If you don’t have anything to occupy your time in retirement, volunteer

Retiring is a huge change for people, not just financially but emotionally. For decades, you have gotten up every morning with somewhere to go. You met and worked with people who have some of the same interests as you, often spending more time with work colleagues than your own family. Then it ends abruptly.

Lots of people feel that their work is their identity and they don’t want to retire. “Sure, what am I going to do?” is a question plenty of financial planners get from clients nearing retirement age. If you are thinking of retirement but aren’t sure how you will fill your time, how about volunteering? There are loads of organisations that rely on volunteers to function. Find an organisation in an area that you are interested in and see how you can help.

As well as the personal satisfaction of helping others that need help, there are lots of benefits for you.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – You are staying active and have a reason to get up each morning. This will stop you getting into bad habits like staying up too late and sleeping in in the mornings. Alcoholism in retirement is a real issue. People are bored and have nothing to do. This can lead to depression, which exacerbates the drinking.

Loss of Identity or Purpose – We spend our working lifetime becoming experts in what we do. Some become leaders of industry, others the “go to” person to solve a problem. Relied on and respected for the work that we do. Then you retire and no one goes to you anymore. You have lost your identity. You are just and old person now. It is time to reinvent yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to retrain, you can transfer your skills to something else. You can still be the person that is relied on, but in a different way, helping others.

Loneliness and Social isolation – Many people get their social interaction from work, especially single/ widowed people who don’t have a spouse at home. Retiring can bring an end to that interaction. Going to the shops can be the only interaction that they get and that is only fleeting. There are stories of GP’s seeing patients who have nothing wrong with them, they are just lonely and want to talk to someone. That social interaction you had has to be replaced and it needs to be done by finding something else to do.

Maintaining social connections- I remember when my dad retired, he was sad there were people he’d known for 40 years that he knew he would never seen again. Their common link was they were my dad’s customers. Without the common link of the business, they wouldn’t see each other again. While those work colleagues may be gone, you can create new ones, ones with a common link.

If you are preparing for retirement and worry about how you’ll fill your day in a productive, unstressful manner, think of areas that you would be interested in helping in and contact an organisation to see if you can help.

Steven Barrett

19 June 2023