Retirement is a big lifestyle changing event. You will need time to process and adjust to your new life when you finally retire.
Most people think about financial goals of retirement – “How much money do I need to retire?” or “Can I afford to retire?” While financial security is important, future retirees need to accumulate more than money for a successful retirement.
You need to be mentally ready for your new phase of life. You do not want to realize that most days you have nothing special to look forward to when you wake up in the morning. Or you do not have any reason to leave your house during the day. Or deep inside you wish you were not retired. These are all signs that you are not mentally ready for retirement.
Like many other life transitions, retirement comes with emotional and mental adjustments. If you prepare yourself and learn more about the most common emotional stages of retirement you can gain the knowledge of what to expect.
Following these tips on the emotional stages of retirement will help you to better navigate the transition to a new phase of your life.
Get ready for 5 most common emotional stages of retirement:
First stage: Planning for retirement
Planning and saving for retirement take many decades before you can actually retire. Many of us focus on building our careers and saving money for retirement. Planning for retirement not always include a discussion about the emotional stages of our golden years.
When we are 20 or 30 years away from retirement, we do not think about our retirement life in details. We are busy with paying mortgage on time, saving money for kid’s college, and having a little bit of fun. But when you feel that your working life is coming to the finish line you need to plan what you will do with your life when you reach the end zone.
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The first stage of retirement will come with lifestyle changes such as decisions on where to live and what to do. Downsizing, retiring in place, or relocating can bring financial freedom but could cause a roller coaster of emotions.
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All change is stressful. When you retire the stress of changing your lifestyle will be there and you have to deal with it while making some serious decisions.
When you are within 5 years of a retirement date you should start working on your goals and expectations. Start thinking about what you are going to do with so much free time on your hands.
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Take a few minutes to answer some questions:
- What will I do with my time?
- What activities will fill my days?
- How will my life change when I retire?
- Do I want to work in retirement? If yes, doing what?
Second stage: Excitement about retirement
Most people begin to feel excited when they think about upcoming retirement. Honestly, I feel this way quite often!
I am sure that many baby boomers are counting down the days until their retirement officially begins. The feeling of relief and freedom from the stress and responsibilities of the day-to-day of working life. The freedom of doing something I wanted to do and not because it is on my to-do list.
People have been planning for retirement for years and this stage offers plenty of opportunities for new experiences in their life. In this phase of your life, you can be whoever you want to be.
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The minute you say goodbye to your coworkers your full retirement starts. You might have a big celebration with colleagues, family, and friends or just a small dinner party for marking this day. Whatever ceremony you choose for the big day it will come with smiles, handshakes, and farewell gifts.
Once the retirement celebrations are over, the excitement of full retirement starts. This phase might be short for some retirees or might last for many years for others. It will vary depending on how much activity people planned for this stage.
Many new retirees have a long list of things they wanted to do once they stopped working for the boss.
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There are so many opportunities around you. You can travel to places you have never been to before. You can acquire a new skill or learn a new language. You can visit your friends and family more often or spend more time with your grand-kids. Emotionally you would be more relaxed and hopefully enjoying your retirement years in full.
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Third stage: Disappointment
Unfortunately, the second stage does not last forever. For some retirees, the stage of excitement is followed by a period of disappointment.
After a few years of fun and enthusiasm, you might start feeling bored. You will learn that retirement is not a constant vacation. Eventually, you will realize that you have to fill up your days with something more meaningful than just traveling or playing golf.
The retirement brings a huge amount of freedom and you might feel lost not knowing what to do with all free time on your hands. When the reality of retirement hits in, many retirees start feeling useless and isolated. It can be easy to slip into a depression during this stage.
Learning about the third stage of retirement should help to be ready for the emotional part of being disappointed and how to deal with it. In this stage is important to understand that you can create a sense of purpose again. Sharing your feelings with family and friends might help to come up with a plan if you feel helpless.
Fourth stage: Building a new purpose in life
The fourth stage is often considered the most emotionally challenged. To build a new identity and find a new purpose in life can take some time and effort to accomplish. As a retiree, you might need to answer questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” or “Who I am now?”
Find a new identity
As a working adult you get used to identifying yourself a certain way – as a doctor, a teacher, or a business owner, and so on. But in retirement, you might struggle to find a new identity because your profession is settling into the back seat.
Start practicing the way you will introduce yourself to others going forward. I think I will introduce myself as “a retired interior designer” or “a personal finance blogger”.
To find your new identity, you need to discover yourself again. So, ask yourself:
- What are my talents?
- What do I like and what I do not like?
- What are my weakness and strengths?
Build a new purpose in life
If you want to build a new purpose in life you need to find the activities which fulfill your life and your identity. Many retirees choose to volunteer for local organizations or have a part-time job. Others go back to school and continue their education at local colleges.
During our working days, our jobs gave us focus and discipline. It forced us to go to work every day and worked on accomplishing various tasks. But when you retire, you need to replace that build-in structure with something new.
It could be a hobby, a sport, a new skill, a part-time job, or volunteer work. Do not go to retirement without having a plan about what you are going to do to stay busy.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you do not fall into depression during this stage. Find some activities that give you a sense of meaningful purpose in life.
Fifth stage: Routine and stability
Once the reality of retirement set in you can start enjoying this phase of your life. You do not need to plan or prepare for retirement anymore.
At this final stage, you should be happy and satisfied with who you are as a person. You should be content with where you are in life and continue living it in full.
At this point in your life, you would replace your work routines with new routines. It will be best if your new routines are a combination of physical, mental, and social activities. To be successful in retirement means finding happiness in your activities, hobbies, and relationships.
Retirement comes with a series of transitions. I have read that all retirees will go through several stages of emotions after they stop working. But you will have an easier transition from working to retiring if you begin to map out the direction of your new life sooner.
Take some time and outline what you will do after you retire. Writing down your dreams and goals will help to navigate you through the transition. It will greatly determine your happiness and how you live the next phase of your life.
Have you read or thought about the emotional stages of retirement? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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Thank you so much! This has helped me so much and I now have some positives for my retirement.
I am happy you like this article!
Diann Hall says
What to do when you are retire and stuck in the stage of defining your purpose in life?
I would recommend making a list of things you enjoy and things you always wanted to do. This is a first step toward finding your purpose in life. But there are many traditional ways of finding purpose in life after retirement such as volunteer work, travel, part-time job, hobbies. Have you tried any of these?
Jane Millett says
I’m a new retiree and I am feeling a bit lost. I don’t think I’m depressed but I definitely need a part time job to occupy my time. Not having much success so far but I’m hoping that will come soon. Thanks for this article. I’m happy to know that I am not alone in these feelings.
I am happy that you found this post helpful!