After dedicating decades to your career, creating a network of colleagues, and building a legacy of giving back to your community, facing retirement can be met with excitement, as well as unsettling change. Deciding how you want to give back to your community can offer new meaning as you step into this phase of life.

“My wife and I feel giving back is a responsibility, but we also feel giving back is a source of meaning and joy for us as well,” says Steve Witty, who retired as vice president of marketing at Principal in 2017. “As a society, if we can mobilize the coming huge cohort of retirees to give back, a tremendous amount of good work can be done.”

If you’re nearing this stage in your life, here are a few ideas to stay involved in your community, with advice from professionals who have recently retired:

1. Consider all your options

As you determine your new routine, think about how volunteering and giving fit in and what causes you are most passionate about.

“Make a plan for how you want to spend your time in retirement. Create a bucket list. Identify your passions and interests and see how you can leverage those in the community. Don’t be afraid to dip your toe in the water to try some new experiences," says Holly Dierks, who retired from John Deere after a 39-year career in human resources.

United Way provides a database of opportunities that allow you to commit seasonally, or on an ongoing basis, or even just once—perhaps with your family. Research your options, including serving on boards and committees through the Leadership Link portal.

2. Become an advocate.

During your career, you’ve gained expertise and experience in your industry. Now that you have more time, are there ways you can share that perspective with elected officials or community groups to solve some of the challenges you saw, such as a lack of support for kids or families struggling financially? Could you advance issues you’re passionate about? Check out United Way’s legislative priorities.

3. Share your skills.

If you’ve honed specific expertise, consider how you can continue to offer those skills to nonprofits. Many organizations need leaders with diverse strengths on their boards. Volunteer opportunities, such as United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, let you give back in specific skill-based ways.

“After retiring, I explored ways to leverage my work experience as a volunteer,” says Holly. “This led me to a program sponsored by Dress for Success, which provided support to women who were unemployed or underemployed and needed assistance with resume and job interview preparation. This was a nice way to leverage my skills learned in my human resources career.”

4. Provide a plan

Let your current charities know your plans, even if that means cutting back on your contribution or time. If you gave through your workplace in the past, United Way offers many other giving options, including online, billing, stocks/ securities, donor-advised funds, and endowments.

If you want to stay connected with an organization, make sure you share your personal email address. United Way, for example, will continue to send you regular updates on the impact of your giving and opportunities to get involved, which may spur new ideas for how you can spend your time.

No matter what, be open to change as you determine what your life will look like in the months ahead.

“In retirement, I have to redefine my value and how I will determine it. I judge myself now on how kind I am, how generous of my time and resources, how well I spent my hours. It’s an enormous shift in thinking for me," says Holley Bzdega, a neonatologist who retired two years ago.

Get involved

United Way of Central Iowa’s RSVP 55+ Director can help you think through your transition to retirement and how to stay involved in the community. For more information, contact Lynne Mellsen

Learn more about RSVP 55+

TAGS: Volunteer

Shirley Burgess

About The Author: Shirley Burgess

Shirley Burgess is the former Volunteer Engagement Officer for United Way of Central Iowa.