NEW YORK (CNNfn) - You spent 30 years crunching numbers as a certified public accountant. But your heart belonged to the theater, and you spent every weekend glued to a Broadway seat.|
So now that it's time to retire and hang up your adding machine and pencils, you're going to enjoy your hobby fulltime and volunteer as a set designer for the community drama group.
"People have more time to spend, and they're more stable financially, so they're giving back to the community," said Jason Willett, spokesman for Impact Online, a nonprofit volunteer organization. "Many organizations are doing great work, but they don't have all the resources they need."
From soup kitchens to nuts
Whether it's at the community soup kitchen, local theater, church group, or neighborhood park, retirees are donating their time to volunteer work.
One of the largest growing volunteer segments is the 55-and-over crowd, which makes up about 25 percent of the 32,000 volunteers of Volunteers of America, according to spokesman Carl Ericson.
Seniors are most likely to volunteer at libraries, hospitals and schools. For many families, the grandparents and grandchildren aren't in the same city. So seniors are filling that void by spending time with youngsters at daycare or after-school programs reading to them or helping with homework, Ericson said.
But retirees are doing anything from walking dogs, to teaching English as a second language, to helping deliver Meals on Wheels to other seniors or those who are disabled.
"(The category of) Senior volunteers is the area of greatest potential just because (of) the population and the number of people retiring," Ericson said. "There's no question that a strong economy has made it possible for older people to retire and volunteer."
So now that you've retired, you've got some extra time on your hands and you'd like to give back to your community. Where do you start?
Click here for ten tips on volunteering wisely.
Assess your skills and figure out what type of organization you'd like to volunteer for. Maybe you've been a lawyer for the past two decades, but you're tired of courtrooms. Your favorite hobby is basketball and you enjoy children. Combine the two and volunteer as a coach for the local youth league.
And finding the right organization for you is much easier today using the Internet.
Impact Online, which sponsors volunteermatch, puts you in touch with 8,000 different organizations looking for volunteers. You can search based on where you live and the type of organization you're interested in helping.
"Whether it's a walkathon one day for three hours, or a mentor tutoring on an on-going commitment," it's listed on the site, Willett said.
Click here for a list of volunteering opportunities!!
Uncle Sam says 'Thanks'
You feel great volunteering your time to read to children in an after school program or raking leaves at a local park -- and that feeling of euphoria will continue when it's time to do your taxes.
You can deduct many out-of-pocket costs associated with your volunteering, according to William Brennan, a certified financial planner with Columbia Financial Advisors in Washington, D.C.
For example, one of Brennan's clients volunteered three days a week teaching a history course at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
"It was charitable work and he was driving about 80 miles each way," Brennan said. So he suggested his client keep track of his weekly mileage in a diary and save toll receipts. If you use your own vehicle to carry out a task for an organization or get to the office, you can deduct 14 cents a mile, he said.
Other expenses such as the cost of books, photocopying and paper can be deducted and should be noted in a diary. These deductions apply only if you're not already getting reimbursed for the expenses by the organization you're assisting.
No pain, no gain?
Answering phones at a domestic violence hotline or caring for animals at a shelter is gratifying work. It's also good for your health.
Informal studies show that people who volunteer and get involved in their community tend to live longer, healthier lives, says Judy Helein, manager of volunteer relations at AARP. Giving your time to a charity or a worthy cause can be a fun, social activity.
"It's a quality-of-life issue," Helein said. "Volunteer work doesn't have to be punishment. It doesn't have to be (that) you give until it hurts."
On the same note, Mary Furlong, founder and chairman of ThirdAge.com, an Internet site dedicated to Baby Boomer issues, says the years after 50 are a time for reflection and a time to assess your legacy.
"When you reach 50, your focus shifts from your family to looking more broadly at society and how you can contribute," Furlong said.