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Don’t Take It With You

Retirement is traditionally viewed as the ultimate “me-time,” a well-earned opportunity to step away from a lifetime of work and finally devote serious time to passions new and old. Travel, golf, fishing, reading, gardening, visits with the grandkids. The list of pleasures is endless and intoxicating.

But, as with any life phase, it’s important to maintain a balance. Just as you didn’t want to become consumed by career at the expense of your family, in retirement you don’t want to become disengaged from the wider world. It’s not healthy, for you – or the community.

Every year, roughly 350,000 Baby Boomers head into retirement, taking with them not just a gold watch, but a lifetime’s worth of experience, wisdom, skill and financial resources. More than 60% of retiree households have a net worth in the six-figure range. Ten percent have seven figures of wealth. Those savings were amassed over successful careers as teachers, managers, entrepreneurs and craftsmen.

This collective wealth and experience is awe inspiring. Think of the social problems – local and national – that could be solved, and the challenges overcome if we could harness more of this tremendous resource.

In my work as a Financial Advisor, I’m meeting an increasing number of people who, for various reasons, are uncomfortable leaving all their money to their heirs. One option, of course, is to make a large bequest to a favorite charity in your will. But here’s another idea – one that can turbo-charge your giving. Consider putting your talent where your money goes. Make a significant annual contribution to a charity or non-profit while you actually work with that group to further its mission. This work could be as a volunteer, advisor or board member.

Trust me. Your money will be greatly appreciated, but your elbow-grease will be treasured. Think about it. Yes, it’s a challenge to raise $1,000 for an afternoon tutoring program. But it’s probably a lot harder to find someone with the time, talent and passion to actually tutor a child at 3pm every Wednesday. And what non-profit couldn’t benefit from the accounting, management, IT or other skills you honed over a lifetime?

Of course, your time and talent will be equally welcome even if you don’t have the resources to make a financial contribution. The people who start and operate non-profits do so out of passion. They come from the heart, and they will love you for sharing their vision and supporting it with your time, effort and spirit.

And they won’t be the only beneficiaries. There is significant research, including that which my partner, Wes Moss highlights in his book “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think”, indicating that retirees who stay engaged with the world – family, friends, community – live longer, healthier, happier lives.

The decision on where to employ your resources is very personal. You want to support causes that resonate with you personally, and groups that are effective. As with any investment decision, you’ll want to do your homework. If you live in my hometown of Atlanta, and are looking to make a significant philanthropic gift, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta (CFGA) is a wonderful resource. The CFGA works with individuals and financial planners to match donors with charities and non-profits.

As an entrepreneur, I see a business opportunity here. Imagine a website that did on the national level what the CFGA does here in Atlanta. You’d enter your skills, interests and availability, and be presented with a list of local, national or international non-profits that need your help. The site could even help identify your passions, and, after your placement, provide an accountability function to ensure both sides are happy with the arrangement.

But you don’t need to wait for someone to jump on my idea. Just get out there and follow your passion. You can’t take it with you. So, why not start paying it forward in retirement?


 

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