So today will be a bit of a mixed bag of thoughts. Is volunteering passé? What is retirement like? Retirement is what you want it to be! Time is fleeting so don’t waste it, live life. So let’s get started.
1) My wife and I volunteered at the local winter carnival. It has been 23 years of volunteering at this event. It is great to giveback to the community but I am always struck by how few people actually volunteer. A Stats Canada survey from 2106 and a Conference Board of Canada Report from 2018, suggested that about 44% of the population volunteered in 2013, with these numbers skewed somewhat by the students (15+ years old) who are required to have volunteer hours to graduate in many provinces. This 15 to 35 age group volunteer at a rate of 66%. Required volunteering is not a bad thing in fact I think it is important to teach our young people that giving back and social responsibility are important. But what about the rest of us, sure we are busy and sure we donate money, but what about donating our time?
Other findings in the reports include fewer older people (65 years +) volunteer, but those that do put in more hours than their younger counterparts. The percentage of volunteerism goes down for the 35-44 age group, not surprising as family and work responsibilities are at their highest as people growth their young families. There is an economic benefit of volunteering estimated to be $55.9B to the Canadian GDP in 2017, so not only are we having a positive impact on people lives and our community but there is also a positive impact on the overall economy. What about the good will and impact we can have volunteering around the world, spreading goodwill and improving the lives of people in many cases less fortunate. What a concept doing a good thing, seeing the world and giving back. that is a trifecta! So those of you struggling with purpose in retirement should consider adding volunteering to your schedule. You may feed your soul and if you are lucky you may be able to pick up some new skills. Finally as we have said many times, having purpose and helping people can lead to improved health and can be rewarding.
Finally, for our American readers volunteer stats from the US Bureau of Labor suggests only around 25% of the population in 2014, did some level of volunteer work with this number trending down in almost all categories. Maybe giving back a little may make America great again?
2) Meeting former work collogues and acquaintances since we retired, we get the obvious question “How is retirement?” Our answer – “Great”. Generally this is followed up with “How do you stay busy?”. Many times this is followed by a story about a friend, family member, or friend of a friend, who is having a terrible time in retirement. So many stories are about the retiree not having a plan when they retired and now feel lost. Another version of the story is the retiree tried, a new business, job, hobby, something new and for whatever reason it did not work out. The retiree then becomes lost, and unable to move forward. After all for most of us we were comfortable and confident at work, we generally did not have to get out of our comfort zone. Retirement should be the opposite it should be getting out of your comfort zone, experimenting and yeah even failing. Who cares if a hobby does not work out, try again. Maybe you planned to be a wood worker in retirement but after your first job, you realize yeah maybe not. Move on maybe you are a painter! Wanted to start a home renovation company when you retire but you find after your first reno “masterpiece” that it is a lot of work. Maybe you like the work but you need help or you need to adjust your schedule. It is ok that your experiment did not work out completely as planned. Adjust adapt or just move on to something new.
Retirement is not easy! Having Financial Independence is not enough. Each of us is very different, it is not a one size fits all for a retirement, the mix of exercise, work, volunteerism, travel, etc, will differ for all of us and indeed it may differ for your partner or spouse. The key to real happiness in VLR to find a mix that works for you and your partner/spouse. Many times one spouse may adapt to the retirement better than their partner, and nothing can add stress to a relationship more than one partner thriving and the other is spinning their “wheels”. Start talking early, hopefully before you retire and get on the same page, much like your working careers you will have your time, they will have their time and you will have couple time.Retirement can be wonderful but it requires work.
3) Sadly, we were reminded over the last few months that health is our most precious gift and time is fleeting. Of late we have heard about many friends and acquaintances that are going through tough times with loved ones or personally suffering with various diseases or aliments. They anxiously tick off bucket list items as quickly as possible, with terminal diagnosis forcing them to live life. Very sobering! Not that we needed a reminder but it does reinforces that time is precious so make sure that you live life to the fullest every day.
So get out and do something that makes you smile or even better, do something to make someone else smile, it is good for the soul.