Engaging in Retirement (Part 2)

What Can a Retiree Expect?

Robert Conyne

3/3/2021 3 min read

Before Engagement:  Reviewing, Dreaming, and Planning

Reviewing, Dreaming, and Planning are all part of the pre-retirement process.  Figuring out who you are, your interests and values, your skills, what "makes you tick." Imagining and dreaming what the future could be.  Getting ready, getting your "ducks in a row, " anticipating your future as a person who is retired. Being sure about finances, that you have financial resources available (and/or, have a plan for generating additional ones) that can sustain your retirement over several years, maybe as many as 30.  Looking backward and forward.  Detailing steps:  What will I do?  Where will I live?  How will my family participate?  Will I work at all?  If so, will I stop all at once or gradually? Volunteer?  Or plan to largely relax and take it easy? And usually many more such questions get considered.

What can you expect to happen--in general--once "retirement day" comes?  What might Engaging in retirement look like for you?  We wrote some about this phase earlier in this website, under the heading "Frequently Asked Questions," if you'd like to review.

Five Phases of Engagement

Freedom.  Over the first six months or so, new retirees frequently report feeling free!  Yes, With that exclamation point!

They experience a liberation from the structure and routine of their work/career and an invitation to explore what is out there for them, more on their own terms. They begin to experience a sense of time abundance that is enjoyable for many, especially following decades of time shortage.  This phase has been described, also, as analogous to a  "Honeymoon," where joy and happiness accompany being able to do what you've been looking forward to doing for a long time, whether that is traveling, golfing, woodworking, visting family, starting a new business venture, or something else.

Let Down.  Fortunately, this phase is not guaranteed to occur but many do experience it in some form.  It typically occurs from three to 18 months or so into retirement and takes the form of this question:  "Is This All There Is?"  Reading all day, every day may lose some of its luster.  Similarly, for many other activities that--although high on one's list of "Most Wanted," can begin to fade due to over-exposure.  Some sense of variety or balance may become attractive, if not necessary, as an antidote to the disappointment that may be experienced by doing the same thing, over-and-over-again.

Reorientation/Adaptation.  Fortunately, the phase of feeling let down need not be in any way permanent.  After a couple of years, retirees may find themselves transitioning into a recalibration of what being retired means for them.  Usually on their own, but sometimes with the assistance of a company like ours, they reorient and adapt, fashioning a new way that fits better. This alternative may involve adjustments in health care, finances or in lifestyle, a relocation physically, phasing some form of working into their life pattern, or any other adaptations that can realistically bolster their satisfaction, sense of purpose and meaning--resulting in increasing  happiness during the next years of retirement.  The Plan that was created in pre-retirement, although it served a genuine purpose, is always subject to modification based on experience, new information and changing circumstances, and this is what tends to happen during this Reorientation/Adaptation phase.

Guided Gliding.  Although always subject to modifications, retirees now tend to move into a longer period, depending on cirumstances, some 15 years or so, that are characterized by "guided gliding."  Adjustments have been made.  They give rise to the establishment of new roles, responsibilities, routines, relationships, and assumptions that serve to guide these years of engagement. For the majority of retirees, these are mainly enjoyable and satisfying times, though not without challenges, both expected and unexpected.

Reintegration/Reconciliation.  This phase typifies the last few years of retirement, and of life.  Retirees still can, and many do, experience overall satisfaction during this period.  Reflection and reminiscing can be especially of value now, looking back at one's retirement and overall life and extracting meaning and value.  Loss can be counted on to occur now, too, due to the inevitability of life events--friends and family members may die, one's own health can decline while disabilities might increase, activities once performed with relative ease and competence can now be threatened or can even become out of reach.  A theme of this last phase of retirement life revolves around coming to terms with your life and considering your legacy.

This Chart of how Engaging in retirement can occur is based on theory and research.  It affords a guide for helping shape your own possible future.  But, be clear, your own future in retirement may differ because you are a unique human being influenced by a particular set of circumstances.  Let us be very thankful for that concept--and, more important, for you!