Summertime is the time when many of us think about vacations. But maybe you’re retired and vacations just haven’t lived up to your expectations. Is something missing? If so, you might want to consider a volunteer vacation.
It’s a testament to human compassion that so many retirees are choosing to use their vacation time to volunteer nationally and internationally. But these unique options are about more than that. Retirees aren’t just looking to sit back and relax on vacations these days. More and more retirees are opting to immerse themselves into local cultures and do something meaningful. And if planned correctly, volunteer vacations, like other forms of giving, can also mesh with a solid, retirement financial plan.
According to the Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler survey, 43 percent of respondents aged 55 and over volunteered during their recent vacation. And 72 percent of overall respondents stated they would take another volunteer trip in the future. Of those who had not taken a volunteer trip yet, 22 percent responded they were planning to take one in the future.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps with the intent of sending "the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.” This set the stage for the numerous charitable organizations that offer volunteer trips worldwide. But before you decide on a volunteer vacation, ask yourself the following questions:
How much time do I want to volunteer? You’ll want to know your ideal time allowance for working, relaxing and sightseeing. Do you want to volunteer for a few hours or spend your entire trip volunteering on a specific service project?
Is the volunteer organization reputable? Research your organization to determine that they have a presence in your destination and that they have committed dedicated goals there. CharityNavigator.org and the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check tool can help you verify the charity’s status.
What type of work should I do? You should consider your health, age and any special needs that require accommodations. (For example, you may prefer modern conveniences to sleeping in a tent.) There are numerous opportunities to serve nationally and internationally. Some examples are teaching English, building or repairing homes, caring for endangered animals or supporting environmental conservation.
Does the volunteer vacation fit into my financial plan for retirement? If you’ve been working with a financial advisor, you might have a good idea of how much you’ve allocated towards leisure activities, such as vacations. Volunteer vacations are not free, so keep that information handy when trying to make a decision.
Once you’ve decided where you want to go and how you want to volunteer, reach out to some charitable organizations and ask them to send you literature on their program, accommodations and any costs.
Volunteer vacations allow you the opportunity to serve others and enjoy the benefits of your contributions:
Customized experiences - Volunteer vacations are customizable. You can volunteer with a group of friends, your family or by yourself. Volunteer programs can be anything from a few hours a day to a couple of weeks in duration.
Cultural immersion - Whether you choose a national or international volunteer location, you’ll be working within the native community, meeting local people and gaining authentic cultural experiences.
Valuable expertise - Retirees bring the benefit of their knowledge and experiences to volunteer programs. A volunteer vacation is an excellent opportunity to teach others the skills you’ve learned.
Unique opportunities - Learn how to excavate at an archeological dig, acquire a new language or help with wildlife conservation.
IRS tax deduction - Save all your receipts from your volunteer vacation. You may be able to deduct travel expenses (i.e. transportation, lodging and meals). Your financial advisor can assist you in determining your volunteer vacation tax deductions.
If you are retired or approaching retirement, a volunteer vacation might be the way to go. As with any significant expense, consult your financial advisor to see how it might affect your financial planning.
Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.
“Finance Made Simple” blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.