Why do/did you work?

Assuming you’re not independently wealthy or that you don’t have a Sugar Daddy/Sugar Mama, it’s a given that you work to pay for rent, groceries, and the like. But I expect for most folks, there’s more to it than that.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few reasons:
[li]Really like what you’re doing[/li][li]Want to be able to pay for hobbies/toys/vacations/vices[/li][li]Saving for retirement so that you can be comfortable in your golden years[/li][li]Want to achieve a particular lifestyle[/li][/ul]

More often than not, I enjoyed what I was doing, but my prime motivation encompasses the second and third reasons above, heavily weighted towards the third. My husband and I have been able to own boats, support our hobbies (woodworking and pottery) and take some cool vacations. In the last 10 years, we’ve concentrated on bulking up our savings and working with a financial planner, with a view to being fully retired by the end of 2018. I think we’ll do OK. I hope we’ll do OK.

How about you?

The last year or so at my job, I was strictly working for the benefits. Oh don’t get me wrong, the pay was nice, and I miss some of the good coworkers, but the medical and dental insurance was very good, and was generously subsidized. Ultimately, it was not enough to keep me from quitting on the spot when I had been pushed too far.

I work to feed/clothe/house/insure my family. If I had the money to live on and not work, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

All of these, but not necessarily all at once. The first has always been the top priority, the other three varied over time.

I have had to work for those reasons. If I had enough money for the hobbies, retirement, and lifestyle I wouldn’t work for someone else, but I’d have to do something work-like for myself, I’m not the type to just travel or something like that.

That, mostly.

But with a side order of “it’s nice for my self esteem to have skills which are of value to people, and to be recognised for that” - and being paid for doing work is a handy measure of whether what you do during the day is valuable.

I realised some years ago that I’m never going to feel satisfied with a day’s work unless at the end of the day I can point to a person whose name and face I know and say that the work I did that day made a positive difference in the life of that person. Slightly tricky to pull off, since my main job skill involves sitting over a computer and thinking very hard about logical problems, but I managed to find my niche.

I assumed, as a given, when I was growing up, that work would be something I would need to do in order to live, and I had damned well better be prepared to do something that people might pay me to do. Once I had that under control, I worked only enough to save up money to not work for an interval, during which I would be free to travel. When traveling exhausted my funds, I would go back to work.

Essentially, The reward from working was my own life, free and unencumbered by servitude.

My longest-lasting job…I really liked! I loved the people, I loved the product that we manufactured (uninterruptible power supplies) and I loved working with the database and db server. I got really good at making bar-code labels. It was actually a pleasure to go to work.

If I could have that one back, I’d take it in a New York heartbeat.

My entire career, including my post-retirement temp jobs and my current full-time job, has been for or in support of the Department of Defense. I could never tie my engineering to a specific person, but there were times when I could point to a specific airplane and say “I was on the project that did <stuff> to that plane.” These days, I work for a company that builds helicopter trainers for US and foreign military commands. I may never see where the trainers end up, but I know that the drawings and designs I work on make the trainers possible. Definitely more rewarding for me than pushing papers.

Hrmm… My brain is not wired to understand people who work for any reason other than, “Because shit costs money.” I’m with @cmkeller: if I could live and not work, I’d be here for all of that.

I don’t either. I am already rich - on paper - but I don’t have free access to the money right now and won’t until I am at least 50. I like doing everything from computer programming to manual labor but it depends on what it is specifically and I never stay interested in any one project long enough to want to participate in it for months or years at a time. I learned over time that I really don’t like anything that involves an office environment and I especially hate lots of meetings and paperwork even more.

My current position lets me be mostly autonomous in a gritty, industrial facility of a mega-corp which suits me fine and is probably one the best fits for me there is but it isn’t like I look forward to going to work on any given day.

I would quit in a heartbeat if I could do it in a very secure way and I will at some point in the not so distant future (still years away though). I am not sure what I will do then but it will be something I like such as teaching technology skills to kids in the Caribbean or Costa Rica. Until then, the reason that I work is that my family expects me to and I need the benefits. You need a whole lot of money to retire really young because it screws up your long-term benefits like Social Security and medical insurance as well and I don’t have that much yet even on paper.

I am glad there are a lot of very driven people in the world. It so just happens that I am not one of them.

I don’t know why but I don’t feel good about myself if I’m not being productive somehow, or at least trying to be. Life just bores me as it is, I feel compelled to make the world different even if in a very minor way. I can’t just be an observer though, but as I continue to age I’m not driven to produce as much as I used to be.

Yeaaaah… I’m not burdened by that particular handicap.

It makes it so I can afford everything I need, and most of what I want. Can’t complain about that.

My job–teaching–is pretty central to my identity and sense of self. I’d feel pretty lost and pointless without it.

Thirded. Wholeheartedly thirded.

I worked to live, not the other way around. As soon as we had enough to retire on, I quite and never looked back.

Yup. Work always seems to get in the way of actually living and enjoying life, but there’s that minor problem.

I most definitely work because “s*** costs money”, and I’m sure I would resign pretty quickly if I suddenly came in to a lot of money.

However, I can see why some people would choose to continue working even if they didn’t need the money.

Elon Musk doesn’t need the money, he could comfortably retire today, but he won’t. And I can understand why.

I work so my family can eat, and so we can have a place where we can sleep and keep our stuff.

And buy lottery tickets.

I would say “want to achieve a particular lifestyle.” I was born to lower-middle/working-class parents, but was a smart kid, so all the kids at school I had anything in common with on an intellectual level were from upper-middle class families. Because of this, I developed massive resentment against my parents for not being more successful and raising us in a more affluent environment. There was a laundry list of things I felt left out for not having because it seemed like all the other kids at school had them, for which I repeatedly begged my parents, only to be told “we can’t afford it” every time (central air conditioning, braces, summer camp, an up-to-date computer, to name a few) and I vowed that I would be able to afford those things for myself and my family when I grew up.

That said, work is merely a means to an end for me. If I were independently wealthy and had a trust fund that provided the aforementioned lifestyle, I’d never set an alarm clock another day in my life.