In a well read article on Illuminate earlier this year, Holland Hahn & Wills partner Amyr Rocha-Lima wrote about the hidden psychological struggle some of his clients face on retirement.

    Endless days of leisure can be overwhelming, and even dispiriting, for former professionals used to orchestrating teams of staff and making million-pound decisions Monday through Friday.

    Often tied to this loss of purpose is the drop in social standing that often comes with a high-powered career.  

    As Amyr writes: “Our jobs have become much more than a way of generating income; they are often tightly interwoven with our sense of identity and can represent a source of pride, admiration and cachet.”

    But he suggests the good news is that this situation presents a real opportunity for engaged advisers and planners.

    Advisers willing to help clients navigate the psychological challenges of retirement as well as the financial can demonstrate value, and deepen their client relationships over the long term.

    One way to do this is to help clients find meaningful volunteer work, something I often speak with retirees about.

    Volunteering is a powerful way to create meaning and structure to the week. What’s more, it can give your clients a tangible way to contribute an issue close to their hearts, increasing self-worth and overall happiness.

    If you have clients who have reached or are approaching retirement, and are interested in volunteering their time and considerable talents, you can help them identify promising options.

    First, ask your client to consider four basic questions:

    What do you want to get out of the volunteer experience? 

    Volunteering should be a fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable way for clients to spend their golden years.

    But it could quickly turn into an exercise in drudgery if clients are not clear on what’s most important to them in a volunteer experience.

    So encourage them to think about what their aims are. Do they want to meet new people? Learn new skills? Put their much-honed skills to the best use? Maybe they’re just keen to help out with a specific issue any way they can.

    What kind of time commitment are you willing to make? 

    Are they looking for a regular commitment, or happy to be called upon at shorter notice?

    Would clients be interested in a specific project, say, helping a charity sort through an accounting challenge, or something that requires a longer-term commitment? This might include something like mentoring a young person over several years.

    What sorts of skills do you want to bring to the experience? 

    Are they a people person, always keen to draw someone out of their shell?

    Do clients have specific skills that a charity could really use, like writing, graphic design or strategic planning? It's worth getting clients to write down what it is they're happy to bring to the table.

    Are you ready to let the charity drive the process? 

    For someone moving from a high-powered position in the corporate world to a volunteer role in a charity, giving up control can be a real struggle.

    Clients should ask themselves if they’re happy to take on a specific task and do it the way the charity has asked.

    Charities can move slowly and generally have a range of stakeholders they’re accountable to. Is your client someone who may be frustrated as they get used to a new way of working?

    Next, give some examples.

    Now that your client has given some thought to the sort of volunteer experience he or she would like, talk through some of the options.

    Sometimes just giving an example of a specific volunteer opportunity can make someone think: “Yes, that’s what I see myself doing.”

    Here are some especially popular volunteer roles for retirees.


    Mentorship is a fantastic way to use a lifetime of experience to help someone perhaps enduring difficult circumstances.

    Many retirees choose to become a mentor because of the sense of fulfilment that can come from building a trusting relationship with a younger person in their community.

    The Grandmentors programme from Volunteering Matters matches people aged 50+ with a young person leaving the care system.

    Grandmentors receive training and support as they meet weekly with their mentee, building trust and hopefully becoming a positive role model in the young person’s life.

    Serving as a trustee

    Charities are always looking for enthusiastic people with valuable skills to serve on their boards.

    Becoming a trustee can enable clients to dive into the inner workings of an organisation, using their talents and networks to guide the charity.

    Clients will want to think hard about the amount of time they want to commit to this though, as being a trustee can end up becoming a part-time job.

    They’ll be expected to attend regular meetings, serve on committees and probably fundraise. Reach Volunteering hosts hundreds of trustee vacancies around the UK via their website.

    Working on the frontline for a local charity

    If clients simply want to roll up their sleeves for a good cause in their community, there’s plenty out there.

    A terrific first point of contact is your local community foundation.

    These organisations know the local charity sector inside and out, and may be able to help your clients find the ideal opportunity.

    The East End Community Foundation in London, for example, is skilled at matching volunteers with unmet needs in the community.

    Their team recently introduced a self-proclaimed extrovert to a local charity serving low-income parents.

    The retiree now spends six hours a week acting as their front of house, co-ordinating other volunteers and meeting with the parents they serve.

    Teaching English abroad

    Volunteering overseas is appealing to many reaching retirement age.

    Just remember that the last thing many developing countries need is an eager but unskilled volunteer filling a role that could be held by a paid local.

    A good option for those wishing to spend a portion of their retirement abroad is teaching English.

    Native English speakers are in demand around the world, and teaching English is a great way to get to know a culture and help its students compete in a global economy.

    If your clients are serious about teaching abroad, they might consider getting a Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification.

    The website offers online courses and a database of job openings for qualified teachers.

    Finally, remember to ask about charitable giving.

    Meaningful volunteer experiences and strategic charitable giving go hand-in-hand, especially during retirement.

    As you’re talking with clients about how they might use their time and talents in later years, remember to ask them if they’d like to incorporate charitable giving into their retirement plans.

    Many times, it’s through intentional, well-researched giving that people find the most valuable volunteer experiences.

    However your clients view their ideal retirement, you can continue to show your value by helping them think through their ever-expanding range of options.

    This includes the meaningful volunteer work they finally have the time and financial stability to take on.

    For tips on starting the conversation about giving, and an overview of the wider world of charitable giving specifically for advisers, take Thoughtful Philanthropy’s one-hour online course How to add client value through charitable giving advice.

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