In Planning on Wednesday 25th Sep, 2019

How to navigate the different stages of retirement

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The stages of retirement are broken down into roughly five sections from planning to settling into a new life and finding a sense of purpose once again. Source: Getty

Whether you’ve already bid farewell to working life or are just beginning to consider your options for the future, retirement is most likely something that crosses your mind quite regularly. You might be excited about finally having the time to live out some of your long-held dreams, such as foreign travel or relocating overseas, or perhaps you are feeling a little overwhelmed about the major life change.

Whatever your outlook, retirement has the potential to be one of the greatest adventures you will ever have the chance to go on, so we’ve pulled together a list of the stages of retirement – as it’s generally agreed that there are five – covering all of the emotions, feelings and thoughts you are bound to experience as you transition from the 9 to 5 grind to a life of relaxation and more ‘me time’ than you can shake a stick at.

Pre-retirement: The planning stage

You’ve looked into the future and decided retirement is looming, so what next? Now is the time to really delve into your finances and consider what you really want retirement to look like, whether it be overseas travel, a move closer to family members or simply relaxing for a while as you ease into the new lifestyle.

The pre-retirement stage usually takes place in the five years or so before retirement, as those nearing retirement age start to think about saving more money before giving up work for good so that your long-held dreams don’t end up being simply a pipe dream. You may also start to jot down interests and hobbies that had been put to the side in favour of work or kids.

While this stage can be an exciting part of life, with unlimited freedom on the horizon, it can also be very stressful as health concerns and money fears begin to weigh on your mind and changes to super contributions are made to ensure financially stability.

These fears were evident in a recent study by the University of Melbourne on retirement planning, as one respondent explained: “You have to have enough money to last the rest of your life and because there’s no ruler that says, ‘okay, you’re going to finish at 80 and if you dole it out, you know, $500 a week, you’ll be fine,’ you don’t know how you’re going to end up.”

Retirement day: Freedom

After years of saving and planning for the future, the day is finally here to bid farewell to your career, the colleagues you love – and perhaps the ones you don’t – and, last but not least, those compulsory early morning rises.

Despite a mix of emotions, your retirement day should be one that is filled with happiness as you can finally put your feet up and relax and many choose to mark the occasion with parties and celebrations with family and friends.

With no further responsibilities some also seize this opportunity to move away. This could be somewhere closer to the grandkids or out of the city and into a smaller town that is more relaxing and suitable to your new wants and needs.

Honeymoon phase: Ticking off the bucket list

With the celebrations over, the next part of the journey usually involves ticking off those big bucket list items like travelling around the globe and spending extended time with relatives. Also known as the honeymoon phase, it comes with that new experience glow and each day brings exciting opportunities and things to try that may have seemed unattainable while you were still working.

This stage can last from anywhere between a year to a couple of years depending on how many big ticket things you decided you want to achieve and accomplish back in the pre-retirement phase.

The road block: What to do next? 

Once you have fulfilled your main retirement dreams, it isn’t unusual for you to be left feeling quite down and confused about where the next stage of life will lead you. With no routine in place and no more big adventures to look forward to or plan, your sense of purpose could sadly plummet, bringing with it a sense of isolation and even depression as you search for meaning and purpose.

This can be a hard stage to manage and one that takes a bit of extra effort and support from your family and friends. After all, life is a rollercoaster and you may start to realise the time after employment isn’t all joyous simply because your working life has come to an end.

A recent study by the University of Melbourne revealed many negative feelings associated with this part of the journey, with study participants describing it as a “confronting” and “emotional” experience. “Focus group participants shared experiences around isolation, losing their sense of purpose and missing the social and cognitive stimulation as well as structure that employment provided,” the study explained.

To try avoid the loneliness and boredom felt my many, now is the time you may want to join a club, or volunteer time with a not-for-profit or charity that you are passionate about, like the Red Cross, Lifeline or The Salvation Army.

New lease on life: Building an identity

Navigating the path of retirement is certainly no walk in the park but thankfully things do turn around and the speed bumps even out as you grow accustomed to your new lifestyle, new routines and new activities that give you purpose.

There is plenty of evidence to prove it does get better too, with a study compiled by Ameriprise Financial and published in the Journal of Financial Planning on the stages of retirement revealing what real retirees feel about the experience.

The New Retirement Mindscape study included a survey of 2,000 adults aged 40 to 75 and there were some clear reasons why people enjoy retirement so much. “The study revealed that having ‘more control over their time’ was the best thing about retirement for 44 per cent of retirees, followed by 23 per cent saying ‘the opportunity to relax’ was what they enjoyed the most,” the research explained. “Another 17 per cent said the best thing about retirement was ‘having the chance to reinvent their life’.”

Have you entered retirement? Have you experienced some of these stages throughout retirement?

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