How to Stay Engaged After Retirement

Retired chess champion Garry Kasparov is making his mark--off the chess board. He and others show us how and why to stay engaged when our working years are behind.

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Not many people are able to retire before age 60 anymore, and that’s just as well. Health breakthroughs the last few decades have given us a longevity bonus that previous generations could never envision. Working until later in life is a natural development.

Still, we will retire one day and likely with many good years remaining in our future. How to spend those years is the subject of my two most recent books, co-authored with Ken Dychtwald. I’m reminded of the lessons in The Power Years and A New Purpose whenever I hear of people reinventing themselves at mid-life.

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So it was with a recent news story about chess champion Garry Kasparov, who unlike other champions in his field has not been content to fade away. Kasparov just turned 50. He’s been out of competitive chess for eight years but is as busy as ever.

He’s a passionate activist for change in Russia. He campaigns against President Vladimir Putin and recently was named the Morris B. Abram Human Rights award winner. He’s also a global activist seeking to have chess classes installed as part of school curricula.

The chess effort, especially, caught my eye. Kasparov and a growing list of educators believe that learning to play chess helps children develop the ability to think logically, plan, and use mathematics in a practical way. These critical skills are closely linked to making better money decisions as adults, a key area of instruction that generally is missing from our classrooms.

Could we teach chess as a backdoor way to promote financial education? The European Union has endorsed Kasparov’s ideas and is encouraging schools to introduce a chess class using his teaching software. Kasparov may end up having an impact far beyond the chess world.

There’s nothing unusual about high achieving individuals staying committed to a cause and giving back in some fashion after retiring. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton may have accomplished more good in their life after leaving office than they did while serving. Bill Gates is making his mark as a philanthropist. The list is long.

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What’s newer is the influx of individuals “retiring” to a commensurate level of engagement and productivity as everyday teachers, mentors, and entrepreneurs. The financial crisis forced many Americans to cut back on their charitable giving, which experts say will not fully recover for another decade. Yet with less money to give, volunteerism rates have shot to a five-year high.

By now, it’s fairly well known that folks retiring today at 65 or 68 need to plan for 30 more years—not just financially but mentally and physically too. Continued engagement can help you and those around you, as Kasparov and countless others have discovered.

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