Jan, 13, 2020 Topic: Travel, Volunteering

Volunteer AND Travel SmartRE

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Everyone has heard the reason – I’m traveling to find myself.  A great place to look is through providing service while traveling, because it combines the thrill of exploring the unknown with the fulfillment of helping those in need. 

Initially, the idea of volunteering abroad might be intimidating.  But consider the benefits.  You are literally broadening your horizons, seeing new places but connecting in an intimate and personal way that can never be matched by mere touring.  You are immersed in local culture in a way that normal tourists can never hope to experience.  With volunteering, unlike a monetary donation, you know firsthand how your contribution is being applied.  And just by telling your story to others when you arrive home after your excursion, you’re helping to bridge the divide in understanding that can exist. 

And you can do it without going overseas.  AmeriCorps says “AmeriCorps is your moment to take the path less traveled, to break the status quo, to stop talking about the problem and be the solution.”  AmeriCorps State and National has programs as short as 3 months.  Projects include disaster services, environmental impact, and veterans and military families.

The Peace Corps isn’t just for recent college graduates. “Retired Americans can use the life skills and professional experience they gained during their careers to make a lasting impact in communities around the world,” says Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen.  About 6% of Peace Corps volunteers are over 50.  The oldest is 93, working in Malawi.  housing is paid for and volunteers get enough of a stipend that they don’t have to dip into savings set aside for retirement.  Approach with an open mind, because the Peace Corps isn’t for everyone.  Living is rougher than American standards and there is a significant time commitment.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities for travel and service that are much shorter and a more comfortable.  

  • Discover Corps is an organization that combines vacations abroad with service.  Trips target Wildlife & Nature, Festivals, Cultural Explorations, and Custom Travel to places like Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, and Thailand. 
  • Build Abroad is like a global Habitat for Humanity.  Volunteers construct homes, schools, or better infrastructure in places like Nepal, and Costa Rica.  
  • GVI is an organization committed to providing high-quality and sustainable experiential and development programs in 13 countries around the world.  Volunteers travel to places like Ghans, Laos, Fiji, and Greece to work with children, marine life, or in public health.  
  • Go Overseas is a website that acts as a clearing house for global volunteer programs.  They have projects in countries like South Africa, India, and Brazil. 
  • Global Volunteers is the highest rated volunteer abroad program since 1984.  They have a multitude of service projects, including computer literacy, gardening, nutrition and teaching.  Their programs are all over the world as well – 13 counties including China, the Cook Islands, Poland, Cuba, Vietnam, Tanzania, and St. Lucia.

Travel volunteerism is a commitment of both time and money.  Be prepared to be away from home for weeks at a time and to pay a four or sometimes low five figure amount.  And since these programs are addictive, with many people pursing several trips a year, the cost adds up.  But it is a cost that is more than worth it.  So use SmartRE to fund your adventures.  With only a low, one-time fee, you can free cash locked in your growing home equity and put it to use for you and the world.

Dec, 22, 2019 Topic: Volunteering

Volunteering SmartRE

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”. Kahlil Gibran

Whether you retired at 65, 75, or 50, charitable opportunities open up exponentially.  Because time is now not an issue.  A life of hard work mandates lounging and vacationing upon retirement, but that ends and new retirees are eventually faced with boredom.  Volunteering beckons as a welcome medium between the slavish demands of your working days and the sedentary sameness of retirement.

The dual demands of a life raising a family as well as providing for that family leave little time for volunteering.  Really, because of this time crunch, the best avenue for accessing volunteering opportunities is through work.  Charities.org conducted a study that revealed 82% of businesses say that they’re employees would like to volunteer with their work colleagues through an employer sponsored volunteer program.  Yet only 21% of businesses offer paid time off for volunteering according to OneOC, a nonprofit consultancy.  Meanwhile, 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching donation programs.   

So it’s clear that giving is more accessible than volunteering.  And that’s a shame, because according to UnitedHealthcare (UnitedHealth Group 2017 Doing Good is Good for You Study), volunteering yields significant physical, mental, and emotional benefits.  75% of Americans over 18 feel physically healthier, which they attribute to volunteering.  More impactfully, 93% report a better mood, 79% feel less stress, and 88% have more self-esteem when donating their time.  And now that you have more time, consider volunteering as a way to spend it. 

As you contemplate what to do, be mindful that volunteering is not going to be like the career from which you just retired.  Non-profits are a wholly different animal from for-profits.  While you may not have been blown away by your department’s funding in the past, it was likely far higher than the shoe-string budget that most non-profits deal with.  Staffs are comprised of people from varied backgrounds with different skill sets, so there will always be holes to fill.  And doing so won’t necessarily be your call, so if you’re used to driving the car, you may need to be willing to take a back seat and let someone else learn to drive while you learn the road.  All this is a long way of saying to carefully set your expectations; volunteering is likely different from your previous experiences, so give it some time.

And that’s a good thing.  Because some people want to use their retirement to learn new things, meet new people, and grow new skill sets.  While they may initially feel out of place, these volunteers thrill at the draw of the unknown and eventually grow comfortable.  If initial comfort is what you crave, then try volunteering where you know you can make an immediate impact.  If you’re a lawyer, provide pro bono services.  If you’re a teacher, provide education services.  Avoid burn out (after all, you did just retire from doing what you’re best at) by being selective with your work and limiting your hours.

Volunteering is good for the soul.  Thomas Jefferson said it best – “I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another”.  SmartRE can help.  Our service liquidates the cash frozen in your home equity – without debt, without interest, and without vacating your home.  You can use that cash to help fund your retirement, and volunteer to your soul’s content without worrying about paying your bills.  To learn more, go to our Volunteering section to see more articles, like “Ready to Volunteer – Here Are Some Great Ideas”.