Pay it Forward in Retirement

Consider using your retirement years to help others.

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Paying it forward generally means the beneficiary of a good deed repays it to others instead of to the original benefactor. The idea has become quite popular as we search for ways to help both those we love and those in need. Doing something for another free of charge or obligation, just because it is the right thing to do, typically proves rewarding for all involved.

In retirement, we are afforded the luxury of free time to do with as we please. Whether we choose to simply sit and watch the world go by or to actively engage in more meaningful pursuits, the choice is ours to make. Retirement can be the perfect opportunity to do something to help others, and to ask them to pay it forward.

Why should we pay it forward? As we get older, it is easy to think that, having reached retirement age, we have done our part, paid our dues, and now it’s our turn to relax. Long hours spent working to support a family have earned us the right to some leisure time now that the children are independent. Many of us struggled to pay the bills and save a nest egg, so who can fault us for wanting to do what we want to do now that we have the time to do so?

And yet, it is precisely this newfound freedom that can be channeled into productive actions that benefit others. If you take a minute to reflect, there is so much that we each have to be thankful for—more than enough to justify a little paying it forward on our part. Here are some of the random acts of kindness that may have been directed your way over the years that you might want to consider repaying:

  • Many of us have received love from our family and friends over the years, supporting us in difficult times and reining us in when we begin to spin out of control. We owe them our happiness, gratitude, and sometimes even our lives.
  • A special teacher in our past may have shown us some extra attention that may have kindled in us the inspiration that led us to pursue our career path.
  • The unexpected smile on the face of a child may have warmed us deep inside and brought a smile to our own face.
  • The right word said at just the right time by a stranger could have unknowingly helped put us back on track.
  • Paying it forward in retirement does not require extraordinary effort or demands beyond our capabilities. Here are some easy ways to pay it forward in retirement:

    • Pay attention to those around you. Be aware of opportunities to help with little things, and don’t hesitate to step up.
    • Send someone flowers for no particular reason.
    • Do something nice for a passing stranger.
    • As you pass someone on the street, make eye contact and smile. Such a little thing has become a rarity these days as we rush on with our own busy lives.
    • Donate to a worthy cause.
    • Listen attentively without judging or offering advice prematurely. Just listen.
    • Hold hands.
    • Be patient even though inside you may feel far from it.
    • Hug someone, a real hug.
    • Spend time with a lonely neighbor.
    • If someone does something nice for you, take note and do your best to pay it forward.
    • Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.