Six Phases of Retirement

The six phases of retirement based on the original work of researcher Robert Atchley and described by Kenneth Shultz in his book, Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention, are: pre-retirement, retirement, disenchantment, reorientation, retirement routine, and termination of retirement. Although containing a lot of useful insights and presented in a colorful and imaginative style, Happy Retirement is not an easy read and these phases of retirement may be somewhat frightening to those who are already thinking they are Too Young to Retire®. 

Although working for years to retire the word retirement, the word is so ingrained in our vocabulary that this may be an impossible task. However, as a writer and researcher, and as a 2Young2Retire® transitions coach for those in the second half of life, my goal is to minimize or even eliminate all but the first of these six phases of retirement. The words retirement, disenchantment, reorientation, and retirement routine all have such negative connotations.

Retirement means different things to different people and a universal definition of retirement has proved elusive. Economic, psychological, and sociological definitions of retirement all fail to provide a satisfactory explanation. For now, let’s accept the broad definition of retirement as “the transition from a long-term career into whatever comes next in the second half of life.”

Reinventing retirement requires us to focus on the pre-retirement phase. We need to consider our purpose or calling, our financial situation, working for a living because we have to, or working because we want to, our health, our relationships, and how we can make a difference in the lives others. Focusing attention on this now may help you avoid the phases of disenchantment, reorientation, and retirement routine. Life must end for all of us eventually but does not have to be preceded by the termination of retirement, so long as our health allows. Many of my role models never retired. They continued to make a difference right up until the end of their lives. I hope you and I can do the same.

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