Earning enough to be secure about your future is the first step to a successful financial plan, followed closely by responsible money management. While diligence, patience and a responsible work ethic are characteristics to be proud of, when it comes to happiness, a hefty bank account just isn’t enough; there is more to enjoying life than money. American Poet Henry David Thoreau said it well. “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” In other words, happiness depends on having a purpose. Volunteering can provide this sense of purpose, along with numerous other benefits.
Opportunities are Everywhere!
If your job responsibilities include an opportunity to serve, you’re one of the lucky ones. For others who have employers who encourage their employees to serve in the community by sponsoring events, finding a purpose outside day-to-day life is as simple as getting involved in those that the company supports.
But for many of people, finding a place to serve is as easy as searching online to find endless opportunities that likely include any special interest they may have. There are the world renowned institutions to consider, like the Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and March of Dimes. But there are millions of small, less formal, intimate groups looking for volunteers. You can spend your spare time with a literacy program teaching someone to read, sort clothing or prepare meals for a homeless shelter. Religious organizations may be helpful sources of needs in your local area.
Many Benefits to Volunteering
There are appreciative benefits to volunteer work, including the opportunity to learn new skills (like problem solving or a new trade), meeting incredibly generous people, and possibly new employment opportunities in a field you’re passionate about. And while volunteering won’t make you rich or even add to your income, there is one financial benefit. Your good deeds can be used as tax deductions.
- Travel expenses, including your own private transportation or subway or bus fares, can be deducted. Keep detailed records about the gas you use to get there and for volunteering to deliver supplies, etc. Also include parking fees and tolls paid. You can either claim the actual cost of the gas you use or claim a standard deduction of $0.14/mile.
- Out-of-pocket expenses, including the cost of a uniform. (Excludes cost of your meals.)
- Property gifts, including shares of stock, cash gifts, automobiles.
Many of the positive effects of volunteering are intangible. The self-satisfaction of making a difference cannot be denied. A recent study suggests a strong relationship between health and volunteering with lower mortality rates and less depression in the later years than for those who never volunteer. And the collective effort of millions of volunteers strengthens our communities while improving the lives of others. In effect, it transforms our own lives.