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Transitioning from Success in Career to Significance in Retirement: Finding Purpose Through Volunteerism



After more than 30 years working in the industrial technology field, David Backer was ready to retire. “I had proven everything I needed to prove to myself and exceeded all of my expectations,” David said.

Each of his career moves — from diesel truck repair to assembly line specialist and contractor for the Department of Defense — prepared David and his wife, Kim, financially for early retirement. David retired nearly six years ago, and Kim retired in late 2016 after serving as program director for a major aerospace and defense company. Prior to retiring, however the couple met with their financial advisor to discuss their goals.

“I told our advisor that I didn’t understand everything about investments, and I didn’t want to,” David said.

While the Backers had confidence in their financial plan for early retirement, they took additional time to discover their next steps in transitioning from success in a career to significance in retirement. David’s transition into retirement inspired him to give back to his community.

“At first I was just sitting around the house, and I could feel my brain going soft,” David said. “I learned our church needed help maintaining multiple buildings on our church campus. The first project I took on was to convert a large storage closet into a nursing room to meet the needs of the young families at the church. After that I met the head of church maintenance and started working with him on a daily basis. Over the years, he has taught me a lot about commercial buildings.”

His work at the church landed him an official role as a volunteer at Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, Alabama. He currently volunteers 35 hours a week and works at a pace he enjoys. “I’m enjoying the freedom of retirement, but I decided I needed a schedule,” David said. “I’ve learned that you can’t stop moving; that’s how a person survives the next 20 years after retirement. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something,” David said. He plans to help his wife find a volunteer opportunity that she will enjoy as well.

The Backers plan to balance their volunteer work with boating trips and vacations with their grandchildren. “I get a thrill watching my grandchildren enjoy breakfast with Disney characters, and those moments matter more than material things. During our trips we’ve boated on many rivers and lakes, including the Tennessee River, Kentucky Lake, Lake Cumberland and Pickwick Lake.”

When friends and fellow church members ask the Backers how to live after retirement, their advice is simple: “Let God lead you and you will feel fulfilled.” The Backers are a great example of a couple living a retirement of purpose and freedom who are using their retirement as an opportunity to cherish family and help their local community. #VectorStories