What Are The Five Stages Of Retirement? | A Helpful Guide


When you’re getting close to retirement or already been retired, the five stages of retirement is probably something that has piqued your interest. In this article, I’ll tell you everything there’s to know about these important stages in retirement that almost everyone gets to deal with once they retire. 

The Five Stages Of Retirement Are: 

  1. Pre-retirement: The phase before retirement.
  2. Honeymoon: You’re fresh in retirement, as a newlywed!
  3. Disenchantment: Reality sinks in. Is this it?
  4. Reorientation: You’re re-inventing yourself; you find your purpose.
  5. Stability: You have found your new identity as a retiree and living your comfortable retirement life.

In the next part, I’ll explain the different stages of retirement more in detail, and give you some helpful tips on how to cope with these stages. So you can enjoy your retirement in the best way possible

Are you ready to learn more and prepare yourself for the five stages of retirement? Let’s start!

The Five Stages Of Retirement

Before we get more in detail for each stage in retirement, let’s start with some background information. It can be beneficial to know where these stages in retirement are coming from. 

When you look for information about the different retirement stages, you’ll probably notice that people and organizations sometimes use different words to describe the five stages or phases in retirement. However, the concept of these stages in retirement is more or less the same. 

To keep everything as clear and understandable as possible, I only describe the stages in retirement with the wording as I did at the beginning of this article. 

It can be a bit confusing when you read other articles where people use different wording to describe the stages in retirement. If this applies to you, I recommend using this article as your basic guideline to keep everything clear. 

The concept of the five stages in retirement is for everyone the same. However, the timing and length of each stage can be different per person. When, and for how long someone ‘stays’ in a particular stage depends on the individual. 

Average Timeline Of The Stages In Retirement

According to agewave.com, there’s an average timeline for each stage in retirement. Agewave is a respected organization in the United States. They use different wording and a slightly different concept for each stage in retirement.

The Pre-Retirement Stage (Agewave calls this the Imagination & Anticipation Stage) starts around six to fifteen years before retirement. During this stage, people get more and more excited about their upcoming retirement. When retirement is getting closer, on average, two to five years before the actual retirement date, people tend to get even more excited. However, also sometimes, a bit of worry can kick in. 

People ask themselves how their retirement is going to be. It is the stage where you, in the beginning, only think of a retirement savings plan. But when your retirement date is getting closer, you getting busier with preparing for your retirement. 

When I talk about The Honeymoon Stage, I’m referring to the actual first stage as a retiree. The period where everything is fresh, new, and exciting. Sometimes people refer to this stage as the liberation stage. You are ‘freed from work.’ This stage starts on your first day as a retiree and can take up to several years in your retirement. 

Disenchantment or sometimes known as the ‘worrying stage’ is the period where reality kicks in. Some people can start to feel depressed, bored, or even useless. Luckily for most people, this is a short period during their retirement. 

This process starts for many people by asking themselves difficult questions like ‘what do I want to do as a retiree?’ It is a process that can take up several months. This stage is often naturally followed by the reorientation stage, which is probably one of the most important stages in your retired life. 

During the reorientation stage, you can find a new purpose in life. This stage can take up to a couple of years and help you live your retirement life to the fullest. The questions (and answers you found) you asked yourself during the previous stage are becoming very helpful during this process. The reorientation stage for most people is around two years but can take up even longer. It all depends on what you want to do in your retired life, and how quickly you find your purpose as a retiree. 

Sometimes without even noticing, you come in the next stage of retirement. The fifth stage in retirement is commonly known as the stability stage. During this stage, you’ve found your purpose and entirely accepted yourself as a retiree. Those are important factors that help you live a fulfilling retired life. Sometimes people also refer to this stage as the reconciliation stage. A different and maybe more formal name for this important, and hopefully longest stage in retirement. 

Leisure in Retirement

The five stages in retirement may sound as many stages you need to overcome in your retired life. Isn’t it possible to just stop working and enjoy your time in retirement? Of course, it is! And maybe you are one of the lucky ones that overcome these stages without being aware of it. If so, good for you! You might find some inspiration in one of the I wrote articles about traveling in retirement, or retirement bucket list ideas that contains many unique things to do. 

However, for the majority of people, retirement is one of the most significant milestones in life, especially when you’re a US citizen. Agewave launched an interesting research study, together with Merryl Lynch Bank. This report that was launched in 2016 and is called ‘Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucketlist’ shares some interesting facts about experiences and challenges one might have when it comes to leisure in retirement. 

You can find the full report on the website of Agewave by following this link or reading the summary in this article

They refer to the United States as a no-vacation-nation. US citizens have the lowest-paid vacation days of any developed country. As you might know, I’m from The Netherlands, and when I was still working in a full-time contract job, I had a minimum of 22 paid vacation days a year! According to this BLS report, people in the US getting on average 10 paid vacation days a year. 

Also, the agewave study claims that around 83% of people are still doing work-related activities during their vacation days. So much for taking some time off. But knowing a little more about these facts, you probably can imagine why people are struggling to find their new identity or purpose as a retiree. 

On the same page, retirement is often more than welcome. You probably are looking forward to your retirement for many years. But where you first related your identity to your job or professional life, you now are looking for a new identity as a retiree. 

And that’s exactly why these stages in retirement are so important. Being aware of this process helps you figure out how to get the best out of your retired life. 

In the next part, I’ll go through each stage in retirement again and share some essential and helpful tips. Sometimes I’ll refer to a different article on this website, where you’ll find even more useful information. 

Retirement Stage 1: Pre-Retirement 

So, after years of working, your retirement date is getting close and closer. However, it is crucial to start planning for your retirement years before your actual retirement date. You don’t have to know the exact things you want to do (day to day) when you’re retired, but you do want to prepare financially and mentally for these upcoming years.

It’s important to have an idea for the things you want to do in retirement so you can save up for it and mentally work towards it. Also, the only period where you can work on your retirement savings plan for retirement is during your working years. 

Make sure you’re getting help from a professional financial advisor. Maybe the company your work for offers help with financial planning. It is always essential to get professional financial advice, so you know what to expect when you retire. 

Also, when you’re married or living together with your spouse, professional (financial) advice can help you to prepare for retirement easily. 

You might want to know if it’s a good plan to retire at the same time. Many different factors can influence the answer to that question. 

It depends on the situation you’re in as a couple, the age difference, your mental state (are you mentally prepared for retirement?), the financial situation, and much more. I wrote the article Should Couples Retire At The Same Time?‘, which might be very helpful. 

Mentally Prepare For Retirement

Your upcoming retirement is a life-changing event. Preparing for your retirement means not only financially preparing but also making sure you’re mentally ready for switching into retirement. 

Mentally preparing for retirement is an individual process and extremely important. You can see it as the basic preparation for retirement. Being both financially and mentally prepared for retirement helps you, later on, to enjoy your retired life in the best way possible. 

You might want to read my article, How To Mentally Prepare For Retirementthat contains 21 useful tips and can be a helpful guide. 

Preparing For Your Retirement Party

Getting closer to your retirement date is also the time you start thinking about how to celebrate your retirement. Maybe you want to throw a big party with your colleagues, family, and friends. Or perhaps you just want to have a nice dinner with your loved ones. It’s your day, and you can celebrate your retirement the way you like. 

To help you out a bit more, I wrote this helpful article about How To Celebrate Your Retirement

Retirement Stage 2: Honeymoon Stage

Finally, you can say it, “I am Retired!” 

This period is amazing, and you feel great. But it can also be a bit scary at the same time. You are basically starting a new way of life. 

Probably you have a full list of things you want to do now that you’re retired. But don’t forget to enjoy your time. Take enough time to relax and find out what it is you feel that is most important in the long run now that you’re retired. 

The key is to find a perfect balance to enjoying your leisure and finding out how to identify yourself as a retiree. 

It helps you making the next stage disenchantment or worrying stage as short as possible. 

This period can also be very busy, with a slot of leisure, (old) friends and family you want to meet, and many other opportunities that come your way. It can be difficult to structure your days. When you were still working, structuring your days was much easier. 

Did you know I created a daily retirement schedule template? It helps you structure your day seamlessly. This template is included in my ‘How To Retire Digital Package,’ which you can find here

The package includes a 350+ pages e-book; How To Retire Guidewhich a collection of the best articles on this website. The daily schedule template, a basic retirement budget calculator (that you can use to prepare for professional financial advice), and much more helpful extra’s are also included. 

It is the perfect package if you want to live your retired life in a happy, healthy, and fulfilling way. You can start reading today, and get the First 25 Pages Of The How To Retire Guide For Free below:

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Retirement Stage 3: Disenchantment Stage

When the high of the first period in retirement weres of, people often get a bit confused. Reality kicks in, is this truly my retired life?

Don’t worry; it’s completely natural. It can be a difficult period if you’re not prepared for it. It helps when you already started to think about the things you want to do in your retirement while you were still in the first stages of retirement. 

This third stage is actually the first step in transforming to your new self, becoming yourself as a retiree. 

Depression is a common struggle for retirees and if you are having trouble with feeling and feel depressed in retirement, it might help to read my article 15 Tips How To Deal With Depression In Retirement. Or when you are just looking for ideas regarding unique things to do, a must-read is my What To Do When You’re Retired? 65 Ideas.’

Retirement Stage 4: Reorientation Stage

This important stage in retirement is all about getting to know yourself. It kind of feels like the previous stages were all a preparation for this stage where you redefine what you want and find your (new) purpose. 

Don’t get confused or worried when you find this a difficult time. It’s natural, accept it for what it is, and get the best out of it. 

When you’re having trouble finding the things your love to do most it can be helpful answering questions like; 

  • What’s a topic you can read 500 books about without getting bored?
  • What something you never get bored of?
  • What would I regret NOT doing in life?

If you get the answer to those questions, I’m sure you’ll find your purpose or passion as a retiree. In my article How To Find Your Passion In Retirement?‘ I share even more helpful tips. 

Retirement Stage 5: Stability Stage

Yep, you’re there! The final stage in retirement and ti’s the best one! When you reach this stage, you fully accepted yourself as a retiree. You found your passion and purpose, and love what you’re doing. The transformation is complete! 

Where you, when you first retired, still related your identity to your job, you’re now proud to be a retiree. And because you found out what you love doing most, you can live your retired life in the most fulfilling way. 

Retire The Right Way

I truly hope you get the most out of your retirement. You only retire once, so make sure you do it the right way. Getting the How To Retire Guide Package will be the lowest retirement investment you’ll ever do with the highest impact: your happiness in retirement.

This package not only helps you through all the stages of retirement with in-depth information, helpful tips and practical and inspiring ideas. It also helps you to prepare, celebrate and enjoy your retirement in the best way possible.

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my boyfriend Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. With my articles, I want to help people enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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