The shock of retirement can be overwhelming after years of working for a living. Suddenly, you have endless opportunities to fill your time, instead of a set schedule and a million commitments.
At the same time, it can be quite thrilling and also a little bit scary. Usually, retirees only prepare for the financial part of their retirement. But, what about the emotional side of retirement?
An Emotional Roller Coaster
Retirement can be an emotional rollercoaster, so it's no wonder it's so difficult for you to adjust to it. Fortunately, you aren't alone in your feelings (reading our selection of uplifting retirement quotes on this page could make you feel better).
As a matter of fact, retirement tends to follow a pretty predictable emotional trajectory. So, in today's post, we're sharing the typical five emotional phases of retirement and some tips for adjusting to your new life.
In some form or another, you’ll experience each stage at some point once you stop working, although not everyone will experience each stage in the same manner or length of time as others. What are the emotional stages and ages of retirement?
- Pre-Retirement (Age 50 to 62 or more)
- Early Retirement Period (Age 62 to 70)
- Middle-Retirement (Age 70 to 80)
- Late- Retirement (Age 80 and Up)
Adjusting to Retirement
To begin with, how long does the retirement adjustment period last? Adapting to retirement can take weeks to years, and it is a huge life transition.
The process of adjusting to retirement is unique to each situation, so there is no set time frame for it. It can take several months for some retirees while it can take more than a year for others.
Being patient with yourself and allowing yourself time to adjust is important, read our guide on what you should not do in retirement to learn more.
Researchers have found that the amount of resources available to you during your transition has a direct effect on how long it takes you to adjust.
A strong network of friends and family, good physical (see our tips to stay healthy on this page) and mental health (read our selection of 100 funny aging quotes here), a sense of purpose, and an appropriate retirement plan are all factors to consider. It’s easier to make a smooth transition into retirement if you have plenty of social and psychological resources.
Research studies have recognized these three possible specific retirement patterns:
- After retirement, if your total resources do not change significantly, your quality of life will remain the same.
- Your well-being can deteriorate if your resources start declining (e.g., health problems or a loss of social connections)
- You'll show greater well-being improvements if you actually acquire some more resources following retirement (e.g., taking up a new hobby or making new friends).
The Five Stages
Now, let’s take a good look at those five stages of retirement:
- Stage #1: Pre-retirement- This is the stage prior to retiring and generally runs from five to ten years before you actually retire.
- Stage #2: The “honeymoon” phase- “I'm free at last!”
- Stage #3: Disenchantment- “Is this all there is?”
- Stage #4: Re-orientating and finding yourself- Building your new identity.
- Stage #5: Stability- Moving on.
More Details of Each Retirement Phase
#1: The Pre-Retirement Phase – Your Time to Plan
As retirement approaches, you may feel anxious or even antsy. That's OK, most people do. In this phase, retirement is still far off in the distance, but you can't wait and are starting to plan when you'll retire.
You’ll soon discover the fact that focusing on your emotional and social needs may be just as important or even more important in pre-retirement planning as your financial needs. By the way, make sure to read our guide on how to build up your retirement savings.
#2: The Honeymoon Phase – Your New Found Freedom
There is nothing like this stage of retirement when everything is still new and exciting. It can last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years.
Finally, you are free from the grind of work, so you can let go of all the pressure. OK, it may not be quite as much fun as the honeymoon after your wedding (what is, right?) but it can be very liberating.
Now you can start to enjoy your life and you might even feel at first like you’re on vacation with endless possibilities in front of you. It's a time for rest, recuperation, and doing whatever the hell you want without having to report to anyone, so enjoy it!
#3: The Disenchantment Phase – So, Now What?
More than half of retirees in a recent survey say they are enjoying their retirement lifestyle as they expected.
However, 21 percent of retirees end up rating their overall quality of life as much less than what they were expecting. And, this is something that’s likely to happen in the disenchantment stage of your retirement.
As you aimlessly occupy your time with anything that keeps you busy, you start to feel worn out. Even with a long to-do list, you might start feeling bored, restless, and unfulfilled. And, you may even feel like you're just going through the motions during this phase.
That’s why it’s so important to find your very own North Star by redefining what success actually looks like for you and you alone. Finding clarity and connecting with your own authentic self while also discovering your retirement purpose can be very important to stay a happy retiree.
Remember that you can achieve anything you set your mind to with the right mindset, tools, and support system. We created a list of 150 things to do during retirement available here, why not taking a look at it for a start?
#4: The Reorientation Phase – Introducing the New You
Retirement gives you the opportunity to really focus on who you are at your core and what you want out of life after years of working and juggling different roles. Often, people feel like they have lost themselves when they retire because their job is such an important part of their identity.
As part of the reorientation process, you can take stock of your life and reevaluate your priorities. To gain clarity about what you want out of life, you must dig deep and self-reflect. Self-discovery is an excellent opportunity during reorientation.
#5: The Stability Phase – Settling into Your Retirement Routine
During your final retirement stage, you need to establish a routine and find stability. You may find yourself settling into a new routine after the initial highs and lows, excitement, and shock of retirement have passed.
At this stage of retirement, you finally feel on the right path and can look forward to your future. And, you’ve probably become a lot less concerned about the unknown, and more self-trusting and confident overall.
So, embrace the challenges, focus on your growth, and prioritize your self-care.
Ease Into Retirement
It takes time to feel fantastic about your new phase after retirement, and feeling great about it is a process. So, allow yourself plenty of time to go through the above-mentioned five stages of retirement.