A new book published this month called “65 Things To Do When You Retire,” features short essays by 65 contributors on how to make the most of the rest of your life, after you finish your primary career.
I am pleased to announce that my essay, Retire and ReServe: Because You Should, was included, right there alongside those by Jimmy Carter, Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem! Although much of the content is familiar, the essay focuses on reasons why continuing professionals should engage in service – after they finish their primary careers. Here are some excerpts.
Given the large numbers, relative wealth, high educational levels and health status of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 compared to those born before or after, it is no exaggeration to say that the future of our country may well depend on what this group decides to do with the twenty years after they “retire” from their primary careers.
Many of us look forward to using our retirement for travel, recreation and the leisurely pursuit of new and old interests. But 20 years is a long time for so many people with so many resources to offer to be so disengaged from the affairs of the larger society. Fortunately, there are new ways for older Americans to remain engaged while contributing a lifetime of experience. Organizations such as ReServe help older adults do just that.
Based in New York City, ReServe was created in 2005 to provide meaningful opportunities for older adults to serve their communities by matching them with part-time service-work assignments in the nonprofit and government sectors work, opportunities that offer flexibility, social purpose and a modest stipend.
One such ReServist is Suwon. She broke race and gender glass ceilings during a 25-year career at Citigroup. By the time she retired in 2006, she was an area investment director and vice president overseeing 28 Citibank financial centers and $4 billion in assets. In 2009 she joined ReServe and was placed in ReServe’s READY program, which trained her to help low-income high school juniors and seniors complete their college and financial applications. Suwon has gone above and beyond often working with the students and their families after hours. “I left corporate America 5 years ago with a commitment to do good before I leave this earth,” she says. “Helping the students through the [college application] process is a highlight every day.” She is in her third year as a READY college coach.
For Sayyid, being a ReServist makes use of his skills to help others. He serves at Queens Library’s Job Information Center, helping job seekers create compelling resumes, conduct effective job searches online, and giving them tips on interviewing. Sayyid joined ReServe in 2011 after retiring from his primary career in teaching, which included four years at Tulane University. Sayyid holds a MBA and Ph.D. in history and speaks 5 languages. The Library serves a diverse community and his language skills are an asset. “Some of the clients who stop by aren’t sure how to navigate the job market, especially if they are newly-arrived immigrants,” he says. “I try to inspire confidence in them. I tell them not to come looking for a job, but instead look for a career. I want to ‘adopt’ all of my clients because I want to be in touch with them and see where they are.”
Suwon and Sayyid are among hundreds of ReServists who are using their life and career experience to remain healthy and engaged and to make a large impact in their communities.
ReServe is predicated on idea that service is not only life enhancing but also the right thing to do. We are fulfilling our ethical responsibility. We serve because we should. Although ReServe’s service work model is not for everyone; ReServe does appeal to a growing number of older adults because it provides ample opportunities for them to use their life experiences to do the right thing. The stipend is important because it symbolizes their status as a worker in the workplace. For many it helps pay the bills. But it is just as important for the employer who is not going to pay a ReServist unless they really need them! “Re-Serving” works because it responds to the practical needs and interests of older adults and the nonprofit sector. It also works because it assumes that older people can and should use their skills and experience to help others.
Restoring the “should” in the lives of boomers is the key to their fulfillment and to the future of American society. Whether they choose to “re-serve” or participate in another form of civic engagement, people who have finished their primary careers should serve their communities: not only because it makes them feel good and keeps their minds active, but also because it’s the right thing to do. Everyone has a moral obligation to serve – in some fashion – at any age. We need to activate that moral impulse in those who have retired, and make them feel compelled to serve, to add value to their community because they should.
If you want to learn about 64 other things to do when you retire, you can purchase the book here. All proceeds go to nonprofit organizations dedicated to preventing and curing cancer.
Mary S. Bleiberg