Philanthropy in Retirement

~ By Darren Markley ~

Philanthropy in retirement can be a rewarding experience that allows retirees to put their money, skills, talents, interests and time toward the greater good of their community and the world as a whole. For many, identity is held tightly to work, which can make the reality of retirement intimidating with the substantial amount of free time it brings. Retirees are increasingly rejecting the notion that retirement means they no longer have value to add to the workforce or community. Many see retirement as a way to work a part-time flexible schedule and want to continue to use their valuable skills. The trend to stay active and engaged may continue as Baby Boomers see their retirement beyond just playing tennis, golf and bridge, and focus on contributing to the communities they live in or they served while in the workforce. Pre-retirement, it is important to meet with a financial advisor to create philanthropic retirement goals that may be revisited once actual retirement is in effect.

Upon retirement, it is important to make time for soul-searching to discover interests, passions and skills that may be of use to others. Using this time to research and self-assess will make finding the right cause and organization less challenging. Outside of charitable donations, revisiting a personal passion can be a guide for finding the proper role within an organization. For example, a retired small business owner who dabbled in photography decided to volunteer to photograph events for a local newspaper and for local charity events. This was a way to hone a passion and turn it into something that was useful for the community. Certain skills may be in high demand in the philanthropic environment due to the scarcity of resources. Some commit their expertise and talent to mentor, train and coach the staff in nonprofit organizations.

Once a cause and organization are identified, it is important to decide how much of your time can be committed and in what capacity – whether it is volunteering, fundraising or as a member of the board. Being over-committed during retirement can impact personal enjoyment, such as spending time with family or traveling. It is important to be honest with an organization about time constraints to level-set expectations. If a board seat is the ultimate goal, it may be worthwhile to begin as a volunteer to get to know the organization and to ensure board obligations don’t conflict with planned personal activities. Boards typically look for diverse members with specific experience, such as a marketing or investment background and who can either give or raise money. Some boards require a monetary gift to join that can either be raised through a fundraiser or given by the member – time is often a factor in this decision.

There are many simple, no-cost ways to become involved in a community and there are various charities that are religious, cause- or community-focused. Mentoring youth or creating materials that can be sold for charity are always options. Schools are consistently in need of volunteers to tutor at local campuses or after-school facilities. With the proper certification, becoming a substitute teacher or teacher’s assistant may draw a small wage and also help struggling schools.

Whatever philanthropic goals are made as a part of retirement, it is important for retirees to find a balance between money and time in addition to a role that suits their skills and talents. Consulting a financial advisor can ensure a balanced and fulfilling giving-experience during this important life stage.

Darren Markley is Senior Vice President, Managing Director for The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank in Denver.
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