The Gift That Keeps On Giving - Retirement Net by Dee Cascio, LPC, LMFT, ACC

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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Volunteering helps you create a legacy for the future during your retirement.

Volunteers, who make a difference every day, are the unsung heroes of our communities and nation. Volunteers have rebuilt neighborhoods, fed the poor, won elections, and clothed the homeless. If you have helped a child learn how to read, wrapped gifts for less fortunate families at your local church during the Christmas season, worked at a soup kitchen, collected winter coats for the homeless, or given of your time and talents in other ways, you have taken advantage of opportunities to give back.

How Will You Answer The Call To Service?

When you work long hours, week after week, year after year, there is often little energy left to volunteer your skills and time to your favorite cause or charity. Sometimes it is easier to donate money instead of time. Give in ways that work best for you based on your resources and availability, knowing that these may change in different seasons of your life.

While I was working hard building my therapy practice, the only recurring volunteering I did was donating blood every couple of months. I did some casual volunteering here and there, but it wasn’t consistent. I raised money, participated in walks for various causes and supported my friends and neighbors in their charitable pursuits. That has changed in the last several years as a result of making a concerted effort to give back. I have accomplished this by joining a local Rotary group, where there are numerous opportunities to volunteer my time, skills, and energy throughout the year.

Many pre-retirees and those recently retired say that they’ve “been there, done that and now I just want to rest.” That’s great! Go ahead and rest for a while. However, many of you will eventually catch up on your rest, organize your house and meet up with friends before you begin to wonder—“What else is there for me to do with these 20 to 30 bonus years?” Retirement, whether it’s part-time or full-time, provides ample time to give of your talents and skills to those less fortunate.

The Boomerang Effect of Volunteering

No matter what stage of life you are in, volunteering has benefits that have been tested and researched by many. Researchers at the University of Michigan studied a group of adult men and found that those who volunteered their time, skills and money were happier, more positive about their life and outlived their peers who weren’t so altruistic. As we give of ourselves, we often receive more than we give. We find ourselves enjoying a more positive attitude along with greater feelings of satisfaction. Many have reported re-experiencing the same positive feelings by just remembering their volunteer experiences.

Sonya Lyubomirsky, researcher, Professor of Psychology at the University of California--Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness has found that helping others may build more appreciation for our communities and neighborhoods. Service to others also creates feelings of appreciation and gratitude for what we have when we see those less fortunate than we are. Modeling the art of volunteering for our peers, our adult children, and our grandchildren is an added bonus.

Many who have retired and begun volunteering have found that this experience provides some of the same benefits that work provided. People say that they derive meaning and purpose from activities that help others live better lives. Volunteering gives structure to the day and gives people an opportunity to connect socially with other volunteers as well as those that they are helping. Altruism can be very gratifying and helps make the world a better place.

To find a volunteer organization that is a good fit for you, begin by assessing your skills, strengths, interests and passions. Decide if you want to volunteer for a large or small organization, how involved you want to be, and how long you want to commit. Volunteering can also help you discover a new career path during your retirement transition. Many have turned volunteering into a paying job or created a nonprofit business from their volunteer experience.

Where Do You Want To Put Your Energy?

When choosing where, when and how you want to volunteer, consider the following:

  • Do what you feel passionate about
  • Do what gives meaning to your life
  • Do what can become part of your legacy
  • Explore your current skills and think about learning new skills if necessary
  • Find one volunteer activity that you can do with your life partner to make your relationship more interesting as well as create more social contacts
  • Be open to a volunteer activity becoming a paying position if the opportunity arises
  • If you have physical limitations, consider volunteering online by exploring

Explore the following websites to give you more ideas:

Plan now to leave a legacy. Volunteer and give the gift that keeps on giving. And remember, giving of yourself to those in need will help you make the best of your life for the rest of your life.

Dee Cascio is a Licensed Professional Counslor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, helping individuals and couples live healthier lives for 22 years. She is also a Certified Life and Retirement Coach, and enjoys helping people create the life they desire in both the challenges of daily living and in the exciting transition to the retirement of their dreams. Her website is

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