There is a tendency to demonize work in order to make retirement look more attractive.

In this blog, we look at the value that work provides. Our retirement consultant Barry LaValley of the Retirement Lifestyle Center has suggested that you consider the things you like about work and think about what role work plays in your life. The goal is to look at it objectively without consideration of retirement.

Work performs a basic function in our lives; we will look at the positives and consider whether we could take anything useful into retirement.

Robert, age 62, has recently retired from a career as a civil engineer. From the time he was in college, he valued himself as an innovative thinker and builder who took on tough challenges and developed solutions. Over time, he moved to the top of his profession and provided consulting work to both private industry and government. “Going to work every day wasn’t really like going to work,” he told us. “I looked forward to new challenges and creating unique ways to accomplish tough engineering tasks.”

A health challenge caused Robert to retire long before he was ready to do so. Today, he still tries to keep up with the new research and advances in the engineering field and has retained many friends through the Association of Professional Engineers.

“It’s still not the same,” he laments. “I feel that I have lost my relevance, my spark. I never realized how important my work was to how I see myself as a vital person.”

Your Identity and Your Work

It’s easy to say that men tend to identify themselves by their work while women are more likely to identify themselves by their roles in the community and family. Cultural anthropologists suggest that a man’s historical role was that of a hunter and a gatherer and that his sense of self-worth came from his success versus other hunters. Women, on the other hand, created and maintained the social community needed to support the hunters.

Today, with so many women in the workplace, has the gender difference remained? In fact, the research on gender differences is not conclusive: both men and women who are fulfilled by their work are more likely to judge their self-worth by their jobs. If you don’t have your job, who are you?

The Six Positive Roles That Work Plays in Your Life

Working provides positive benefits in your life that will need to be replaced if you decide that you never want to be employed again. There are six key roles that work plays:

Work earns you a paycheck.
This is the most common reason that Americans work and the catalyst that forces you to save for retirement. How important is your income to your lifestyle,your goals and dreams, and to your family? Does that paycheck ensure your quality of life? How secure is the paycheck that you currently receive? If your answers indicate that your paycheck plays a major role in the quality of your life, you will want to ensure that you truly understand your income flow and your income needs once you retire.

Work provides a structure for your life.
One overlooked role that work fills in your life is the structure and purpose it creates in your weekly and daily activities. The workplace is a source of deadlines, starting times, lunch breaks, weekends, and holidays. From the time you started your job, you were expected to be somewhere at a certain time to provide the services for which you were paid. The very nature of the workplace, with its ongoing deadlines and expectations, provides a certain amount of structure for your use of time–even if you are self-employed.

Work gives you a sense of “being needed.”
For some people, one of work’s greatest benefits is that it fulfillsaneed to feel useful or helpful to others. Work can also provide a sense of accomplishment knowing your work is directly benefiting someone and that you have used your efforts for the greater good. While not all jobs are so altruistic, many do allow workers to combine their work with the values that they hold.

Work supplies your social network.
Some people find that the workplace provides their support network, feeds their social life, and in some cases, replaces or supplements their family. Do you work because you enjoy the camaraderie at your job? How important are the personal relationships that have developed through your work? Work often supplies you with a team environment that fosters conversation and collaboration with colleagues to achieve common goals. And it is often these social and interactive aspects that we appreciate as we reflect on our jobs at the end of the day.

Work offers you status.
Depending on your job and how you view your position in life, your work may enhance your sense of self-worth. Your earning power may also translate into a feeling of personal power. Some people define themselves by their jobs and do not have a good sense of who they are without that identifier.

Work involves you in the community
When you go to work, you have a chance to interact with various people in your community, to share ideas, to talk politics, sports, social issues, etc. In going to and from work, you are exposed to traffic, transportation modes, and a view of the route between home and work. You can be drawn more easily into social causes, social activities within your community, or receive recommendations on things to do.

Let’s talk about what role work does play, what will you miss, and how you can take your strengths and transferable skills into this next phase of life. Contact me and let me share more information from my friend Barry LaValley to help you gain some perspective on the positives that work can provide in your Second Life!

Joseph F. Falbo, CFP®, AIF®, CRC® is an independent LPL financial advisor that helps grow and preserve clients’ wealth using cutting edge, customized, and comprehensive strategies. With over two decades of experience, Joe helps clients to pursue and retain the lifestyle they want in retirement. To discuss your retirement goals or any financial topic you want, schedule a 20-minute complimentary call. To learn more about Joe, please visit

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC) conferred by InFRE®