The Stages of Retirement: Psychological Effects & Examples

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  • 1:11 Pre-Retirement
  • 2:33 During Retirement
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Many workers assume that retirement is the end point, but it's really just another phase in life. As such, retirees often go through certain stages. In this lesson, we'll examine each stage, from pre-retirement to the end of retirement.


Trent's life is about to change. He's 65, and he will be retiring at the end of the month. He's very excited and can't wait to be free. He plans on building a bonfire and burning all his business suits because after this month, he plans to live in his golf attire. Trent's friend Sasha has been retired for a year now, and her perspective is different than Trent's. She's bored and feeling a little depressed; she gets up every morning and wonders, 'What now?' She misses the structure that work brought her.

Retirement involves leaving the workforce with a plan never to return. It can happen at any age, but most people retire in late adulthood, or the time of life after age 65. Retirement is a big adjustment. For many people, work has been the main part of their lives for decades, and once they retire, they have to figure out what they will do with all their time. People react to retirement differently, but some psychologists have identified a few common stages that people go through when they retire. Let's look closer at the stages of retirement.


The first stage of retirement actually happens before you retire. Pre-retirement is the stage before retirement when a person is planning their escape from the workplace. Technically, Trent is in pre-retirement since he won't be retiring until the end of the month. His pre-retirement actually started several years ago when his friends began to retire. At that point, Trent was happy with his job and needed the paycheck, so he thought he'd never leave.

There are two sub-stages in pre-retirement. The first involves negative views of retirement and believing that retirement is far in the future. A few years ago, that's where Trent was. He didn't want to think about retiring; he was having fun at work. And besides, retirement is for old folks. He was only in his 60s, so he didn't want to think about retiring yet.

But people don't stay in that mindset forever. The second sub-stage in pre-retirement involves making a plan to retire in the near-future. This is the time when people begin to figure out the exact date they will retire and participate in seminars and other activities for pre-retirees. For example, when Sasha retired last year, Trent started thinking that he would retire this year. He attended a seminar on how to make sure you have enough money to retire and consulted his financial planner about his savings.

During Retirement

So what happens when someone actually retires? Let's fast-forward a month and visit Trent in his first few days of retirement. He's had his party and torched his suits. He's permanently turned off his alarm clock, and now he's free. Trent is feeling giddy. He's happy and enjoying doing whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. He plays golf a lot and just hangs out with his friends. He's having a blast!

The first stage of retirement is the honeymoon stage, when people enjoy the novelty of their freedom. During this time, everything is exciting and fun. Playing golf, staying in your pjs all day, puttering around the garden; all of these things seem so much more exciting during the honeymoon phase. Sadly, the honeymoon phase doesn't last.

Remember Sasha? She's feeling bored and a little depressed. After being retired for a year, Sasha has moved into the disenchantment stage of retirement, when people feel at loose ends. The novelty of retirement has worn off, and they are left wondering, 'What now?' During the disenchantment stage, many people begin to fill their calendar with volunteer work or by taking classes and pursuing hobbies. For example, Sasha spends three mornings a week volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and she's learning how to knit. She's planning on making herself a scarf this winter. The disenchantment stage of retirement also fades after a while as people figure out the best way to fill their time.

This leads to the reorientation stage of retirement, when people are able to find their own niche. Sasha may find, for example, that knitting is not as much fun as she thought it would be and decide to drop it to dedicate more time to volunteering. Other people might find that volunteering is too much like work and focus more on their hobbies or travel. This is a time of reappraisal, when people are trying to figure out what their best thing for them is.

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