One way to create a rewarding retirement is to understand the benefits of work. Let’s take a closer look at work and figure out what it does for us.
To begin with, work gives us a place to go. This may not seem like a big deal while you are doing it, in fact, you may list 20 other places you would rather go than to work this morning. Yet, retirees repeatedly say,
“I need a place to go. I have been working for 35 years and I can’t be at home all day.”Work has provided that place to go.
Work provides structure. Again, you may say, “I am tired of structure. I can’t wait to have nothing on my agenda each day.” But, once the structure is gone is when you realize what it did for you. Without structure you can flounder and feel like a boat without a rudder.
Work is a community where you have a place and a sense of belonging and affiliation. Do you have best friends at work? If so, you know what I’m speaking about. Do you have inside jokes at work? These contribute to a feeling that you belong.
Work also provides a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. It doesn’t matter what your job is. You can always link it to a greater purpose, not to mention the purpose of providing for yourself and those you love.
Work provides challenges and opportunities for accomplishing difficult tasks. With this comes a growing feeling of happiness and gratification that increases with time. It’s different from the kind of happiness you feel when you buy a new car or take a Caribbean cruise. You might think these things make you happier, but over time the happiness diminishes. As soon as a newer car model comes out, then your shiny new car loses some of its luster. On the other hand, happiness that comes from hard work and reaching challenging goals continues to increase over time.
I have hardly mentioned an obvious benefit of work—that is to make money. Salaries and paychecks are a major benefit of work, but the paycheck isn’t the first reason most people continue to work after reaching retirement age. Mark, a 75-year-old lawyer who goes into work 5 ½ days/week said, “I am okay financially. I don’t need to work for the money. I need to work because it makes me happy. I think I’m healthier because I stay involved in my profession, meeting new people and meeting new challenges”.
When we realize the role work has played in our lives, then we can better understand our needs in retirement. And, by including work in our retirement we can have the best of both worlds!