Five emotional stages of retirement transition

Well there goes another month.  When I started writing this blog I’d worked out that each month amounted to a third of a percent of my remaining likely lifespan. I thought it was important to make the most of every one. 

Now after this godawful year of Covid I’m just glad to see off November and move on to a day when talk of R numbers, furloughing, tiers, infection waves and facemasks are consigned to the dustbin of history.

I also think that maybe, just maybe, I’m moving through the emotional stages of retirement to a new place where counting months and days is less important to me.  Perhaps this year has made me more aware than ever that in truth have a lot less control of my destiny than I imagined and have to just go with the flow.

So where am I on my retirement transition journey? I’ve read a few times over these months that big life transitions bring a range of emotions and that there are five common stages many of us go through.

Stage 1: Planning

In the planning phase of retirement, you begin evaluating when you should retire. You get to put your imagination to the test during this stage, deciding where you want to retire, where you want to live, and how much money you need to save.  As you plan for the impending transition, it’s important to spend time preparing yourself emotionally, too. Retirement is a big change, and you don’t want to do it until you know you are ready. Set some goals and expectations for your retirement so you know you aren’t walking into it blind. By taking your emotions into consideration and seeking to understand them, you’ll be able to transition easily into the next stage. 

Stage 2: Excitement

The closer you get to retirement, the more excited you’ll begin to feel. When was the last time you didn’t have to go to work? When could you do something just because you wanted to, without worrying about other responsibilities? You’ve been planning the logistics and details of retirement for years—but now it’s time to get excited about all the new experiences you will get to have. As the anticipation builds for your retirement, it is also common to have some uncertainty in this stage. You might wonder who you are outside of all the responsibilities that have defined you—but that’s one of the most exciting things about retirement. In this part of your life, you can be whoever you want to be. The possibilities are endless, and you’ll be counting down the days until retirement officially begins.

Stage 3: Honeymoon

The “Honeymoon Stage” is common in a lot of life transitions—not just retirement. At the beginning of your retirement, you will probably be lost in all the opportunities available to you. You can learn a new hobby, visit your family, or travel to places you have never been. In this stage, you can get some much-needed rest and enjoy your retirement years.  Unfortunately, the Honeymoon Stage does not last forever. After a year or so, you might start to identify a desire for something deeper. You have worked hard for this time in your life, so it’s important to get as much enjoyment out of retirement as possible—but don’t be surprised when the next stage of retirement sneaks up on you.

Stage 4: Disenchantment

At this point in retirement, you might begin to think retirement isn’t as fun as you expected it to be. There are only so many hobbies you can learn and places you can visit before everything starts to feel the same again. This feeling of disenchantment can sometimes be accompanied by more serious feelings of meaningless or depression. In this stage, it’s important to ask for help if you need it. Talk to your family and friends about your feelings and have them help you look for ways to create a sense of purpose again. This might be a good time to invest in something bigger than yourself—you can volunteer at a local organisation, consider continuing education opportunities, or even plant a garden.

Stage 5: Reorientation & Stability

This is the final phase of retirement emotions, and it ties all the earlier stages together. You can go back to your original retirement plan and evaluate your goals and hopes for retirement. With the Honeymoon Stage out of the way and reality setting in, you can truly begin to embrace this part of your life, balancing your exciting experiences with your meaningful ones.   What are you still hoping to accomplish? How are you going to get there? As you reorient yourself in this transition and regain solid footing, you can see the big picture better than you could before. In your golden years, you’ll feel more stable and accepting of this new life phase.

I feel that in just 11 months I’m already at Stage 5, with a big dose of Stage 4 thrown in!  Covid cut the excitement and opportunities of Stage 2 so maybe I’ve got a bit of that still come.  I do hope so.  In a way Stage 5 throws you back into Stage 1 which involves you going through a more realistic planning process which includes a bigger slice of purpose with a smaller dollop of fun.

Published by brianjonesdiary

Dad, husband, brother and son. Interested in travel, politics, sport, health and much more. Semi-retired and aiming to making the most of life as I approach my sixth decade.

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