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Get Paid and Stay Engaged In Retirement

Four retirees show how it's done

 Gary Nees reclines in front of students in 2015 in Spain.

Gary Nees, this 70-year-old former Chief Financial Officer, has spent the last two summers in Mexico and Spain working as a youth leader. — Courtesy of Gary Nees

En español | Gone are the days when retirement meant only one thing: no more work. Today's retirees are finding new ways to stay engaged and get compensated for doing what they love.

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Whether you're in your 60s, 70s or 80s, you, too, can find a side gig or personal pursuit out there with your name on it.

The amount of time you spend working — or even volunteering — might be concentrated into one season, like summer. Or it could be ongoing, but scaled back to once a week. You can even choose how much or how little you want to work or engage in what interests you.

The following three retirees will show you how they stay active and creative, while also gaining financially.

Gary Nees leaves on a trip from home

Nees says his work as a youth leader has made him "a different kind of rich." — Courtesy of Gary Nees

Get Paid to See the World

Sounds too good to be true?

Meet Gary Nees from Portland, Ore. This 70-year-old former Chief Financial Officer has spent the last two summers in Mexico and Spain as a youth leader for the Experiment in International Living. The 84-year-old program, which is part of the World Learning nonprofit in Washington, D.C., runs three-, four- and five-week summer programs for high school students in more than 20 countries.

"About four years ago, when I was planning my retirement, I contacted the Experiment and asked, 'Hey, do you hire old people?' " says Nees, who was a group leader for the program in Mexico 46 years earlierd.

After semi-retiring three years ago, he led another Experiment group of 12 high school students on a month-long cultural immersion program to Mexico, similar to the one he did in 1968. The all-expense-paid trip included a $900 stipend.

As the date got closer, Nees had some concerns. "Am I going to be accepted? Will I be able to relate?" he recalls. But it worked out great. "I felt so accepted. I didn't know what they were talking about half the time, but it didn't matter," says Nees with a chuckle, adding, "I was Grandpa."

See also: Called to give back

The experience was so good, he led another Experiment program the next year.

Most people would not consider being a youth leader as a way to get rich. Nees, though, strongly disagrees.

"It was for me," he says. "Just a different kind of rich."

Get Paid to Teach

Barbara Parker, 82, is an adjunct instructor at the NYU School of Professional Studies non-degree program. She teaches two or three plays of William Shakespeare during a class that meets for two hours each week over two or so months in midtown Manhattan. Her students: other retirees.

"When I retired four years ago, I swore I would never grade another paper for as long as I live," declares the Brooklyn Heights resident, who was a professor of English literature and writing at William Paterson University in New Jersey for 23 years.

Swapping a three-hour daily commute several days a week for a 15-minute subway ride once a week, Parker couldn't be happier in her new role. And the pay isn't bad, either. She earns $78 an hour for her time in the classroom.

See also: Take this job and love it!

Sure, there's preparation. But that's not heavy lifting for Parker, who used to work about 60 hours a week and graded hundreds of papers during a semester.

"The students are very different than the ones I taught before retirement," Parker says. "They are highly educated and highly cultured. They do the reading," she adds. "I just adore it."

Watching her mother struggling with Alzheimer's years ago made Parker realize how important it is to stay engaged and keep the mind active as you get older. Parker is now writing her third book, a scholarly work on Hamlet and the religious upheaval during Shakespeare's times.

About her role as adjunct instructor, she says: "At least half the students come back for the next semester. It's very rewarding."

Getting a Payoff From Volunteering — Even as Grandma or Grandpa

After retiring in June 2008, Lynn Podoll, now 74, a retired Lutheran pastor, and his wife, Karla, a former teacher, were excited that they could continue living lives of service.

The couple moved to Hope Meadows, an innovative small community on 22 acres in Rantoul, Ill.

Hope Meadows was built as a place where children adopted from foster care find permanent and loving homes, as well as surrogate grandparents, playmates and an entire neighborhood designed to support them. As nurturing as the environment is for the children, it also has a positive impact on retirees by giving them a strong sense of purpose.

The Podolls, who will celebrate 50 years of marriage in 2017, stay extremely busy. Among other things, Karla volunteers Mondays and Tuesdays at an afterschool program for children and families. Lynn helps out in the community garden, while she participates in a Thursday morning quilting group in the neighborhood.

"Each child has a quilt for their own interests, favorite colors and so on," says Lynn Podoll, adding: "My wife is much more active than I am."

Karla Podoll's artistic talents help the community, too. She makes items to sell at a community shop, whose proceeds help support the nonprofit program that runs Hope Meadows.

Living in such a vibrant, creative community, and having daily interactions with younger people, helps the Podolls stay engaged.

There's a financial payoff as well. "In exchange for giving six hours a week per household in service to the community, we get a lower rate on rent," Podoll says.

The couple pays $525 a month for a three-bedroom unit. Similar-sized properties in the surrounding neighborhood rent for $100 to $200 more.

Even if serving as a pseudo-grandparent isn't your thing, volunteering in other ways can indirectly help your bank account, says retirement expert Joshua Mellberg, owner of J.D. Mellberg Financial in Tucson, Ariz.

Get Involved: Help struggling seniors by volunteering through AARP Foundation

Charity work can save money by occupying your mind, which staves off boredom and the temptation to frivolously spend cash, Mellberg says.

You'll also be more personally enriched if you pass a few days, weekly or monthly, volunteering on behalf of a cause that's meaningful to you.

"Worrying about money during retirement can prevent you from spending time on things you really enjoy," Mellberg says. "But you don't have to just sit at home to make your money go further.

"Remember, retirement is supposed to be fun," Mellberg adds. "Following your heart's desire can actually save you money."

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach(R), is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and regular contributor to AARP. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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