Stages of Retirement

Recently, I sat in an office filling out paperwork for my appointment. When I reached the bottom of the form, which required a date, I realized even though I had an appointment, I didn’t know the date. Too lazy to dig into my purse for my cell phone, I asked the guy next to me, who was also filling out the same form, if he knew the date.

“The third”, came the reply.

“Thanks. Retired,” said I by way of explanation for my lack of date information.

“Me, too,” he sighed.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what was behind the sigh. He seemed a little depressed, heavy. So, I queried, “Not having a good time in retirement?”

He hunched forwarded a bit in his seat and looked at the floor. “I get up every morning wondering what I’m going to do today. I’m thinking of getting a part-time job.”

“Maybe you could volunteer for an organization,” I offered.

“Yeah, I already do that but this isn’t what I thought it would be.”

With that, my name was called and I got up to leave. Before I made my exit, I turned to him and said, “What you’re experiencing is normal. You’re not alone.” He nodded his head but kept looking at the floor.

In 1975 a professor of gerontology named Robert Atchley identified seven stages of retirement. Since then, they’ve been pared down to six but the bottom line is retirement is such a major life transition requiring a redefining of our very role in life that no matter how much we plan, we’re bound to experience at least some of the stages. The guy in the waiting room was in the stage of disillusionment possibly missing the structure and productivity of work, which had given his life purpose. While not everyone goes through this stage, most of us do. It’s similar to the realization, somewhere around age 40, when we say to ourselves, “Is this all there is to life?” You know that moment I’m talking about. The one where you realized you didn’t become brilliant, rich, famous, have the exciting career you dreamed about or whatever you thought would happen to your life. Well, that realization shows up in retirement, too. After the “honeymoon” of relaxation, the feeling like you’re on vacation, the relief of leaving the rat race behind, boredom sets in and you find yourself saying, “Is this all there is to retirement?”

Even Colin Powell talked about it on the speakers circuit a few years ago. After leaving his post as Secretary of State where he was constantly whisked here and there in limousines and government jets with an entourage of assistants, secret service agents and press corps, he found himself walking down Fifth Avenue in New York all by his lonesome to fetch a hotdog from the street vendor. He went on to recount how he ended up on the speakers circuit because his wife of 56 years told him unless he found something to do with his life, they wouldn’t make it to year 57. While his wife’s ultimatum may be slightly comical, she was wise enough to realize he needed to do something to recreate his purpose in life. For both their sakes, she wasn’t going to tolerate his moping. The lesson in Powell’s story is how he reoriented himself by joining the speakers circuit thus creating a new routine for himself. And…securing his marriage for at least another year.

Unfortunately, for many of us disillusionment with retirement and therefore, life, can last years before we decide to take inventory of our situation and decide what we’re going to do when we grow up. For a sad few, the disillusionment stage can last the rest of our lives. That’s a real downer, folks. People who think their “golden years” aren’t golden have no one but themselves to blame. So, take stock! The willingness to take stock of our situation, options, wants and needs is the first step to recovering our retirement dream. Like the guy in the waiting room who was thinking of getting a part-time job, acknowledging that something’s gotta give moves you toward action. Back in 1935 when the retirement age was set by the government at age 65, it was a rarity indeed, for most people to even live to that age. With longevity comes opportunity. Today, with more and more people living to be 100, the idea of sitting out 30 years of retirement in a rocker on the front porch should be enough to get you motivated to find a new hobby, career, volunteer activity or whatever floats your boat.

So, whether you’re already retired and wondering where your retirement dream went or you’re looking at retiring someday in the future, keep the disillusionment stage in mind. It may only last a day or two or it could be years. That’s up to you. Know that for most of us, it probably will come. But, also know, it is an opportunity to take stock, to reinvent yourself, to learn, to be, to give, to reach your potential in areas you may not have ever envisioned for yourself. And, remember, what you’re experiencing is normal and you’re not alone.

STAGES OF RETIREMENT II

Last Sunday, as Martin and I sat in the kitchen waiting for dinner to finish baking in the oven, we sipped a glass of wine and talked about our latest projects. Suddenly, I realized the day before was our one year retirement anniversary. A year!?! Gone already! And, we didn’t even celebrate having made it a full year. A year of ups and downs as we adjusted our way to a fulfilling retirement routine. Mind you, we’re not there yet. But, we managed to make it into Stage 4, the Reorientation Stage. With six retirement stages, we’re more than halfway there. Yipeeee!

Last week I wrote about Disillusionment, Stage 3. After meeting someone who was obviously disillusioned with retirement and having been there myself, I felt the need to forewarn as many people as were willing to read my post. But what happens before and after disillusionment? Well, in the past year we’ve experienced all the before.
Pre-retirement, Stage 1, was filled with euphoria. We planned what we would do in retirement. Martin gave his notice at work. His employer threw a catered retirement bash. Bucket lists were made. Lists included all kinds of things we always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time for. Travel made it onto the list, an activity we never liked much before, so whatever made us think we’d like it in retirement, is anybody’s guess. After a work life of travel, travel, travel for both of us, we decided travel was, in reality, one of the last things we wanted to do. Little did we know, this was just the beginning of adjusting our retirement goals and outlook.

Initially, Stage 2, Retirement, aka the “honeymoon” took on a feeling of perpetual vacation as we motorcycled, hiked, gardened, bicycled, engaged in some artwork, sat on the screened porch reading in the warmth of sunny fall days. Winter arrived to a long trip to visit family for Christmas, a luxury we never enjoyed while we worked. That was followed by lazy mornings sipping lattes by the fire and staying in my jammies ’til noon as I took on the new hobby of knitting.

But disillusionment was seeping in. Spring arrived to six months of perpetual vacation giving way to a feeling of restlessness. A feeling of missing the challenge, the mind stimulation, the purpose afforded by the everyday grind of work. What!?! Miss the rat race? No. Not possible. And worse of all, we were getting on each others very last nerve. Our marriage, made in heaven, was being tested at every turn or so it seemed. We arrived at Stage 3, Disillusionment, not even realizing what it was or that it happened to most retirees. But, we did know, something had to give. So, once again, I trawled the web for answers. I’m here to tell you, there’s not a lot out there, not even on the so-called “senior” (I hate that word but that’s what we have) websites. However, in one Google search, I stumbled across Robert Atchley’s research into the stages or phases of retirement and voila!, a lot of things fell into place. For starters, we made a conscious decision to aim for Stage 4, Reorientation.

To me, Reorientation, is a couple of things. First of all, you put on your designer cap and pull up all the creative muscle you can find on the right side of your brain and start designing a retirement lifestyle to put you smack in the middle of your happy place. Secondly, kiss the rat race goodbye. Let it go. Sever old ties, if necessary. You still need people in retirement. You still need human connection. You still need to network. But, staying in touch with the old gang still tethered to the work place can keep you tethered there as well. Keep the real friends. Let the rest go. And, give them permission to let you go.

Retirement is a reinvention of who you are. For us, we are right brain people who lived our work lives in a left brain world. We wanted to explore different art mediums in retirement but held ourselves back. You know, the old fear of failure specter. What if I can’t draw? Can’t paint? Can’t carve? What if I produce ugly stuff nobody likes? Scary as the thought was, when we decided to seriously enter the world of artists, that is the precise moment we started our reorientation. After several enjoyable weeks of watercolor class, mainly because of the social interaction, not the painting, yesterday I took my first drawing class. Don’t even think it…I already know I put the cart before the horse. Anyway, my drawing instructor told our class, “After today’s class, if anyone asks you what you do, you tell them, you’re an artist”. He went on to tell us how he wanted us to start thinking of ourselves as artists. Think it, feel it, be it. (I really like this guy.) Besides classes, we’ve become involved in a couple of artists’ guilds, Martin helping out with the fall arts festival, both of us attending openings (wine, cheese and art…doesn’t get any better than that) and me enjoying more social interaction in my drawing class. We’ve made new friends. Artist friends who encourage and support. I’ve made the discovery I can actually draw. Let’s call it the discovery of a lifetime and I am pumped! We feel like we’re well on our way to creating a rewarding Retirement Routine, Stage 5.

Once we are settled into our new retirement lifestyle, we intend for it to last a long, long time but we also intend to keep looking for more discoveries of a lifetime. More risk, more exploration, more change. What about Stage 6? you ask. Stage 6 is the Termination of Retirement. That’s when you’re so old and frail, you can’t do any of this fun stuff anymore. You’re focused on meeting your maker. As I said, that’s a long way off. Until then, I’m an artist.

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55 comments on “Stages of Retirement

  1. Dear kathy,
    What a joy to find your blog! I was surfing the net to find inspiration to do something similar and discovered you expressing all the things I am experiencing. I am five years into retirement. I am not sure what stage I am at but I have just terminated the last of my post retirement “good works” as a volunteer for a charity and I have taken a studio in a centre with other artists. I call them “proper artists” because they have been to art school and have had exhibitions. I am just playing at it and trying to find my ” inner artist”. I was so encouraged to read what your art teacher said about thinking of oneself as an artist. Next time someone asks me what I do I will say “I am an artist” with confidence.

    You are so right about retirement being a journey. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I stayed for a week in a small seaside resort on the east coast of the UK where there are a lot or retirees. On the Sunday evening I went to the local church. It was only a small congregation for an informal service and we sat round in a circle. As I looked round at the others in the group I noticed how sad and listless they appeared. Most were in their 80’s and I am guessing that most of them had lost their partners. I imagined them moving to the town twenty years ago, full of energy and expectation. They will have joined the golf club, played bridge, sung in choirs, volunteered for committees and supported the less fortunate. Time will have seemed good and stretching into the future. Then as time passed and they became frailer, they lost their partners and friends died, they started to face the prospect of their own deaths. But they have not been paying conscious attention to the passing of time and the certainty of an ending. Now they are having to make friends with death and they do not have the skills to do it and they are frightened. I felt so sorry for them and wanted to hold them all in a warm hug and say “it’s ok, this is a journey and we can do it together.”

    Bless you for giving me the opportunity to share this. I will follow your blog with interest and reassurance that there is someone else walking the same road.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Simon…Thank you for all your kind words about my blog. You have also brought up many good points. I started the blog as I was trying to transition and found most articles were either about finances or painted a dreary picture about mental and physical decline. I wanted realistic and thoughtful information about the realities of retirement and I wanted some good news, too. I believe those of us in the world fortunate enough to retire have been given a gift. The gift is the ability to reinvent ourselves, such as you and I taking up artistry, and the time we have to spend on introspection, which I believe and hope will lead to true enlightenment. As we shed the trappings of work and the material wants, we have a chance to reach a higher state of being. That is also part of the journey. And, I hoped it would spark thoughtful exchange of ideas among retirees. So, thank you for your feedback! I also wish you much inspiration in your art studio!

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  2. One question you have not addressed. Where to retire? We moved from Ohio to Florida 10 years ago and find the heat has become too much. Now to retire 1/2 way back to Ohio but where? We have a very moderate income. Yes, we are looking at SC. Internet a very time consuming process. Almost a full time job! Anyone have any suggestions?

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  3. Hi Kathy, I’m delighted to have found your blog. My husband and I are coming up on the one year anniversary of when we both retired and repatriated to Canada. It’s been a major transition, to say the least! As I’ve read through some of your posts I find myself nodding “Yes!” to your concept of there being phases on this retirement journey. This early January morning I’m contemplating what my next phase will look like. Sometimes choices are overwhelming and can be paralyzing; sometimes I choose to have a second cup of coffee and not worry too much about what’s next. It’s good to have choices. Looking forward to following your blog.

    Linda

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  4. Pingback: Moving Forward Through Uncharted Waters - A Slice of Simple Life

  5. Thanks so much for your website, blog, information…everything. I have just retired and was shocked by the grief I felt. I have planned not only financially, but also socially and some hobbies. But, even though I don’t want to return, I feel almost like a limb was cut from my body.
    So…thanks. Reading your site helped me feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michele, Thank you for the kind words about my blog. I started writing it because I felt exactly the same way only I couldn’t find a site addressing how I felt or what to do about it. This is a transition to what can be the most rewarding time of your life. The key is finding new purpose and meaning. It will take time, effort and soul searching on your part. Give yourself a couple of years and just enjoy the experience and the journey. Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. Welcome to my blog! Kathy

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    • Wow! Michelle. I am right there with you. Forced retirement in Dec 2015 and just out here trying to get my bearings. I took the volunteer position of charity chairman for my church, so involved in many activities, but sometimes it feels like I traded corporate paid job for another catholic corporate volunteer job. Maybe I should have waited awhile before getting involved in volunteer activities. I hope you are finding you way and I wish you a happy journey.

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  6. Kathy,
    Just came upon your blog, and have to say that what you are doing is wonderful. When it comes to retirement, the only information I could find on the internet is financial investments, where to live on retirement savings, how to make your nest egg last, etc. The only thing that I have read that has supported the emotional side of retirement is a book titled “How to Retire Wild, Happy and Free” (can’t remember the author’s name). It inspired me to finally take the leap and now I plan to retire this July, 2015. I already started to re-invent myself through art. I have taken one art class (but did not have a teacher as inspirational as yours!). I surprised myself in that I can actually draw and paint! My husband retired 4 years ago and does not seem to have gone through all of the stages that you mentioned, but he has spent a lot of his time to develop his photography hobby I think he is waiting for me to go through this journey with him. Our journey will begin quickly as we plan to sell our Florida family home and move to Georgia to live close to our daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren. I plan to continue with my artistic endeavors, and hopefully meet others who share this interest. I am in Stage I: Euphoria. Anticipating the upcoming transition is euphoric, but I also feel very anxious about the transition. I worry about our financial situation, even though we have planned well. Can you believe I even feel a sense of guilt that I have reached a successful period in my life? Some of my friends are not so fortunate and have said that they will have to work until they die, or even worse, I have a family member who refuses to work even though she does not have enough money to support herself.
    I know that I have worked very hard to reach this point in my life and hope that I can truly look back and say that this is the best time of my life!

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    • Hi Joan, I’m so glad my blog helped. When I retired, I, too, could find nothing to support the emotional component of retirement so I started the blog. And, yes, I, too, have felt a twinge of guilt that I saved and can enjoy retirement while many others I know are having to continue working. The key for them is to find something they enjoy doing and work at that with a pared down style of retirement. Keep working at the art and try different instructors. Since my initial foray into drawing, I’ve had one teacher who was not so inspirational but all the others have been terrific! So, don’t give up on the instruction…it’s invaluable. We all go through the stages differently and, as Atchley discovered, some people do not experience all of them. Your husband seems to have found a hobby that interests him so much he may have skipped some of the stages. I wish you the best in your move to Georgia. I’ve read it is one of the best states as far as tax treatment of retirement income is concerned. I will be thinking of you in July…happy retirement!

      Kathy

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      • Hi Kathy,
        It has been 2 years since I posted here last. I was planning to retire July 2015, but ended up retiring Sept 1, 2015. Just after I wrote you I had an ischemic attack to my left eye (stroke to the eye call NAION). It was very scary and resulted in nerve damage to my optic nerve and partial blindness to the left eye. Without getting too medical, I have to say that this episode convinced me even more that I was making the correct decision to retire early (I was only 59).
        Retirement has been wonderful. We moved to a lovely community in Georgia, near our grandchildren. I have met many wonderful people, 3 of whom I walk with every morning. I took up Tennis for the first time in my life, am in 2 book clubs, and continue with my art classes. My husband has developed some medical issues which we are dealing with and we will get through this, with the help of the wonderful medical professionals and centers that are offered here.
        I guess with our medical “stuff” we could choose to crawl up into a ball and cry “Why me?”. But we have both decided to look at the positives we have in our life. We don’t deprive ourselves of our time or hobbies. He loves photography, and I love my art. We are planning to attend an art retreat in September, where I will be painting with a group of artists and a master artist, while my husband will be off taking photos of the beautiful scenery in Western North Carolina.
        I was so happy to see that you are still blogging that I wanted to just share my “update” with you. I never tire of reading the article “Stages of Retirement”.
        Glad you are well and still enjoying your well earned retirement!
        Joan

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      • Joan I’m glad to hear you recovered and are doing well. You are wise to focus on the positives as we all have negatives in our lives. My mother used to say, “We all have our cross to bear.” Are you by any chance going to John Campbell Folk School? My husband and I spent a week there in February taking enamel art. It is a beautiful area and a wonderful retreat. Thank you for sharing your update…it is inspiring. K

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  7. Kathy – I just found your blog. And have read about the Stages of Retirement. And I’m breathing, breathing a little better, because I am recognizing those stages. I’m 64, and evidently intended to work forever, as it came as a surprise to me when last November I was part of a corporate Reduction in Force. Yikes! It’s been rough! My hubby and I (married only 9 years) have each had a wonderful life but have not done a lot of planning around the “R” word. Honestly, neither of us saw ourselves aging. LOL. “Retirement” is going to be a challenge for us. Not impossible, just a challenge. I’ve not seen a lot of positive information or personal blogs out there for people like my husband and myself, who did save some money (not enough), had some rough patches financially, and still find themselves “retired” without having that million in the bank. Our generation is different from prior generations. Our retirement years may need to be re-defined. Thanks for the blog. Still in Stage 3. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Deanna, Yes, the surprise of the “early buyout” or “workforce reduction”, which seems to mostly happen to older workers, has been a recurring theme in the last few years. We baby boomers are reinventing retirement in many ways so you have plenty of company. You may want to read the book “Don’t Retire, Rewire”, which is about continuing to work but in a totally different field from what you did during your previous work life. It’s really about finding new purpose and meaning while continuing to make money. I’m glad to hear my blog has helped as well. Take care.

      Kathy

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  8. Just happened upon your blog; terrific, thoughtful. I have realized I need a plan to actually retire. I “retired” 9 years ago but keep going back to work because it is fulfilling, economically rewarding, and fun. But I think the time has come to find these things elsewhere.

    So many topics in your postings are helpful. The sense of place blog articulated what I have been feeling when friends talk about moving. The six stages of retirement identify exactly what I have felt, and where I have been stuck.

    The information about your husband tackling biking as a project and goal was inspiring. As was the item about becoming an artist. What a wonderful concept. I could go on and on. You nailed my feelings about volunteering. And travel!

    My purpose is becoming more clear to me…I wish I could say day by day when actually it has been year by year. Your blog is stunning to me in content and pertinence to my life.

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    • Judy, Thanks so much for all the great comments about my blog. I’m so happy the articles helped! You are an inspiration for me to continue writing. Helping other retirees or soon to be retirees is exactly why I started writing…we are not alone in this retirement journey.

      Kathy

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  9. Hi Kathy, thanks so much for the great information and thoughtful insights on retirement. I am a few years away (I’m 56) but having worked in a high-stress, high-pressure job for the last two decades, I’m ready to embrace a quieter lifestyle. I especially would like to move from my home in Philadelphia to Florida, and surprisingly there isn’t a lot of information on how to begin the transition, aside from the nuts-and-bolts of the financials. At any rate, keep up the great work and looking forward to more blog posts.

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  10. Kathy –

    Thanks for sharing the 6 stages of retirement. I’m 58, increasingly unhappy at work, and fretting over retirement. For over 30 years, I’ve lived the structured life of a good corporate employee. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been moderately successful and have built a comfortable nest egg on which to retire. But, I’m scared. It’s the old adage of “I work, therefore, I am.” That’s not good. That’s not healthy. But, I’m scared of where the fulfillment will come from in the next chapter of my life. I’ll volunteer a couple days a week at a food pantry and at the community career planning center. I can give back that way. But that’s only two days a week. What about the rest of the week? Take a class? Maybe. Learn to play the piano or learn to draw? Hmmm. Not sure of the fulfillment for me. I’ve started to read retirement blogs and came across yours. Well written. Thanks for taking the time.

    Sincerely,

    Preparing for the Next Chapter of My Life

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  11. thank you for your article on the stages . i will keep them i mind as i have different
    emotional feelings. maybe i won’t be so confused and down.

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  12. So glad to have found this blog.Was feeling very lost since having to close my Family Childcare. I had hoped to work 4 more years and retire at 65. A heart attack in Feb of this year changed my plans. I had to let the families find alternate care while I recuperated. It was hard to let go. I have a hard time filling the days. I think its been hard because I still have all the equipment and supplies. Like leaving your job but having to go to the office every day. Thanks for the blog I hope to figure a good life out of all this. Nancy

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  13. I’m enjoying your blog and this post. I retired 3 months ago and can relate to your topic. Adding to your thread, one doesn’t wake up in retirement and say ,”I’m going to learn Mandarin now or start a new career.” I wish it was that easy. I somewhat compare it to the day after high school graduation. “Uh oh, I have to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.” For now, my wife and I are traveling the world, we will see where it takes us from there…

    http://backpackandus.blogspot.com

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  14. Hey Kathy ,
    I too enjoy your blog. There really isn’t anything out there that talks about the emotional strain and adjustment that occurs when you and your spouse retire,
    My husband retired almost two years ago and like others we had a great plan to buy an RV and hit the road. When he retired he asked me to quit my part time job , which I loved, so we would be free to go. Well, so much for plans, after two years, no RV and no traveling. When my husband said he was retiring , he meant it, he doesn’t want to do anything , just what he wants to do, no household help, no yard work , nothing. With retirement has come depression and loneliness.
    Had I known this I would have never retired.
    So my suggestion to others is to have clear communication on what retirement will look like for you and your significant other.

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  15. Well Kathy this is exactly what all beginner retirees need I’m six weeks into an empty journey! Hell I don’t want to do a thing after fifty seven years of doing a mans job with no regrets. Never worked less than thirty hours a week mostly six days average sixty five hours a week have only social insecurity to depend on I have a little savings and all but my car is paid , but now I’m lost!!!! I nee some rainbow motivation got any ideas. Thanks this is a starting point.

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  16. Hi Kathy, I am pleased to have found your blog! I am surprised how many people here say they cannot find a blog on the emotional side of retirement.

    I enjoyed your listing of the “stages of retirement” – I had not heard that before but I find it to be true. When I first “retired” it was due to health issues that forced me to stop working at age 50. I had no retirement plans at all at that age! As my health improved I tried to find things to do that interested me: volunteering, spending time with grandkids; we bought a vacation home in the mountains and began spending weekends there. I soon disengaged from the volunteering as it did not suit me. I enjoyed spending lots of time with the grandkids, but couldn’t help feeling sometimes that I was living my kids’ lives as opposed to my own. My husband traveled often for business and I spent lots of days by myself, pretty discouraged with how my “retirement” was going. So I guess that was my first stage – I skipped straight over Euphoria and landed in Disillusionment!

    Try as I might to come up with new retirement ideas, what ended up being the right answer for me was when hubby could not take the grind anymore and decided to retire at 60, five years after my forced retirement had begun. We sold the homestead and moved to the vacation home in the mountains. And I discovered …. voila! This is what I was missing!

    I still can’t believe how much I love living in the mountains, experiencing all four seasons (lifelong Southern California girl who is officially tired of hazy sunshine, drought and heat 365 days a year), and having hubby home all the time. For many wives this would be the downside of retirement, but for me it’s what made me turn the corner from disillusioned to euphoric (I know, not the right sequencing but it’s been my experience). I started volunteering again, this time with the Forest Service – much more meaningful to me than the organizations I tried to volunteer with before. All this just to say you don’t really know what you don’t really know — planning is essential to get you started in retirement (we are also very fortunate to have enough money to retire) but a plan can’t lead you every step of the way. Some things are disappointing and some fantastic but you never know til you just get out there and try things!

    Thanks for your blog.

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  17. Hi Kathy, I am glad you didn’t mention how much time your grandchildren filled your life. I have none, and will never have grandchildren. I wanted a grandchild, but my son is determined there will be none and that is none of my business. To top off the pressure of my retiring, he is divorcing his sweet wife, which is very hurtful to the entire family. Nothing I can do. I already know I will miss the social aspect of working. I have no spouse and I am not involved with anyone. I do have a developmentally delayed 44 year old daughter that lives with me and I have some caretakers that help with her. I won’t miss the commute, an hour to and from work. Much as you talked about having alone time, I will need to try to get through to my staff, that they need to give me privacy on the main floor of my house and they have the basement area, which is set up very nicely. I have been trying to plan what I can do to fill in the time. I was hoping that my son would be there to help me with some of the tougher projects that take brute strength but he is lost in his own mess right now. I had a stroke about 2 years ago, which has left me with less body strength than I originally had. The depression has already set in, all my friends have husbands that are retired. So, out of the ordinary, I’m not expecting a honeymoon phase. I am reaching, did I do anything that people will remember me phase. I have 59 days until I retire, and it is a forced retirement. The business where I work is closing. Thanks for your blog.

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  18. Hi Kathy, I have been reading your blog religiously and I must tell you how much I have learned and how you have helped me. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have stumbled across your blog in my search for answers on the emotional side of retirement. It is so nice to read about your thoughts and experiences and that of others on this aspect of retirement. I have been retired full time for 3 1/2 years now (I retired at 59 after 40 years in NYS government), but like many, I hit the disillusionment stage after about ten months and decided to re-enter the work place part time. I was one of the lucky one’s who was able to go back to my previous employer. I did that for two years working two or three days a week and then hit a wall, for in my heart, I knew it was time to let go!

    So here I am re-entering retirement and have taken some of your suggestions on how to do that. I have signed up for a class at my local community college to learn about volkssporting as I am a dedicated exercise enthusiast. I am also volunteering at two of my local hospitals a couple of hours two times a week. I plan on doing some day trips with my husband (who is not retired yet) and am thinking about taking more classes (possibly learning Italian) at an area Italian Heritage organization.

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  19. Found this blog and it looks interesting, so I’ll have to bookmark it for future reference.

    I am two weeks and three days out from retirement and I find that I can’t get to the euphoric stage yet because I have too much to do and worries about what will happen to my staff and the work when I am gone. I am a manager of about 13 people, many of whom came to me after my manager-peer died of CA this past Christmas. He was my age (will be 62 the first week of my retirement) and we were going to “screw ’em” and retire at the same time in April 16,. but he never had a chance to retire on this earth 😦 .

    I don’t want that to happen to me, so I am going now. But how do you let go of your job when everything (projects, etc.) keeps on and your boss hasn’t set up someone to take over yet? I don’t want to worry about it, and I won’t when I’m out. But the “caring person” I am won’t let me enjoy these last weeks. Most people say they just coasted the last couple of weeks with a smile on their face but I have too much to wrap up so I can leave with a clear conscience!

    I know this will pass by May 13, but my “don’t get too excited till it happens” frame of mind is making this time more stressful because I don’t want to plan for my enjoyment until the awful stuff is over. Yikes!

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    • Kathi! I was like you three months ago when i retired! They had not even looked for my replacement yet and i felt so bad retiring when i did leaving everyone short handed and also because i knew no one could go on their summer vacation once i had retired but i wanted to retire in the Spring. I think my former co workers are still a little miffed at me for jumping ship! But i heard that someone was finally hired to replace me and after their 6 month training they will be in the position so that my ex co workers can finally get some time off! I am really enjoying retirement but i think I will be more relieved when my replacement is in position and everything is back to “normal” !!!!!

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  20. I went looking and found your blog at the perfect moment – my freelance work faded away a few months ago, and the vacation mood is rapidly wearing off. Time for me to retire, and your thoughtful posts will support me nicely, thank you.

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  21. I ran upon your blog by accident – so happy I did, I enjoyed reading a different perspective not based on purely financial info. I am not there yet but love reading your blog.

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  22. So happy to come across your blog a few months ago and THRILLED to come across my Bookmark and read this particular entry. I am 9 months retired and tired of the vacation – and a bit bored. I’ve played with some things that I always thought I’d do, or do more of. I’m a lifelong gardener, but somewhere lost my passion. I no longer own my own home and the California drought? Maybe that’s it.
    There are some thing I know that I am and some things I’m doubting: gardener; a yoga teacher (part-time); ukulele player; fitness buff; weightlifter; artist. Which of these things will sift out or become my work for the next 20 years? What new thing will show up? Who knows? I continue to explore.
    I recently enrolled once again in a couple of art classes. Figure drawing and acrylic painting. I’ve been exploring art for years and have had an entry in the Student Art Show every semester I’m enrolled. Maybe I should say “I am an Artist.”
    Thank you, Kathy

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  23. Hi Kathy..Monday I visited the Social Security office. This is not for the faint of heart. I had been given 2 completely different estimates over a 2 year period. I explained this to the S’S woman. She was very comforting and explained that there are many variables to consider when it’s a widow drawing on a former spouse. My advice is hold on it can be a bumpy road..

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  24. Hi Kathy! I love your website!!! I have found it validating as I am going through my first year of retirement, exploring, having Joy as I do the activities I haven’t had time for before and some disillusionment as I focused on caregiving my husband when he had knee replacement surgery. So there are ups and downs but I’m finding such richness and fulfillment overall. I was a marriage & family therapist for 40 years and found it challenging to leave my practice. Like so many others I had fears of giving this up as it was such a big part of my life. Yet I knew there were other undeveloped sides of my Self that I wanted to enjoy. I phased out over about a 3 year period and closed the doors of my practice last November of 2015. I get to enjoy my fun husband, took a dream trip, am enjoying singing in our church choir and making new friends! I love being able to walk on the beautiful trail near my home in the middle of the day instead of always at 6am! Now I finally have the energy and desire to do some Life Coaching. I too had researched the emotional sides of retiring and was surprised by the dearth of information. I wrote my new website about “Growing Into Retirement and Living Well” which is not yet published. I hope to assist people in their emotional retirement needs through Speaking and Groups and individual coaching. Melody

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  25. Hi Kathy…Many thanks for your blog. I will be turning 65 next month and while I feel certainly ready to leave the rat race and treadmill behind, the future is understandably uncertain. Your blog is so positive and encouraging with regard to the seemingly obvious but not in reality idea of making a plan for the retirement future. My wife is 13 years younger than I and has said in no uncertain terms that she is not ready to retire. She means she’s not ready to sit all day clipping coupons and will need that mental stimulation you speak of. I will too and I want to honor her wishes so reading your blog has provided a certain inspiration that will hopefully result in our missing the disillusionment stage altogether. Thank you.

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    • Fred, Thank you and congratulations on your retirement! Retirement can be a time of renewal but it takes work, an open mind and time. I hope no one is sitting around in retirement clipping coupons…how dreary. Please keep reading my posts for ideas on what to do with your time. One of my favorites is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Look for one at a college in your area and if there is one, join and take classes. The stimulation will keep you going in the right direction. Best wishes. K

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  26. Hi Kathy,
    I found you by accident, and feeling tears of joy while seeing your words on the screen !
    It’s 2yrs-6mos into retirement. I’ve been confused, stuck, etc constantly feeling like I’m not doing it right…
    I’m so excited at having found your blog, I’m too excited to focus and will need to read it slow, over and over.
    For now I’ll just “thank you” for this.

    Like

    • Thank you! I’m so happy to hear my blog is helpful. I write it because I was once upon a time in the same spot you are. Keep reading and working at finding new meaning and purpose in your life. It takes time and effort but it will come to you. Best wishes. K

      Like

  27. Dear Kathy, thank you so much for your blog. A very good friend sent me a link. She retired and is managing very well and has reinvented herself. I am in the second stage . Retired now for 6 months and finding it difficult to say the least. Being at home with my husband who has worked from home for most of his life has made his position as uncertain as mine. I made a conscious decision to retire after restructuring at work. I was in a profession and job which I created,built the position up to what it is now and along came restructuring, new young blood and many personality changes. I knew life would be different in retirement but did not expect to find such disharmony in my home life.
    I am moving onto the next stage, at present am working through the need to feel I do not need to go back to work, obsessed with do I have enough money to continue on in retirement. I have found a craft of quilting which I am enjoying but do not seem to have enough time to do this as much as I would like. Have found a project with gardening where I work as a volunteer. Am working on being happy in retirement.
    I thank you for your blog. I have been finding it hard to put into words what retirement means to me. You have certainly helped me to understand the stages I am going through and can expect to work through. I am not going crazy and yes will be able to enjoy my retirement and yes I do still like my husband.
    Thank you once again for your inspiration. There is life in retirement.

    Like

    • Jenni you are going through what most people do. It will take you about two years to adjust and find the right mix of activities. The adjustment with your spouse is also normal. My husband and I were on each others last nerve after we retired. We worked long hours and saw each other for a short time in the evening; weekends were spent with us engaging in our hobbies and chores around the house, so we didn’t spend a lot of time together then. When we retired, being together 24/7 was a challenge. We soon discovered we needed to go our separate ways some of the time and give each other space. Right now I am writing this to you while he is in the next room painting a portrait in acrylics. We learned it’s better if we are not joined at the hip even if we are at home together. Yes, there is life in retirement. It takes time to adjust. K

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    • Jenni – I just had to throw in my 2 cents here. I’m now 2 years into this retirement thing. Give yourself time. I’ve gone through all the things you mentioned in your post. The 2nd year was surprisingly difficult. Know also that those stages are not linear. Be as kind to yourself as you can. Be open to everything. I found that what I missed most was my old schedule. Not really sure what to do with that yet. Volunteering has helped. Things will change and get better. I hope that it helps to know that there are many of us experiencing the same thing! Good luck to you. Deanna

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      • Thanks for your encouragement.
        Start of new ventures. On my way to Kyle of Lochalsh to meet up with my daughter and grandchildren for their easter holiday break.
        Now I am retired I can join in for school holidays.

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  28. Pingback: About Transitioning to Retirement - Colors of Sunset

  29. Your blog was the first one I found which focused on the emotional side of retirement. For me, it was a layoff/retirement combo –so unplanned in fall, 2016. Thank you for being so forward thinking. You are a voice for many and it helps.

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    • Cecilia, Welcome to my blog. I am so glad it helps. I, too, had an unplanned beginning to retirement. Oh, we had planned for retirement, but not a downturn in my industry (real estate) bringing my retirement earlier than expected. There is life after being served a curve ball. It gets a lot better once you accept and look for new meaning and purpose. Best wishes. K

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  30. Kathy,

    This is a WONDERFULLY insightful and helpful blog. I hope you will allow me to direct my PA retired music teachers to your site. It has been my mission to help Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) retired members to “celebrate” their passage to their “golden years” and hopefully enjoy a smooth transition to a happy, healthy, and meaningful retirement. Check out my website: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/.

    With you permission, I would like to cite several sections of your “Stages of Retirement” blog in a future internal PMEA e-newsletter.

    Like many other full-time professions, post-employed school music directors who had devoted as many as 60 hours a week throwing themselves into extracurricular activities like marching band, musicals, adjudication festivals, music department trips, after-school or church choirs, or other ensemble practices, tend to experience some emotional upheaval and difficulty in finding what Ernie Zelinski (author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free) says are the three essential elements that work provides but we must now find in retirement: purpose, structure, and community. One advantage we have is that music teachers can revisit their creative roots (why they had become involved in music in the first place) and rekindle their personal expressiveness… go sing in a community choir, play in amateur bands or orchestras, or “do” dance or theater… find that life-changing inspiration and individual artistry!

    I have not met an educator who is neutral in response to the question, “How do you like retirement?” They either LOVE IT or HATE IT. Thanks for “showing them the way” and confirming that their feelings in the different stages of retirement are NORMAL! PAUL

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  31. Hi Kathy,
    I have just read some of the articles on your blog and wanted to say you are an inspiration! Thank you for your words of insightfulness, encouragement and guidance! Your blog has made a positive impact on this newly retired member’s second career!
    Susan (age 60 young at heart)

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    • Thank you Susan. I started the blog to help myself and found out I was not alone. Most people retire thinking it will be different from what it is. It is up to people like you and me and countless others to change our cultural attitudes toward aging. I appreciate your follow. K

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  32. Hi Kathy. Love your blog. Been following it for a long time. Retired 12 years ago. Now at age 77 I am still fighting boredom. After a career in technology thought I would develop the right side of the brain. Tried painting, photography and pottery and decided I have no right side of my brain. I realize that time is running out and have pretty much given up hope of uncovering my hidden talent. I guess my secret passion is to be a singer/songwriter, but my voice is weak, my keyboard skills are not all that great and I couldn’t master the guitar so I settled for the uke. But I am healthy , financially secure, have a loving husband and wonderful kids and grandkids. So much more than many people my age. Just wish I could get really excited about something. You mentioned that you started your blog to help yourself (and, of course, you ended up helping others). I thought about doing that just so I would be forced into doing something creative routinely and perhaps broaden my horizons as I looked for subject matter. What do you think?

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    • Hi Judy, I think you should follow your heart and not give up looking for that one thing, which is a passion for you. Much of what we try that is new makes us feel uncomfortable. Because of the discomfort, we sometimes don’t give it enough time. Try the drawing and maybe the blog, too. Keep broadening those horizons! Good luck…K

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  33. Well, it’s me again. Re-reading some of your posts and decided to write a memoir instead of a blog. My daughter has wanted me to do that. And after re-reading your post on limitations I decided to try drawing. I have such an appreciation for art but was a failure at painting.. or at least I thought I was a failure , maybe I expected too much too soon. Switching to drawing worked for you, maybe it will for me. Being stuck in the house during tropical storms leaves a lot of time for reflection.

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  34. Pingback: Stages of Retirement – TheUnRetired.life

  35. “Retirement is a reinvention of who we are.” Thank you Kathy for providing some info about the stages of retirement.I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t deliriously happy all the time.(see the pictures of retirees grinning like Cheshire cats! Not a care in the world!)
    I retired after 27 years of teaching happy! I didn’t want to be that grumpy teacher counting the days. Although financially, perhaps not the best move. I have always intended to work just not teach. I was ready for a change.
    I think I am in the reorienting and reinventing stage. Each day is different which can be scary and exhilarating! I am starting part time work and am thrilled I can spend time with my dad and have the flexibility to do new things. Thanks again for your comments.
    Karin

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  36. I as so glad to find your blog Kathy! I just retired in March 2017 after 25 years in psychiatric nursing. This is definitely a journey finding your best self and finding a balance while trying new adventures! I will continue to follow your blog and reading others comments will help us all have a better and fulfilling retirement😄!

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