This article originally appeared in HumbleDollar.
Call me Solitary Man.
I’ve never been much of a joiner. I’ve never belonged to a country club and can count on my two hands the number of social organizations I’ve been part of during my working years.
Part of this was because I didn’t have a lot of time to pursue many outside interests while I was working fourteen-hour days as a corporate manager. What spare time I did have, I preferred to spend writing, fishing, hiking, or pursing other solitary pursuits.
But if I’m being honest, much of my club avoidance over the years is because I’m cheap. The idea of forking over thousands of dollars for a country club membership when I had more pressing things to do with my money, like investing it in my retirement funds and 529 plans for my kids’ education, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
Besides, the whole notion of a “club” has always smelled to me of privilege and exclusivity. Why would I want to pay through the nose so I can prove to others that I’ve arrived?
In retrospect, I realize I was a bit of a snob myself in the way I looked at clubs. Yes, a club—especially the swanky kind—is, by definition, exclusive in that people without money can’t afford it. But many clubs do a lot of good in the world through their charitable causes.
Clubs are also great ways to meet people and network. By staying away from them, I paid a price in terms of missed career opportunities and friendships over the course of my career.
Better late than never, however. Since I left the corporate world almost two years ago, I have joined several clubs, including a fly-fishing club near my vacation home in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Membership in the club was pricey, but it offered exclusive access to six miles of a pristine trout stream in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Why the sudden change of heart?
There are several reasons. First, I have more time on my hands now to indulge in my passions.
Second, I have the money, so why not join a club or two that align with my interests? The fly-fishing club provides a chance to fish prime trout waters without having to stand elbow-to-elbow with other fishermen along stocked public waters. For a guy like me who loves fishing but hates crowds, that’s priceless.
To assuage my conscience about being part of an exclusive, members-only club that some others cannot afford, I’m ramping up my volunteer time and giving to non-profit organizations. In addition to being on the board of directors of a non-profit alternative educational organization, I’ve joined the local Rotary Club, where we meet weekly to plan service projects for needy community groups and causes.
The third and most important reason I’ve decided to join these clubs is that they allow me to meet people and stay socially engaged—things that are vitally important as we grow older. About a quarter of American adults aged 65 or older are socially isolated, recent research revealed. Beyond the emotional pain of loneliness, seniors who are socially isolated also tend to develop cognitive issues at an earlier age.
Men, in particular, have a problem in this area. We tend to have fewer friends than women in the first place, and when we lose them, as we inevitably do as we get older, we have a harder time making new ones.
Speaking for myself, I’ve lost several good friends over the years. I can feel my social connections dwindling. Now is the time to rebuild them.
Happily, I’ve already made a couple new friends through the new groups I’ve joined. To me, these friendships and social connections are well worth the price of membership.
You can’t take it with you, as they say. I feel good knowing I’m spending my money on things I enjoy and that give back to the community, while keeping me engaged in that community.