Want a retirement that makes a difference?

See how Marc Illies is doing just that.

The kind of retirement that’s all about playing golf and lounging on the beach can sound appealing in theory, but studies show that the seniors who are actually the happiest — and healthiest — are those who feel a sense of purpose.

In the town of Alexandria, Minnesota, Marc Illies, a 59-year-old retired CFO, is a great example of how that can look.

The Joy of Giving Back

As a young and active retiree, Marc definitely enjoys plenty of time playing — on the golf course, on the lakes, and with his grandkids. But that’s just a fraction of his retired life. He also coaches baseball at the high school, substitute teaches at the elementary schools, and gives driving lessons at Central Lakes Driving School, owned by his son.

If you ask Marc why he spends so much time teaching during this phase of life, he’ll start by telling you stories about some of his favorite moments.

He’ll tell you how satisfying it is to help teens learn to drive. “It’s actually kind of fun sitting in the car, getting to know them a little bit,” says Marc. “They’re all 15-year-olds that want to get their license, and they all want to be safe drivers.”

“You get to know the kids,” Marc says, “and you really feel like you’re giving back to the community.”

He’ll describe how invigorating it feels to spend an entire winter day on the school playground, leading one elementary gym class after another as a substitute teacher. “It gets cold out there,” he says, “but it’s fun.”

And he’ll tell you how much he enjoys bumping into his students around town. Recently Marc heard someone in a restaurant shout the catchphrase he uses with his gym classes: “Hubba hubba” (which roughly translates to “Let’s get moving”). He turned to find one of his students beaming at him, proud to have caught his teacher’s eye.

Moments like this motivate Marc to keep investing in the kids of Alexandria.

Substitute teachers are in high demand in Alexandria, and Marc is constantly inviting his retired friends to join him.

Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any field can apply to become a substitute teacher with provisions for applicants with alternate backgrounds as well. Learn how to apply for short-call substitute teaching positions and see volunteer opportunities and more part-time educational positions in Alexandria public schools.

A place where people give back

In Alexandria, you’ll hear the themes of serving and giving back from people of all ages. It’s an exceptionally engaged community.

Many people in the area are involved in the local churches and faith communities. Many join boards for local nonprofits. Some volunteer at programs like Car Care, which provides free cars to people in need while teaching volunteers how to work on cars.

For Marc, his passion has always been to teach. “My whole family — my grandpa, my dad, my brothers, my sister — they’re all teachers. Everybody in my family was a teacher and a coach,” says Marc. It’s a career he always wanted for himself, but he approached it with a uniquely practical strategy. He decided to first pursue a career that would provide a better income than teaching ever could — so he could retire early and teach in his latter years.

“For me, it’s like, okay, the community gave me a lot over the years. Now how can I give back?”

Marc Illies

That’s exactly what he did and, for Marc, retirement is going just how he wanted it.

“You see these kids in the grocery stores and restaurants and they’re all smiley and telling their mom and dad, that’s my gym teacher,” he says. “Wow, is it rewarding.”

Retirees like Marc are finding fulfillment in a wide range of creative ways — from volunteering, to substitute teaching, to joining faith communities, to working part time in a fun “second career”.

Discover great ways to make the most of your retirement on the Living Alexandria site, and explore options for part-time work here.

Want to get more out of your retirement years?

Check out opportunities in Alexandria, Minnesota.