retirement

Volunteer Abroad in the Peace Corps in Retirement

There is no age limit in some volunteer organizations, including the Peace Corps.

Looking for a way to give back and experience a life-changing adventure in your second act? Joining the Peace Corps may fit the bill. “Retired Americans can use the life skills and professional experience they gained during their careers to make a lasting impact in communities around the world,” says Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen.

About 6% of volunteers are age 50 or older. “There is no upper age limit to Peace Corps service,” says Olsen. The oldest volunteer is an 83-year-old woman who works at a health clinic in Malawi.

“Flexibility, an open mind and a willingness to learn are strong qualities that make successful volunteers,” says Olsen. Depending on the program, service can last from three months to two years.

David and Champa Jarmul met 40 years ago, when he was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Nepal at a school where she taught. The couple always wanted to serve in the Peace Corps together, but careers and children—then grandchildren—kept them busy.

“As we approached our sixties, we got serious about the idea and quietly planned our transition,” says David. After David retired, the couple moved to Moldova for a two-year Peace Corps stint when both were 63.

Moldova is a small former-Soviet country between Romania and Ukraine near the Black Sea. The Jarmuls, who just finished their stint, lived in the small city of Ialoveni on the second floor of their host family’s house. David worked in a local library, where he taught classes in computer coding, robotics and English conversation and helped create a children’s room for families. Champa taught English at a local school and also volunteered at a local center for kids with special needs. “My favorite thing was my students,” says Champa. “I love walking down the street and everyone says ‘Hello Miss Champa!’ ”

Moldova’s economy is based primarily on agriculture, and the country is famous for its wine. “However, it is the poorest country in Europe,” says David. “A lot of the kids we see in the library or at school are being raised by their grandparents while their parents work abroad to earn money.”

The Jarmuls became friends with other volunteers from the U.S. who come from a variety of backgrounds, including a real estate broker, a city administrator, a restaurant manager and a small-business owner. “All of us joined Peace Corps because we wanted to give back and serve others,” says David. “It’s also a great way to learn about new cultures, broaden your horizons and have an adventure.” David chronicles his experiences in a blog.

Preparing to Go Abroad

David and Champa prepared financially for a few years before they joined the Peace Corps. He stayed in his job long enough to qualify for the retirement health plan, which they’ll use now that they’ve returned, and they accelerated their monthly mortgage payments before they left so they could pay off their house, which they rented out while they were gone.

The Peace Corps provides volunteers with housing and a living stipend, as well as medical and dental care, so the couple barely had to touch their retirement savings for two years. “We had no medical premiums, no car insurance, no utility bills, nothing at all except for some travel and personal expenses. We were able to hold off starting Social Security, too,” says David.

The program’s application process can take several months. “They review your job experience, check references, do a background check and look into every detail of your medical history,” says David.

To get started, visit peacecorps.gov and speak with a recruiter or returned volunteers to find out more about the experience. Also, review the living conditions and medical considerations of a particular volunteer opportunity before applying.“Peace Corps is not for everyone,” says Champa. “You give up a lot of the luxuries we take for granted in America. But it’s also an experience that will open your eyes and change your life.”

Most Popular

Tax Wrinkles for Work-at-Home Employees During COVID-19
taxes

Tax Wrinkles for Work-at-Home Employees During COVID-19

Are your home office expenses deductible? How does going out of state to work for a while affect your tax picture? There are some interesting wrinkles…
November 9, 2020
Retirement: It All Starts with a Budget
personal finance

Retirement: It All Starts with a Budget

When you’re meeting with your financial planner, do you talk about your budget? If not, you should.
November 10, 2020
Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?
taxes

Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?

During the campaign, Joe Biden promised that he would raise taxes for some people. Will you be one of them?
November 10, 2020

Recommended

11 Year-End Moves to Lower Your 2020 Tax Bill
taxes

11 Year-End Moves to Lower Your 2020 Tax Bill

What you do between now and the end of the year can have a significant impact on how much tax you have to pay next April.
November 17, 2020
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
November 16, 2020
Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space
Budgeting

Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space

In this hot real estate market, consider the costs of buying and selling a house along with the expenses associated with your new digs.
November 13, 2020
The Best Fidelity Funds for 401(k) Retirement Savers
Investing for Income

The Best Fidelity Funds for 401(k) Retirement Savers

Fidelity funds are renowned for their managers' stock-picking prowess. We rate Fidelity's best actively managed funds that are popular in 401(k) plans…
November 11, 2020