What Are The Stages Of Retirement: A Guide Through The 5 Stages

You’re months or weeks away from retirement, and you’re wondering what happens next. I asked myself the same thing before my planned departure from the corporate world. I am a planner so you bet I used every resource to learn all I could about the upcoming life change.

During my research, I learned about the stages of retirement. Some identified five, while others listed six. Regardless, I grabbed my trusty notebook and attempted to understand these stages myself.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve experienced these stages firsthand. And I believe it’s my duty to share my real experience and truth to help guide you through this significant transition.

Knowing the stages of retirement can help new retirees adjust to their new lifestyle, avoid confusion and uncertainty about what to do next, make the transition smoother, and ultimately, make everything easier and more comfortable.

If you’re going to retire soon or are already retired, let’s delve into these crucial stages of retirement in this guide!

1. Pre-Retirement Stage

So, after years of working, your retirement date is getting closer and closer; you’re probably at this point: the pre-retirement stage. You’re both excited and experiencing a bit of dread.

The pre-retirement stage—or imagination and anticipation stage—starts around six to fifteen years before retirement. As retirement draws closer (around two to five years beforehand), people’s excitement intensifies, coupled with deeper introspection about what their golden years hold.

Unfortunately, many pre-retirees remain unprepared, trapped in a tunnel vision focused solely on retirement savings and bucket-list travels. While financial security and adventure are crucial, neglect of other, equally important aspects like identity, purpose, and social connections can leave them ill-equipped for a truly fulfilling retirement and successfully overcome the hurdles that come with the other stages of transition.

Because of this, the pre-retirement stage demands careful planning for your retirement years. While a rigid day-to-day schedule isn’t necessary, crafting some structure and envisioning the retirement activities you’ll cherish is key. Also, ensuring both financial stability and mental well-being is crucial for a smooth and fulfilling transition.

Get Financial Advice

Of course, you don’t have to deal with your future plans alone. Professional financial advisors are at your disposal, and many companies offer employee resources like financial planning programs for retirement. 

Partnering with a financial advisor can help you set realistic expectations for your retirement. And while I’m proud of the information I offer on this website and eBooks, I recognize that a professional can provide tailored guidance for your unique journey.

Plan With Your Partner Or Spouse

While planning your pre-retirement, don’t forget to include your partner or spouse (if you have one) in the conversation. Discuss your ideal retirement scenarios and decide if you both want to embark on this journey together. 

Remember, this is a complex decision with both benefits and challenges. If you want to gain insight on what you should work on regarding this topic, read my article, Should Couples Retire At The Same Time

Prioritize Your Inner Well-being

It’s no secret that the transition to retirement can be challenging, even for those who plan. Preparing your spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being can help you navigate this unique experience smoothly. As you gain more free time and possibly adjust to new social networks, remember that this can be a chance to deepen your personal pursuits and cultivate new connections. 

Start early by exploring activities like meditation, volunteering, or pursuing hobbies that nourish your soul and mind. By prioritizing your inner well-being, you can ensure your retirement years are filled with happiness and fulfillment.

Preparing For Your Retirement Party

Whether you like it or not, a retirement party (or parties!) is imminent. Retirement is a joyous occasion, and many well-meaning friends and family will want to celebrate with you. While it’s enjoyable to soak in all the love you’ll receive, be sure not to forget to plan how you can give these people a good time as well.

Start by considering souvenirs and trinkets you’ll give them after the party to remember you by. Alternatively, you can set aside a nice, solemn after-party dinner for your loved ones to further celebrate your retirement and mark the beginning of the transition to a retired life.

2. Honeymoon Stage

Finally, you can say, “I’m retired!”  There might be a few more parties here and there, but you’re now basically a free man. Congratulations! You’re officially untethered from the daily grind. Buckle up for the “honeymoon stage” of retirement—a joyous whirlwind of liberation, newfound time, and a chance to redefine your days. The shackles of work are shed, replaced by the exhilarating weightlessness of possibility.

In most articles and resources, the honeymoon stage is often considered the actual first stage for a retiree. This is the period where everything is fresh, new, and exciting. Some even 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.

However, amidst the euphoria, uncertainty might creep in. This blank canvas of a new life can feel daunting. So, don’t forget to invest some time in proactive preparation during the pre-retirement stage to ensure your honeymoon seamlessly transitions into a vibrant, fulfilling next chapter.

In case you fail to plan ahead, it’s not too late. You can try to adapt to your new life by learning to adjust and creating a new routine. 

Learn To Adjust

Retirement freedom brings unexpected adjustments. Mastering them unlocks long-term happiness. Take care of lingering to-dos (insurance, Medicare) while tackling the bucket list. Savor time to relax and rediscover priorities.

Also, remember that the honeymoon stage is just a transition; it won’t last forever. Prepare yourself, as what comes next can affect you negatively—a massive dip in mood if you’re unprepared. To shield yourself, don’t forget to stay connected to loved ones and be prepared to seek support if needed.

Creating A Routine

Craft a loose routine—your shield against boredom. Structure fuels a smooth transition to your next chapter. Grab hold of your freedom, and be prepared for the next stage: disenchantment. (Spoiler alert: I’ll tackle that next!)

Balance is key. Enjoy your newfound leisure while discovering your post-retiree self. Don’t get bogged down by perfection. Flexible goals and a doable routine are your secret weapons for fulfillment and against disenchantment.

Start crafting that routine with realistic, achievable steps. Think about daily walks or jogs, whipping up your lunch, and socializing with loved ones in the afternoon. Dedicating evenings to your spouse or family adds another layer of joy.

3. Disenchantment Stage

The disenchantment stage is a trap for all those who are unprepared. It comes when the high of the honeymoon stage fades, and it leaves new retirees confused. They often find themselves isolated, apathetic, and directionless. These make everybody question if this will be the kind of life they’ll have for the rest of their remaining days.

Disenchantment is also known as the ‘worrying stage.’ Because of the new reality they’re in, retirees often start to feel depressed, bored, or even useless. Luckily for most people, this is a short period during their retirement.

Worrying about your newfound life is completely natural. It can be a difficult period if you’re not prepared for it. It helps when you have already started to think about the things you want to do in your retirement while you are still in the previous stages of retirement.

And again, not all have been prepared for this. If you’re one of them, then these tips should help you out.

Rekindle Your Purpose

Cast your mind back to your childhood and teenage dreams. Did you yearn to soar through the skies as a pilot, battle injustices as a lawyer, or heal others as a doctor? While circumstances might not have allowed you to fully pursue those aspirations, retirement reopens the opportunity to pursue these dreams.

You may not become a pilot flying a commercial flight, but you can still take flying lessons or join a gliding club. You may not become a lawyer, but you can still help the unfortunate by advocating for social justice causes. And if you can’t become a doctor, you can still volunteer at medical clinics or support healthcare initiatives.

When you feel disenchantment in retirement, always remember that this phase of life offers the time and freedom to explore these old or hidden passions, reconnect with your inner child, and discover new sources of joy and fulfillment.

Reignite Your Connections

The disenchantment stage can be isolating and lonesome. The parties and celebrations are over, and you have probably done most of the things you planned or thought of at the start of your retirement. Then a nagging worry might surface: “Are people forgetting about me?”

While life marches on for everyone after celebrating your retirement, it doesn’t mean your colleagues, friends, and loved ones are done with you. They’re simply moving on with their lives to leave you free to explore yours. However, isolation can be a slippery slope, leading to retirement boredom and depression.

To combat that, nurture existing relationships: Prioritize quality time with loved ones. Schedule regular dinners, game nights, or outings. Reconnecting with familiar faces can be a powerful antidote to loneliness.

Another thing you can do is expand your social circle. Find and join clubs, groups, or activities based on your interests. Meeting new people who share your passions can create a vibrant support network and ignite new friendships.

Last but not least, seek professional help. If these steps don’t fully alleviate the isolation, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. A therapist can help you process your emotions, develop coping mechanisms, and navigate the challenges of both the disenchantment stage and potential retirement depression.

4. Reorientation Stage

The reorientation stage brings a highly welcomed shift, and many consider this phase the peak of retirement. Having battled the disenchantment, you emerge with a clearer understanding of yourself and your path forward. You’re peeling back the layers, shedding the work-life persona, and embracing your authentic self. 

As the name suggests, you settle into your new identity as a retiree. The changes that unfolded since retirement become the new normal, and the shadow of potential depression fades. You’ve gained a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose with it.

This introspective process—taking up to two years for most—lays the foundation for a fulfilling retirement, depending on individual goals and purpose discovery. However, the journey isn’t entirely smooth. Expect occasional bumps along the road, like moments of loneliness or unexpected financial challenges and so forth. 

So, be prepared and equipped to handle them with the resilience you’ve honed throughout your journey. And with that said, be sure to remind yourself of the following.

Be Flexible

While thorough retirement planning ensures financial security, it can also unintentionally limit your adaptability. Life rarely adheres to rigid schedules, and unforeseen events—such as unexpected financial difficulties, changes in relationships, or health issues—can disrupt even the most detailed plans.

This doesn’t mean abandoning your plan altogether. A flexible framework acts as a valuable guide, but it’s important to recognize that unforeseen circumstances may require adjustments. Instead of viewing detours as setbacks, consider them opportunities for redirection. If your retirement plan requires changes due to unforeseen circumstances, be prepared to adapt and go back to the drawing board.

Remember, resilience and adaptability are key to navigating unexpected plot twists during your retirement. Stay strong and cultivate a positive outlook. Believe that even unexpected challenges can lead to new and rewarding experiences.

Lastly, focus on the present and embrace the possibilities that lie beyond your original plans. Everything—yourself, other people, situations—changes. Maintain a flexible approach and a hopeful perspective as you slowly reinvent yourself and your life.

Embrace The Unknown

As said in the previous section, life rarely follows a script; it rarely unfolds as we plan it. Adaptability is key, of course, but in retirement, stretching beyond comfort zones, taking calculated risks, and embracing the unknown become even more crucial. 

Remember, you’re retired. Failure is no longer a potential disaster, but a helpful stepping stone. Fear should be more of a guide rather than a threat. Your past life and experiences should have taught you these. While adapting to setbacks keeps you moving forward, stepping outside your comfort zone can lead to growth, fulfillment, and opportunities. 

Imagine you always dreamed of owning a coffee shop, and as a retiree, you took the leap. While it might not have gone as planned, and financial losses may tempt you to abandon your dream, remember there’s always this option: braving the challenges and continuing to pursue your passion despite the challenges.

5. Stability Stage

Sometimes without even noticing, you reach the next stage of retirement: the stability stage. Sometimes dubbed “reconciliation,” this final phase marks a full embrace of your retiree identity and a life imbued with purpose. These newfound pillars—self-acceptance and purpose—become the cornerstones of a fulfilling and successful retirement.

Stability marks the final phase of your retirement journey. Beyond the disenchantment and reorientation stages, you’ve emerged as a new, more resilient you. A well-worn routine now guides your days, passion fuels your spirit, and setbacks are just bumps on the road. No longer rattled by life’s uncertainties, you simply savor every moment to the fullest.

You’ve unearthed a fresh purpose, a renewed sense of being. You’re not just a retiree, but someone completely free with high potential, poised to leave an indelible mark in the world. You’re not just the person who retired but someone who will leave behind a legacy that no one can tarnish.


So, there you have it, the five stages of retirement, from pre-retirement excitement to the stability and fulfillment of the final phase. Remember, this is a dynamic journey, not a fixed destination. Each stage offers its unique challenges and opportunities, and navigating them with awareness and flexibility is key to a truly enriching retirement experience.

For those still some years away from retirement, some of these phases may not resonate completely yet. That’s understandable, as your present view of retirement might differ. However, while I can’t speak for everyone, I genuinely believe that most people will similarly go through these stages.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about the day-to-day life of a retiree and other related topics, feel free to wander around the website and explore. Happy reading!


My wife and I quit the rat race and retired in 2021. We RV'ed around the US for a couple of years and now we're slow traveling outside the US!

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