How Do I Adjust To Retirement? | Step-By-Step Guide

Retirement is life-changing, and sometimes it can be challenging to adjust to retirement. I did some research and looked into the things other retirees do to adjust to their retirement. It resulted in this practical step-by-step guide.

1. Prepare For Retirement Financially

Saving for retirement is important because it creates some stability for your upcoming retirement years. When you know how much money you have in retirement savings, it is easier for you to adjust your lifestyle in retirement. 

Knowing more about your financial situation helps you to determine how you’ll fill in your retirement years. Preparing financially for your retirement is like one of the first steps when you start preparing for retirement. And when you start at an early age, you probably can save up a nice retirement budget.  

Now, I’m not a financial advisor. I merely try to be as helpful as possible, so you can adjust to retirement more easily. However, it is recommended to talk to a professional financial advisor. Which might be possible via your employer or via The National Association Of Financial Advisors

This all may sound obvious. Still, the facts are that most people in the United States struggle to save for retirement. According to the national institute of retirement security (NIRS), almost 40% of people that are 60+ years old, have only a social security income. 

There are actually many other ways how you can save for retirement. The most commonly known are; 

  • Employer pension plan(s)
  • 401(k), 403 (b) or IRA savings
  • Personal savings

This helpful video explains the most important things you need to know about 401k and IRA savings methods; 

When you’re living together with your spouse, it is also important to consider your financial situation as a couple. It is beneficial to prepare for retirement together, so you also know what to expect when you both come closer to the retirement age. In my article Retirement Planning Guide For Married Couplesyou can find a lot of helpful information.  

So, to summarize, knowing your financial situation helps you better adjust to retirement. You don’t have to stress if you’re financially ready to retire, and you can focus on other important things. Because there’s a lot more, you can do to adjust more easily to retirement. 

2. Prepare For Retirement Mentally

Retirement is a major life-changing event for everyone. You’ve worked almost your whole life to get to this moment. However, when you’re not prepared in the right way, you’ll be having trouble adjusting to retirement. 

We already covered the importance of financial preparation for retirement. Still, many people forget the importance of mental or emotional preparation. 

There are basically two reasons why retirement is life-changing; 

  • You stop working 
  • You can do whatever like

These are the reasons why adjusting to retirement can be a struggle for many. Maybe you’re emotionally ready and look forward to your retirement, but have no idea what to expect. Or perhaps you still love your job so much, that, deep in your heart, you don’t want to retire yet. 

Either way, mentally preparing for retirement is important, and ideally starts between 1 – 5 years before your actual retirement. The best way to start with this preparation process is to visualize your life in retirement. How is your life going to be? What are the things you’re going to do once you’re retired? And so on. 

Thinking about how your life is going to look like in retirement, helps to transition or adjusting into retirement more easily. Maybe you can go on a ‘pre-retirement,’ where you take some time off and learn more about how your life looks like once you’re retired.  

Mentally preparing for retirement is a process that takes time. I wrote a helpful article that you might find interesting to read; How To Mentally Prepare For Retirement, 21 Tips

Many people are finding it hard to identify themselves once they’re retired. For years they referred to their identity with their job position. Like when you were a realtor or police officer. But when you’re retired, you don’t hold that position anymore. So you need to rediscover your identity in retirement. 

Mentally preparing for retirement is also the first step in rediscovering your new identity in retirement. I’ll tell you later more about that. 

First, let’s focus on the process of retirement, and the phases or stages everyone gets through once they’re retiring. 

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3. Know The Stages Of Retirement

When people first talk about transitioning into retirement, you often hear them talk about the stages or phases of retirement. It is helpful to learn more about these stages; almost everyone gets through five stages during retirement. 

The five stages of retirement are behavioral and emotional stages that focus on periods from pre-retirement until you’re long retired. The stages are widely known as; 

Pre-retirement Stage

It’s also known as the preparation stage. The years and months before you’re retiring and preparing what you want to do in retirement. 

Honeymoon Stage

When you’re fresh in retirement, as a newlywed (hence the name ‘honeymoon.’) Sometimes this stage is also described as the ‘liberation phase.’ Either way, during this phase, everything is new and excited. Most people look forward to starting their time in retirement. 

Disenchantment Stage 

This stage is also known as the ‘worrying stage.’ Reality sinks in during this period. It is actually the stage where most people finding trouble adjusting to retirement. Luckily, for most retirees, this stage doesn’t take very long. 

You’ll start questioning yourself about what you really want during retirement. 

Reorientation Stage 

When questioning yourself, you’ll naturally transfer into the reorientation phase. It is the period in retirement where you re-inventing yourself; you find your new purpose in retirement. 

Stability Stage

The fifth stage of retirement is the stability stage. Most people don’t even notice when they’re in this stage. It’s because you have found your new identity as a retiree and living your comfortable retirement life.

You might be interested in learning more about the stages of retirement. If so, I recommend reading my article What Are The Stages Of Retirement?

4. Stay Active In Retirement

According to the CDC, physical activity is one of the most important things you can do as an older adult to prevent health issues that come with age. Move more, and sit less, is their slogan. With the physical activity guidelines, the CDC recommends everyone in the United States who is over 65 or older and generally fit, to do at least the following physical activity; 

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises a week + 2 times a week muscle strengthening exercises. 

It’s even better to exercise more if you’re up to it. You might think, how does this physical activity benefit me to adjust to retirement? 

Well, it’s quite simple, it benefits healthy aging. You’re staying fitter in general, which is often linked to feeling better and more energetic. Thus, you’re able to enjoy your retirement more. 

Read more: How To Stay Active In Retirement

Staying Mentally Active

You’re never too old to learn. It might be even one of your new goals in retirement, learning new things. Like a new language, or learning how to play guitar. 

A lot of people are afraid they stop using their brain after they retire, that they will miss the cognitive challenge. However, it is important to keep up with these cognitive brain activities. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, cognitive activities improve skills like problem-solving, concentration, and memory. 

Staying mentally active keeps you ‘sharp’ and fit, so you’re able to enjoy your retirement activities more. When you’re looking for inspiration on staying mentally active, I recommend my article “How Do I Keep My Brain Active After I Retire? I share 10 helpful tips in this article. 

If you’re keen on learning new things in retirement, I feel that the best gift you can give yourself is an annual membership to Masterclass. 

Masterclass is an online platform with many different courses where your teachers are the most famous and successful people in the world. You can learn how to cook with lessons from Gordon Ramsey. Serena Williams teaches you how to improve your tennis skills, and Carlos Santana teaches you to play the guitar. Why wait? Let’s start learning a new thing today!

Staying Socially Active

Next to staying physically and mentally active, it is also essential to keep up with your social circle. Let’s take a look at another article from Harvard Health Publishing. They say that broader social interactions are linked to many health benefits, like less chance of depression. 

A risk in retirement is that you’ll have less social interactions. For many people, their social life is also linked with their work. However, there’s a lot you can to improve your social interactions in retirement. For example, sports. Many sports activities are taking place in (small) like-minded groups. A great way to improve both your physical activity and social interactions! 

In my article How To Stay Social After Retirementyou can find helpful tips to improve your social circle. 

So, staying active helps you to adjust to retirement. It helps you to set new goals, and maybe it helps you even to find your purpose as a retiree. 

5. Find Your Purpose In Retirement

One of the most important stages that help you adjust to retirement is the reorientation stage. The period where you learn what you really want to do in your retired life. 

During this time, you’re basically rediscovering your identity. I mentioned it earlier, many people linked their identity with their job. For example, your job was a large part of your identity when you were a police officer for like 30 or 40 years. Now that you’re retired, this changed, and you have to discover again what you stand for in life. 

It might sound a bit scary, ‘re-invent your identity,’ and maybe it is a bit challenging. Still, it is important to do when you want to adjust to retirement and enjoy your time as a retiree. 

A few things that can speed up the process and make it easier for you. Maybe you already had an idea of how you want to spend your time in retirement. Perhaps you’ve things you’re really passionate about and want to spend more time on. 

It’s also the time where you can make your dreams come true. Like travel the world, learn a new language, or maybe find a volunteer job to help local society. 

The most important thing is that you find something that makes you feel good because only if you do something that’s closely related to yourself, it will be long-lasting and fun to do. 

Purpose vs. Passion

Purpose and passion are closely related, but not completely the same. A purpose is something (or multiple things) you want to achieve, a goal or multiple goals that you’ve set for yourself. 

According to, a purpose is an intended or desired result or goal.

Passion can be closely related to your purpose. describes passion as followed; a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.

So, you can be passionate about something, but it doesn’t have to be your purpose. For example, I’m very passionate about music, but I don’t intend to make my own music (I will save you the trouble). 

I feel this saying describes the difference between purpose and passion best; “Your purpose is the reason you get up in the morning, and your passion is what you love to do most.” 

Knowing your passion can help you to redefine your purpose. I wrote the article How To Find Your Passion In Retirementwhich can be very helpful in this process. 

Ikigai – Japanese Saying For Purpose

Ikigai means A Reason For Being in Japanese. And when talking about passion and purpose, I always have to think about this saying, and the book Ikigai – The Japanese Secret To A Long and Happy Life

It’s a very inspirational book. The authors describe what Ikigai means for the people living in Ogimi, a small village on the island of Okinawa. The village has the highest percentage of people that are 100+ years old and is one of the world’s blue zones. You can buy the book on Amazon;

What I found most interesting is that Ikigai not only refers to once purpose. For the people in that village, it’s more like their way of life. It turns out that there isn’t a word for ‘retire’ in Japanese. They always stay busy or active and involved in their community.

6. Structure Your Days In Retirement

When you stop working, you probably have an empty agenda. You don’t have to get up early in the morning. Maybe you’ve some appointments to catch up with old friends or family, but you are basically can do everything you want. You don’t have to plan anything. 

It may sound ideal, “no appointments!” But there’s also a risk to it. If you lose your structure, it can lead to an unworthy feeling. And before you know it, you’re back into the disenchantment stage of retirement, I told you earlier about. 

To prevent that, and to make sure you easily adjust to your retirement, it is better to structure your days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to replace your busy work life with other appointments that fill up your whole day. Not at all! 

But it can help to create a new daily structure in retirement. Like getting up early each day, have a nice breakfast with your spouse, do some exercise (the important daily physical activity), plan time for coffee with friends. It is also important to plan time for yourself, where you don’t have to do anything, and enjoy your leisure time and find happiness. 

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7. Create A Retirement Bucket List

One thing I learned from the people living in the Blue Zones is that they always have something to do. And all those happy retirees I met during my travels around the world have something in common. They all have a list of things they want to do in life. 

A retirement bucket list can be a list of things you always dreamed of doing. It different than your purpose, because it mainly contains fun activities, things to do or learn. Your purpose can be ‘to complete my retirement bucket list’ 😉

If you find it challenging to come up with things you can do in retirement, it is recommended to start creating a bucket list. Just sit down with your spouse or some friends and write down everything you always think of doing. Let the creativity flow, and don’t hold yourself back with thoughts; ‘I can effort this and that,’ you can worry about later when you finalize the list. 

It’s all about getting the best ideas of what you can do in retirement, so you get excited and want to get the most out of your retirement. If you need some help with ideas, I recommend reading my article, 101+ Ideas For Your Retirement Bucket List

Recommended Articles

When you follow these seven steps, I’m confident you won’t have any problem with adjusting to retirement. 

If you’re looking for more inspiration, I can recommend reading the following articles on this website; 

Kirsten Veldman

Since 2017, my husband and I have been location-independent retirees. With hundreds of articles written, I'm passionate about helping other retirees!

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