Create a Meaningful Retirement
- Plan ahead for the transition into your retirement routine
- Networks of organizations specifically seeking retirees' skills
- Talk to your adviser about post-retirement goals, including mission-based or charitable work
As faculty prepare to carry their passions over into a meaningful retirement, we take a look at our hypothetical client, Robert. As Dean of the Anthropology Department at a southeastern university, Robert has done it all. From fieldwork and research methods to the preservation of endangered and minority languages, he has truly mastered his domain, but nothing can stand up to his next great phase in life: retirement. He is hesitant as he feels he is leaving behind the certainty of his daily routine and the passion for his work there.
Purpose and meaning do not fall away when one retires. Instead, they become a more integral part of a retiree’s daily activities if implemented with intention. Professors and those in academia especially have a hard time transitioning into retirement because they often feel they will lose out on the security of a built-in community and the feeling of being needed by their students, all as the prestige of tenure or emeritus status seem to fall to the wayside.
The good news is nothing is left behind; it merely transitions.
Research Your Options
There are many possibilities for building the next phase of your life. In this phase where time is abundant, consider using some of it to barter for services or build into your community through an extensive network of time banks. When time is a hot commodity for others, you have the luxury of being generous with it. Many nonprofit organizations have ample volunteer opportunities, but few people know that many of these organizations are open to creating an opportunity that suits their skill set. If you are willing to take on a committed schedule for a set timeframe, many groups will work with you to create a custom experience.
Many faculty and physicians are passionate about the outdoors, taking up seasonal engagements at National Park or working on sustainably organic farm. With over 400 national parks and over 1500 sustainable farming hosts in the United States alone, there are countless combinations to try out. These positions allow you to grow your extensive knowledge base while providing an outlet for the familiarity you may already have for your favorite locations. For travel-enthusiasts, there are myriad missions in the travel industry (hotels, airlines) that provide discounted stays and reduced rates, many of which can be transferred to friends and family! You may consider renting or purchasing an RV to find adventure in America’s backyard. Your post-retirement raison d’être will align with your passions for education and sharing knowledge.
Perhaps your passions lie in connecting people. Specializing in bridging the generational divide, Encore uses fellowships as retirees’ “encore” careers. Likewise, your innate love of teaching can be combined with nearly any other passion to bring this joy to the masses through skills-sharing sites, freelance work, or by teaching single or short courses at the local recreation center. One-off courses can even be taught through Airbnb Online Experiences, in any given subject. However, tech-driven avenues are not to be outshone by the more traditional posts, such as museum docent or library clerk. You are a wealth of knowledge; offering this knowledge to others at the rate and flexibility of your choosing is one way of easing into a life beyond the campus.
For artists and passion project-creators, consider sharing your art at an online gallery, posting homemade crafts and wares on Etsy, or signing up for a booth at your local farmers’ market. There is a relatively low barrier to entry to each of these options, many only requiring an online profile to be set up.
Robert: A Case Study
Thanks to guidance from his adviser and a few close friends and connections, Robert carries his passion for anthropology into his new routine. Five mornings a week Robert walks to his local historical society, dons a special lanyard identifying him as a volunteer for the Living History program, and begins transcribing and archiving the oral histories he has had the great pleasure of conducting.
His work entails setting up interviews with local legends and community members from different walks of life. Robert applies the lessons he previously taught in his research methods course to every one of these in-depth interviews, immersing himself in the worlds his subjects paint for him in words.
Each session becomes part of the archive and the storyteller becomes a member of the historical society’s “Living Library” for children to “check-out” and spend time with. Robert’s knowledge and expertise made this post-career project possible, and his community is all the richer for it.
Create a Meaningful Retirement
Some retirees have carried their passion for giving into their next phase of life, embodying the charitable notion of Acts of Random Kindness. The philanthropically inclined find worthy causes to support or become more involved with those they already support, helping to change lives for the better. By taking advantage of the tax benefits with tools like Charitable Distributions from IRAs, you can define your idea of impactful giving and support the nonprofit organizations whose missions you admire while making your dollars go even further. After working hard to safeguard you and your family’s comfort, paying it forward is both generous and humbling.
Whether volunteering in a public capacity like Robert, working on a project in the privacy of your home, or bettering the world through impactful giving using your passions to enrich your retirement years is one way to ensure your purpose in this world continues to be fulfilled. Talk to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ about your goals in retirement and define a plan specific to you.