Retirees Give More

Along the same lines of finding happiness through personal connections, retirees who give time and money to charitable causes report feeling a stronger sense of purpose.

Perhaps it’s simply that sense of doing good that permeates other areas of life, but permeate it does. Sixty-six percent of retirees who contribute or donate report they are happy, compared to 52 percent of those who do neither. Half of those who donate or contribute are healthy, compared to 43 percent who don’t.

According to a recent study by Merrill Lynch, retirees are also three times more likely to say helping others makes them happier than spending money on themselves (76 percent vs. 24 percent), and about six times more likely to say their definition of success is “being generous” rather than “being wealthy.”3

Presumably, giving to others offers an increased sense of well-being for just about everyone, so why are the numbers so much higher for retirees? Mainly because retirees become more engaged in their charitable activities once they stop working. Volunteer activities can provide an important source of social connection, something they may not realize they miss until a few months into retirement.

Among retirees, 85 percent report they’ve developed close new friendships through their charitable involvement. Equally important is the sense of taking on new responsibilities that utilize their knowledge, experience and skill sets. In short, volunteering leads to a sense ofself-worth and purpose. For many, retirement is a transition in which people seek a new role to fill the time spent in the workplace. Volunteering replaces that sense of loss and, perhaps equally important, local charities need and rely on retired volunteers to help run theirorganizations efficiently.

From a monetary perspective, people age 65 and up donate nearly twice as much as younger adults. Among those who volunteer time, they also spend more than twice as much time as younger counterparts — an average of 133 hours per year compared to only 55 to 58 hours a year by adults under age 44.4

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3Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. Oct. 22, 2015. “Merrill Lynch Study on Giving in Retirement Reveals $8 Trillion Longevity Bonus” Accessed Apr. 20, 2016.
4Ibid.

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