Better Than Dollars

Kathleen M. Rehl

A FRIEND ASKED ME recently if I got paid for the writing I do. She assumed that I’d be compensated, especially for research articles published in scholarly journals.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m paid generously—in psychic income.”

“What’s psychic income?” she asked.

I explained. “Instead of earning a paycheck for my paper, I earn the satisfaction of this well-respected periodical running my article.” That’s also the way it is for my short stories and poetry that appear in specialty publications.

For me, psychic income is the intangible joy I receive from the writing process. As a retired financial planner, connecting with readers across the country is more important to me than earning a few dollars. The Cambridge Dictionary defines psychic income as the pleasure and satisfaction that people get from doing a job, rather than the money they earn for doing it.

Several years ago, I reaped priceless psychic income from penning my financial guidebook for new widows. As a surviving spouse myself, writing the book helped heal my grief after my prior husband’s death. It also felt good knowing the guidebook assisted thousands of other widows dealing with this difficult transition. Some wrote me heartfelt notes. Authoring the book was a way to honor my spouse’s legacy. That was important to me. I’ve used much of the profit from book sales to support programs assisting widows and their children, which further added to my psychic income.

Folks earn psychic income in many ways. Over the past month, I asked retired friends what activities pay them psychic income. Here are some of their responses:

  • “I like being a volunteer driver, getting cancer patients to their chemo treatments at the hospital when they’re too sick to make the trip on their own. I try to cheer them up if they want to talk.”
  • “I love creating my large floral oil paintings and donating them for the annual fundraising auction benefitting my church. It’s fun to paint for this cause, with many people buying my art.”
  • “I thrive mentoring newbies just starting in our profession. It’s gratifying that they value the advice I can give them in their new careers. One of my mentees still stays in touch with me years after I helped her. Makes me smile.”
  • “Such a thrill when one of my short stories was included in an anthology. I knew I had arrived as a published author.”
  • “I enjoyed completing the volunteer museum docent training where I learned so much. Makes me feel useful when I lead tours for elementary school children now.”
  • “It’s challenging to facilitate my course at the lifelong learning center. Think it makes my brain grow! I love it when participants tell me they learn a lot in my class.”
  • “Serving on this nonprofit’s board of trustees gives me a chance to know some interesting people who share my focus on working to improve our community.”
  • “Recently, I set up a small scholarship fund in memory of a favorite teacher who made a tremendous difference in my life. I want to keep his memory alive in the coming years by helping a few deserving students. Just feels the right way to use part of the money I earned before retirement in this way. I’m still following his advice from years ago.”

Whether you’re retired or still working, what do you do that earns you psychic income?

Kathleen M. Rehl is retired following a career in financial planning and an “encore career” of speaking and doing research about widows. She authored the award-winning book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. Kathleen enjoys writing legacy poetry and stories, as well as assisting various nonprofits. You can learn more at Check out Kathleen’s earlier articles.

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