5 stages of retirement – and why you need to know them

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Ron Smith Maricopa
Ron Smith

Retirement typically occurs in five stages: pre-retirement, full retirement, disenchantment, reorien-tation, and reconciliation and stability. Each stage brings its own set of choices. Understanding which retirement stage you are in helps to position the choices facing you.

  1. Pre-retirement, beginning the financial planning that will be the foundation of retirement, may be the most important stage. Setting aside money early makes retirement decisions more fulfilling. During college years and early marriage, such fiscal discipline can be difficult. Keep in mind you are saving for a 20- to 30-year period. The usual guidance, to retire with about 10-12 times your ending income beyond expected Social Security income, is designed to protect from medical expenses, unexpected longevity or early retirement. About half of Americans retire at 61 or earlier. The longer you wait to get started, the harder it is to recover, particularly for average- to low-income earners. The result can be delayed start of retirement, working during retirement or downsizing living expenses. Oftentimes, it is all three.
  2. Full retirement, the official beginning of retirement, usually lasts a couple of years. For some, this liberation-from-work phase includes feelings of excitement, relief and freedom from the stress and responsibilities of your day-to-day working life. New retirees may begin traveling, hobbying or reconnecting with family, friends or even their spouses. Others may simply kick back and opt for rest and relaxation.
  3. Disenchantment is the let-down from the excitement of the retirement honeymoon. Once the blur of new activities wears off, some may feel a sense of disappointment, or that they are missing something in life. Boredom, loneliness or a lack of purpose can lead to a state of depression.
  4. Reorientation, when retirees begin to reevaluate their retirement experience, can be the most difficult stage. It often leads to a new retirement identity, a process that can take some time, but once accomplished bring closure to your work identity and frees you to move on to genuinely enjoy retirement. Find something that provides meaningful purpose, pursue a long-held passion or identify a new one.
  5. Reconciliation and stability, the final stage, may not occur for up to 15 years after the official start of retirement, with feelings of contentment and hopefulness and, usually, less depression and anxiety. Retirees enjoy a simple, more relaxed life leading to fulfillment. But health changes are more prevalent now, and the focus can change to independence and health maintenance.

Experiences may vary. Not everyone will go through all the stages in the same way. Transitions can vary based on prior experiences in life, but they all come with an array of emotions and worries. But thoughtful preparation for financial and emotional needs can temper emotions during this significant transition. As a result, you can learn to age well and spend more time enjoying your new life.

Source: Eric Paquette for Wildpine Residence, Stittsville, Ontario, Canada. Retirement Living: A Guide to the Common Retirement Stages & What to Expect.

Ron Smith is a living-in-place advocate, a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, a certified aging-in-place specialist and a certified living-in-place professional.

This column was first published in the March edition of InMaricopa magazine.