose that is greater than yourself, happiness and fulfillment will naturally come. With those realizations in mind, planning for the personal side of retirement can be just as important as planning for the financial side.

How do you find purpose or ways to contribute during retirement?

Once you’ve realized that it’s important to live a meaningful life during retirement, it can still be hard to know where to start. Some experts advise that reading can be a great way to get started. Just as you probably read to select a career and then to prepare for that career, you can also turn to books to help guide you through the next phase of your life. Some books that can help your find purpose during retirement include:

  • “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl
  • “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama
  • “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle
  • “You Learn by Living” by Eleanor Roosevelt

In addition to reading, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions about what you want to get out of your retirement years, and then to take some time reflecting upon and answering those questions. A few questions to get you started and to guide you are:

  • What social issues are most important to you?
  • What brings you the most joy in life?
  • How have you already made the world a better place?
  • What could you do in the future to make the world a better place?
  • What skills do you have that can benefit others?

Taking some time to read and reflect about how you want to contribute during your retirement years can help to ensure that this season of your life is focused and fulfilling. Your retirement years offer a great opportunity to take on something new or to devote new energy to a longtime passion.

Recognizing what matters the most to you can help you to take advantage of this opportunity and to ensure that you don’t feel lost or without purpose during retirement.

What ways can I contribute?

Once you’ve determined what is most important to you and what you want to focus on during retirement, it’s just a matter of taking action and finding specific ways to contribute. There are a variety of ways to do this.

Volunteer: Many retirees find a cause that they are interested in and volunteer their time, energy and skills to help further it. Whether it’s tutoring at a local school, serving at a soup kitchen or working at an animal shelter, volunteering can be a great way to find purpose during retirement. For many, this is also a good way to connect with others and to build a new community of likeminded individuals.

Work part-time: Some retirees find that working part-time can be a good way to contribute to a particular field or cause. While this isn’t the right fit for everyone, this can be a good way to put skills, energy and passion to good use and to help with something that you’re passionate about.

Be a mentor: Mentoring young people, whether students or young professionals in your field, can be a great way to share your talents and to help give back. Plus, this can provide a helpful reminder that you still have many things to share and that others can benefit from your expertise. The social interactions that this offers can also be rewarding and lead to feeling more connected during retirement.

Get involved in community organizations: Whether it’s your church, neighborhood center, local school or local foodbank, getting involved in a community organization that you care about can be a great way to find purpose during retirement. There are many ways to contribute, whether it’s participating in events, volunteering your time or leading new initiatives. Whatever your skill sets, you’ll likely find something that you can help with and contribute to. Committing to a local organization and getting involved with it is a great way to make your community a better place and to find purpose during retirement.

Many people spend lots of time planning for their retirement financially, but spend much less time thinking about how they will find purpose and continue to live a fulfilling life throughout their retirement years. This can lead to retirees feeling lost, disconnected and without purpose after retirement. To avoid these issues, spending some time thinking about your interests and skills and finding ways to apply those to help your community.

Doing so can lead to a more meaningful, happy, and healthy retirement.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling 888-864-2542 today.

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