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Navigator 09-28-2020 08:05 PM

Finding Purpose in Retirement
I saw an interesting video today in which a psychologist from UCSF said that studies show having a strong sense of purpose extended the life and health of retirees. This got me thinking. What are the activities that are worthwhile, that give retirees a sense of purpose? Is there a commonality in the things that give us a sense of purpose, or is it all individual? So far, the things that meant the most to me in retirement have been traveling around the world, learning to paint and sculpt, taking creative writing classes and learning Spanish. Please share what you find most rewarding about retirement and what activities give you a sense of purpose.

Mr. Tightwad 09-28-2020 10:11 PM

Most rewarding-doing whatever I want with my time. Anything and everything.

Sense of purpose- driving my daughter to her job. Being housekeeper and gardener at my home, and gardener at one rental. Landlording to three tenants. Exercising daily. Eating well.

savory 09-28-2020 10:35 PM

I have always traveled taking mainly active vacations, bike touring and hiking. This is an important and continuing part of retirement. Also, doing community projects. Bicycle advocacy has been a big one. But, I also worked on local policing (which has helped me understand some current discussions on reform), supporting a community co-op, coaching new business leaders, and becoming involved as things come up where I feel my education and experience will help the community. I also find things to do during election periods.

Family time as well as keeping up with this forum too :)

flyingaway 09-28-2020 10:45 PM

The easiest way to find purpose is to keep working.

Katsmeow 09-28-2020 10:54 PM

I think this is very individual. There are many things that I have found enjoyable about retiring. I don't miss the stress I had when I was working full-time. I was glad to be able to move somewhere without being constrained by work. I have been happy to be able to spend to rekindle a friendship with my best friend from high school (after many years I moved back to close to my hometown). I have enjoyed getting to spend more time with extended family.

While I have enjoyed those things I wouldn't consider them a sense of purpose. I did feel I wanted to do something meaningful that would provide some benefit to someone that wasn't easily available elsewhere. For several years I wrote a weight loss blog. And, that was rewarding, but eventually I felt I had said everything that I had to say and I was just repeating myself.

Right now, what I find rewarding is volunteering to help people use DNA to solve unknown parentage. Many people I help are people who were adopted like I was. In some cases, they weren't adopted but they don't know the identify of their biological father (some only learned about this as adults). Some have a deceased parent or even a grandparent who was adopted or had an unknown parent and they want to identify the unknown grandparent or great grandparent.

I do this help in several ways. I do volunteer ...coaching is a good word for a non-profit organizaiont. I help members of a Googlegroup that helps people doing these searches. In that role, I am mostly posting to a group and answering questions and giving people information and tips on how to do their specific search.

In some cases I help people with their specific DNA courses, doing most of the work for them. Most people get back their DNA results from Ancestry or 23andme or wherever and they have no idea how to use the results. It is entirely possible that someone can have results for even years and they have no idea how to analyze and someone who is knowledgeable can come in and solve the mystery in a day or two. Of course, not all searches are so simple. Some searches take years. Those are very satisfying to solve.

Of course, I enjoy solving the mystery and doing the search itself. It is fun to me. At the same time, I absolutely know that in many cases I am doing something to help someone to help someone who could never do this themselves. Some people can do the search with a little help and those are where coaching is involved. Some people could do the search if they were taught how to do it. Some people will seek out that knowledge and do the search. Others won't for a variety reasons (mostly because of real life obligations that are more of a priority such as their own jobs or taking care of their children, etc.). Some people could just never learn how to do it. I like being able to help those people and feel that I fulfill a real need.

Dtail 09-29-2020 03:51 AM

Traveling was one of our passions, but curtailed currently in the Covid era.
For me, Pickleball and gardening are my current passions and keep me motivated.

Ronstar 09-29-2020 05:32 AM

I don't really have a purpose in retirement. Just stick to myself and my hobbies most of the time. I do volunteer a little and help people out when I can, but I don't see that as a purpose.

TimeMeasure 09-29-2020 05:58 AM

This is a really good question. The answer is probably fairly individual. People seem wired to find purpose, meaning, satisfaction in different ways.

For me, “purpose” would imply an activity which, from one’s deathbed, one can look back and say: Ah, now that was time well spent.

Viewed from that angle, many hobbies and diversions, interesting though they may be, don’t really suffice to give a sense of purpose, especially when pursued as essentially solitary amusements. At least, not in my case - others differ, and in some ways the ability to find purpose easily seems enviable. But to me, the word “hobby” carries some implication of a dilettante, and reminds me of a documentary on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, in which, after his abdication, touring the former colonies, there was a somewhat plaintive description of their lives as lacking satisfaction, “like being on perpetual holiday,” but without real responsibilities.

In my case, one of the most satisfying (purposeful) things has been to spend time with and reconnect with friends and family. All the other activities that are of interest - travel, hiking, reading, etc. - seem more meaningful and satisfying when combined with family and friends. Spending time this way seems to pass the test of being able to look back later and feel: Ah, now that was time well spent... that was satisfying... remember that afternoon? And so on.

No judgment implied of others who are wired differently... but this is how it is in my case.

Aerides 09-29-2020 06:00 AM


Originally Posted by flyingaway (Post 2491626)
The easiest way to find purpose is to keep working.

bleh. The "purpose" there was what my Megacorp said it was. My purpose being there was my paycheck (once the career part was no longer a reward).

Purpose can be your garden, your family, a hobby, volunteer work, fitness, learning a language - a whole lot of things outside of traditional work.

REWahoo 09-29-2020 06:32 AM

I've discovered finding porpoise in retirement is great for my health and longevity. I almost always see a few when I take the ferry at Port Aransas.

I know some of you will be unable to resist pointing out this sounds fishy even though you know whales, even small ones like porpoises, are mammals.

FREE866 09-29-2020 06:42 AM


Originally Posted by flyingaway (Post 2491626)
The easiest way to find purpose is to keep working.


I'm very surprised to see such a comment on an Early Retirement board. Are you retired?

I think the biggest duping is that people are conditioned to believe that working is the way to achieve a sense of self worth or purpose if you will.

I retired at 50 and am almost 4 years in and I can say I feel so much better about my life doing volunteer work, exercising more, reading more books, sleeping better, helping my parents,and just an overall indescribable happiness living a life not tied to a job. Many days I feel like the luckiest man on earth.

Toocold 09-29-2020 06:56 AM

This morning I woke up my natural time (6am). DW cooked breakfast and got the kids ready for school. We ate break together as a family. My teenage kids were still sleepy and a bit grouchy, so I made my typical dad jokes to make them smile just a little before they went off to school. I found my purpose for this morning.

If I had my job, I would have left for work earlier and likely would not have seen my kids. My mind would have been on work.

Purpose can mean anything - it doesn't need to be grandiose.

street 09-29-2020 07:11 AM

Interesting topic!
About 5 years ago, I asked a similar question and I remember one answer very well.

"A hammer has a purpose, just enjoy life with the time you have left on earth".

I have always remembered that answer, and has put my time in retirement on track. I don't need a purpose to make me happy, I have my health and enjoy every minute of life I have left on this earth. That is purpose enough for me.

RE2Boys 09-29-2020 07:21 AM

Since I retired early at age 50 with one and three year old sons, my purpose for the past 20 years of retirement was to be a Dad, complete with minivan....an opportunity I greatly cherished without the issues and conflicts that I would have had during my career job. I was always able to make myself available to support my son's activities.

I had other jobs and a second career to keep me mentally and physically busy, but family gave purpose to the retired life.

Telly 09-29-2020 07:24 AM


Originally Posted by flyingaway (Post 2491626)
The easiest way to find purpose is to keep working.

I think some may be misunderstanding your comment. I took your comment as, if someone retired, and then now seeks a sense of purpose in their post-work life, then maybe they shouldn't have retired yet. To which I agree.

I took the OP's thread topic as relating some information (to which one can take or leave), and was wondering what other retiree's do that they think is a sense of purpose (if they needed one) in their retired life. And I do think there ARE some retirees that really need a sense of purpose in their retirement lives. Personally, that is a non-issue for me. Not that I am competition with the past works of Mother Teresa, or anything like that! :)

Souschef 09-29-2020 07:29 AM

I renewed my pilot’s license, and dedicated myself to flying for 2 charitable organizations. The main one is Angel Flight West, flying patients to and from their appointments in distant cities.
This gives the patients the opportunity to receive advanced treatment at no transportation cost to them. Some of the patients have conditions so rare I have to Google the condition to just to see what it was. The other is Pilots n’ Paws, flying rescued animals to new forever homes.
I have accumulated over 400 hours doing these flights, paying for them out of my own pocket.

Recently I started volunteering at a local Hospice repairing their wheelchairs and walkers.

I also volunteer for a local railroad society and act as a car attendant on a local tourist railroad, helping passengers get on and off the cars and punching tickets. I am also in the process of restoring a 23 Ton switch engine, which is almost as old as me, but I am in better shape.

jollystomper 09-29-2020 07:30 AM

My current "purpose" is less about specific activities and more about my personal goals.

My purpose is to stay healthy, physically active, mentally positive, helpful to others, and not being a burden to anyone. I aim to do this for as long as I can, since tomorrow is not promised. So I look at my daily activities within that context.

During my working and raising a family years, my purpose had to do with others. Provide for my family. Meet my Megacorp work objectives to prove myself valuable an minimize being fired or laid off when I could not afford to be. I will not say there was no "me" during that time, But that was also secondary (or lower) to other activities.

Now, just being able to wake up healthy and choose what I want to do is a blessing that gives me purpose to do other things. And when my health does fade and starts to limit me... I just hope I can revel in the memories I create while healthy.

WhenIsItTime 09-29-2020 07:35 AM

Finding Purpose in Retirement

Originally Posted by flyingaway (Post 2491626)
The easiest way to find purpose is to keep working.

Yes, but there is so much more to life unless you are one of the extreme few whose work is their passion and the income matches/exceeds their standard of living goals.

38Chevy454 09-29-2020 07:39 AM

It's been said here numerous times, you may have a job to retire from, but you need something to retire to.
People that have defined their lives by work tend to have trouble with retirement. To me that is sad, life has so many things to do and experience.
I am not sure I agree with retirement having to have purpose. You do need to enjoy the time in order to have happiness.

Gumby 09-29-2020 07:51 AM

Must I have a purpose? So far, I'm doing pretty well without. I just wake up every morning, do what I want all day and then go to bed when I get tired.

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