Find Ways to Contribute, Even in Retirement

One of the first challenges newly retired individuals face is the struggle with a diminished sense of self-worth. The end of a person’s professional career also brings an end to decades of work and personal investment. Between the lack of a structured schedule, the reduced responsibilities and the abrupt halt of your career, adjusting to the next phase of life often comes with a great deal of difficulty. Unfortunately, too many retired individuals wind up resigning themselves to a reduced value and role in society.

But there’s a flawed logic in thinking that retirement equates decreased value. Even when individuals say goodbye to their day job, they’re still fully functioning members of society and equipped with skills that can make meaningful contributions. In fact, the opened up free time of no longer having a job creates plenty of opportunity to make yourself useful in ways not possible when you were fully employed. With a slight change of perspective, you can find plenty of ways to remain active and involved well into your retirement.

Get a hobby job


Many new retirees miss the productivity and routine of having a job. For them, there’s great news: You can easily get another job in retirement. But instead of a career-track position, consider taking a position at a place that you will enjoy while still being challenged. Seek out jobs that align with your hobbies and/or passions, whether that’s woodworking or simply talking to others. You can even settle on a part-time job with flexible hours to retain the benefits of retired life.

Volunteer your time to a local organization

If a second job isn’t of any interest, consider volunteering at a local organization you are passionate about. Historical societies, museums, non-profits and other organizations are always in need of helping hands across a wide range of tasks. If you’re committed to this type of work, your societal value in retirement could actually exceed what you experienced as a career worker.

Take, for example, Betty Ruth Kemp of Norman, Oklahoma. As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, which refers to itself as “unconquered and unconquerable,” Kemp spent her life protecting tribal archives for the Chickasaw while serving for a variety of historical organizations. As a tribute to her service, Kemp was voted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Such achievements aren’t unthinkable for other retirees. If you find an organization you are passionate about, there’s nothing that says you can’t become an integral contributor in your golden years.

Continue learning

It’s becoming increasingly common for retirees to go back to school. Whether it’s taking classes at the university level or simply learning new skills and crafts through community colleges or local community centers, learning keeps your brain sharp and busy. Many people find significant personal satisfaction in undertaking education later in life.

It’s natural for big life transitions to come with some struggle. The important thing to remember in the days and weeks following your retirement is that your days can still be filled with meaning and purpose, even if that purpose is changed. Remember that the change is an opportunity to put your efforts toward something you are passionate about. That’s one of the best parts of the retirement years, and it will keep you highly valued in the eyes of others.

About the author: Danielle blogs on behalf of Sears and other brands she uses. In her spare time, she formally studies marketing at The Kelley School of Business and informally studies the Chickasaw Nation and other Native American tribes.

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Taking Time to Volunteer

Volunteering is in my blood. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or something my parents instilled in me growing up. I only know that I have volunteered in one way or another from candy striping at a hospital when I was a teenager to making preemie layettes as a grandma.

I have been thinking a lot about taking my volunteering to the classroom. I volunteered when my kids were in school, so volunteering in the classroom is nothing new. I have noticed that teachers don’t get as much help in the classroom as they did when my daughters were in school. I figured I could easily volunteer two hours a week. After all, I waste more than that on spinning my wheels. I just needed to find someone who needed my help.

I thought about volunteering in Patrick’s first grade classroom but I learned from substitute teaching in my daughters’ classes that working in the same classroom as your child has some major drawbacks. Quite often, it is best if you work or volunteer in another class. With that in mind, I approached my grandson’s ex-kindergarten teacher. She was surprised that I offered to volunteer for her. She mentioned that Patrick wasn’t in her class this year. I smiled and said, “I know.”

I told her that she did such a great job with Patrick in kindergarten that volunteering for her this year was my way of giving back. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t need to say anything.

I have been volunteering for three weeks now. I love it! I get to work with the kids in-group activities and help the teacher and her aide. I’ve made signs, put projects in cubbies, made copies, and played games. I also get to watch and learn as the teacher teaches.

So far, I have learned that the tools the schools have today have improved from what they had when my daughters were young. I have also learned that the kids are more sophisticated now than they were in kindergarten a long time ago. They know more. With that said, the kids are still kids. Some are more social than others are. That’s a given.

I look forward to my few hours in a kindergarten classroom. Probably the best gift is the smiles and waves the kids give me as I walk past them on the way to collect my grandson at the end of the school day. I also like their recognition when I walk into the class on my volunteer day. I wouldn’t miss their smiles for the world. This is going to be a great year!

Cassie Armstrong