There is no doubt that retirement planning is a top of mind issue for many Canadians, especially when considering that Canada had the largest baby boom of any western country and there are close to 10 million baby boomers (aged 45- 64) in the country. There has been incredible focus in public discourse around saving for retirement, home care, access to affordable drugs and the challenges for younger boomers who are juggling their own retirement planning, while also supporting their children’s education and caring for their aging relatives and friends.

The impending challenges and areas of concern that await Canadians are important to consider, but so to are the opportunities that this highly talented group have in improving their lives, shaping their communities and nurturing civic engagement across Canada.  Fortunately there are retirement planning strategies that boomers have available that will yield life long benefits.

Transitions, Milestones, and Legacies: Retirement Planning Module on Volunteering is an online tool developed by Volunteer Canada that shows the benefits of volunteering as part of a full retirement plan. Retirees can find opportunities that suit their motivations and life circumstances.  From this research we highlight three reasons why volunteering is considered an integral part of developing a comprehensive and holistic approach to retirement planning.

# 1 Financial Planning

Baby boomers are helping shape the communities in which they reside with their financial planning, through investments, estate planning and charitable giving.  Many are selective in their giving, targeting causes and organizations that matter most to them.  Boomers want to feel content in how the organizations that receive their charitable donations are allocating resources. They want to ensure there is an alignment of values, goals and objectives.  Canadians realize that building vibrant communities not only involves the investment of money, but also time. Volunteering is a great way to learn about an organization’s values, culture, programs and leadership.  It is an opportunity to get an insiders view on how an organization operates, and take a hands on approach when investing time.  When thinking about giving in your financial planning, what better way to maximize impact then to volunteer for the causes you care most about?

# 2 Health

In a 2013 poll of 2,159 adults aged 50 and older, health concerns trumped finances for Canadian boomers reaching retirement.  The health benefits associated with volunteering are social, emotional and physical in nature.  Volunteering connects individuals to their community and helps to expand their social network, enhancing people’s connection to the community and the resources within their community. Volunteering can lead to increased physical activity, which is an important part of maintaining healthy aging.  The increased social contact resulting from volunteering can provide additional emotional and instrumental support for Canadian boomers. A more defined sense of purpose can also be a byproduct of volunteering, which enhances quality of life and self-esteem. The incredible health benefits associated with volunteering are compelling reasons to consider volunteering or maintaining volunteering in your retirement planning.

#3 Life long learning

Retirement provides an incredible opportunity to experience new things and take a different trajectory by applying skills you used during your career in a different context, or learning new skills.  Baby boomers are staying active by taking second careers, part time or occasional work or volunteering after retiring.  Increasingly Canadians’ are motivated to volunteer due to the opportunities provided to apply particular skills in a role.  According to Statistics Canada, 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, 77% of those aged 45-54 and 80% of those aged 55-64 indicated that they were motivated to volunteer in order “to use skills and experiences.” Boomers want to use their skills, abilities, talents and experience to do something meaningful in their communities. Not only are there societal benefits from civic engagement, but volunteering also encourages feelings of individual usefulness, self-worth and social inclusion.

A comprehensive retirement plan goes beyond financial planning and involves looking at how you can create a lifestyle that promotes healthy, happy and fulfilling aging.  Volunteering helps to connect you to your community, offering significant social, emotional and physical benefits. It also helps you maintain, grow or develop new skills, all of which have tremendous cognitive benefits, along with providing new life meaning, purpose and identity.  Finally, volunteering provides a way for you to make the most impact on the organizations and causes that mean the most to you, so that you can shape the society you want to live in for yourself and generations to come.