Retirement Adjustment Stages

adjusting to retirement

I get out of bed at 7:00 a.m. instead of 4:45 a.m.  Instead of driving 30 miles one way to work, I don’t go anywhere unless I want to.  I am home alone most days instead of in a public high school with 1500 people.  In the evenings, I can do whatever I want instead of grade papers or plan lessons.  I can even stay up late watching a movie. When I read the newspaper, I read for  personal information instead of cutting out relevant articles to instruct my business/marketing students.  I can see friends and family, go to the store or do housework when I want, instead of just on the weekends or during school holidays.  I have a sign in my home’s entryway which reads,

“I don’t want to.

I don’t have to.

You can’t make me.

I’m retired.”

Retirement is a different life.  A life I entered into June 1, 2015 and one I have had difficulty adjusting to.

In The Retirement Maze:  What You Should Know Before and After You Retire, the authors would say I am experiencing one of the “…four  phases that deal directly and specifically with retirement adjustment: 1.  The Honeymoon, 2. Disenchantment, 3.  Reorientation, 4.  Stability.”  One year after receiving a glass retirement clock from my employer, I believe I am living in the reorientation phase of retirement.

As it turns out the honeymoon phase, which happens “very early” in retirement, was the inspiration for this blog. I just didn’t know it at the time. In this phase, “…emotions are generally positive as retirees enjoy new freedom from work and its schedules.  This phase is often marked by vacations, exploring new interests, or simply rest and relaxation. Emotionally, retirees may experience the elimination of stress and some euphoria, feeling that they have reclaimed their life for themselves and that their time is their own to use how they see fit.”

retirement adjustment

I planned to take a long overdue big vacation once I retired.  Maybe set out on a bike and ride around parts of New Zealand or Provence, France.  However, traveling alone or even with a tour group overseas, frightened me and stopped me from my dream retirement vacation.  Instead, I drove about six hours to Crested Butte, Colorado to enjoy the annual Wildflower Festival.  I hiked and explored in the small group guided tours among the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It was a restful trip and I took lots of photos, which I love to do!

During this phase, I also started some remodeling projects around my home which I had saved for.  In addition to completing the projects to add value to my home, I also thought maybe I could share them with readers as inspiration on a future blog site.

The disenchantment phase “begins a few weeks to a number of months after retirement.  It is a period during which retirees may experience an emotional letdown and  a decline subjective well-being as they come face to face with the reality of day-to-day living devoid of direction.  Situational elements, possibly unforeseen, may contribute to this letdown, such as a concern that financial resources are more limited than initially thought or that some activities are not as absorbing as they expected.  Retirees may also feel the loss of the benefits provided by the workforce, as described above, such as a weakening of identity and self-worth, feelings of being disconnected and without a meaningful role in society, and a sense of living unproductively.”

For me, this phase occurred about six months into my retirement. I missed working with colleagues and my beloved students, the constant activity and intellectual stimulation.  Nothing had to be done.  No deadlines.  No classes to prepare.  No students to interact with or guide.  What was my purpose now that I was retired? The blog idea resurfaced.  I started researching retirement as a non-coupled retiree and took a class on how to build a WordPress website and one on blogging/podcasts.  I also began substitute teaching in a different school district than the one I had been working in before I retired.

“At some point, possibly as long as a few years after they first retire, retirees will begin a reevaluation of their retirement adjustmentcircumstances.  During this (reorientation) phase, attitudes about what it means to be retired start to change. Retirees come to a better understanding of retirement’s social and economic components as well as a more realistic understanding of what it means to be retired.  Many are likely to take a careful look at their lifestyles and begin to outline ways to improve the way they live.”  As I said above, I believe I am currently experiencing this reorientation phase.  Lately, I have read several books on growth and success, as well as retirement.  I am searching for opportunities for growth and ways to connect with and help others.

The last phase is stability.  “Through the process of reorientation, retirees eventually come to terms and feel comfortable with the idea of being retired.  At this point, the retiree has developed an alternative lifestyle that does not include work as a primary component.  In addition, he or she will have abandoned the work role as a primary means of self-definition.  New roles and patterns of living are likely to have developed, with routines and goals established to provide meaning and direction to their lives.”

The authors of The Retirement Maze admit that, “…people are different, so this model does not precisely apply for everyone.”  It does fit me and my adjustment to retirement so far.  It is reassuring to know that others have progressed through these phases, even though “researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact times each stage begins and ends or even to show that every retiree actually goes through all adjustment stages.”  Now, I can rest assured that the stability retirement phase is on the horizon.

By the way, I’m still feeling pretty euphoric about not having to get out of bed at 4:45 a.m.!


Let me know if you believe these phases describe what you have experienced in your own retirement in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you about this and other posts in this blog.

Pascale, Rob, Louis H. Primavera, Rip Roach.  The Retirement Maze:  What You Should Know Before and After You Retire.  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2012.  Used by permission.



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