Living the 3 stages of retirement.
Posted August 5, 2010
Many young people today have two impressions of retirement, i.e., that it will be “fun times of lazy, happy days and lounging around” or it will be “years of sadness filled with financial and health issues.” Neither picture is accurate and creates a false sense of what will be in store for most of us.
Retirement life has been changing rather dramatically in recent years. Charlie Davidson wrote in In the Service of Baby Boomers: A Seismic Mind Shift for Financial Service Providers that retirement for most of us can really be dissected into 3 stages:
Stage 1: Individuals seek fulfillment and are in good health. This phase varies in length by individual or couple, but typically lasts from several years to as many as 15 or more years. During this stage, the individual seeks to achieve many previously unfilled goals. Examples include travel, time spent visiting friends and family, attending or participating in sports events, theater and so forth and/or working full time or part time in an occupation that could be built around a passion (like consulting, writing, mentoring, or helping others.) This stage is not to the exclusion of working for a living, particularly in these tough times. Nevertheless, it typically reflects the opportunity to apply skills and competencies to new challenges that will provide fulfillment to each individual on his/her own terms.
Stage 2: This stage is earmarked by the encroachment of a sense of “been there, done that,” meaning that there is less need to travel or participate in accomplishing something, volunteering, helping others, etc. There is less a sense of having to be out and about. At this stage, the individual begins to lack the energy for big initiatives, like overseas travel, lengthy walks or hikes, hours on the golf course or a tough game of tennis. Individuals at this stage would still continue to get out, shop at the mall, head out to dinner and the theater, attend religious events and so forth, but would relegate their activities to those close to home. Spending time simply talking over a meal, watching TV, puttering around the house, reading a good book, and gardening appears to make life feel complete. Living the simple life seems to be the way to satisfaction. Continuing some exercise routines is recognized as important to maintaining one’s health, although aches and pains, more meds and eating less is reflective of this stage. Stage 2 typically lasts 10-15 years, and is often experienced by individuals in their late 70’s or early 80’s, into their late 80’s or early 90’s. Sometimes this stage arrives earlier but rarely does it last into the late 90’s.
Stage 3: This stage is often associated with how retirement used to be viewed, a time of limited activity, with some level of infirmity and/or a greater reliance on others for care and sustenance, i.e., shopping and food preparation, housekeeping, etc. Individuals tend to slow down, nap more, and find themselves living the sedentary life. They will venture out for occasional trips to see friends or relatives, the theater, attend religious services, etc. Sharing stories and observations, or recalling earlier life events, bring moments of great joy. Watching TV, playing cards, reading books and newspapers, mark the passing of one’s days. Some like to continue being creative through small woodworking or arts and crafts projects. Journaling and writing memoirs are also fulfilling at this stage of life. Certainly happiness can be found at this stage if one takes care of one’s self, or even if one needs the help of a caregiver. The simple pleasures of feeling reasonably healthy, having a pleasant day and communicating with friends and family make life worth living.
Each stage requires different funding for that lifestyle. Stage 1 requires money for travel, housing and fun. Stage 2 requires money for entertainment, medical care and maintaining one’s lifestyle. Stage 3 requires money for occasional entertainment, more medical care and possibly caregivers.
So what’s the bottom line? Life in retirement comes in phases or stages, but there is a consistency with each stage continuing to be focused on freedom of choice, fulfillment, friends and family and enjoyment. Let’s hope this is what your future holds, because, honestly, nothing could be better for each of us than to experience the full extent of all of these stages.
© Donald C. Strauss and Diane B. Burman
Diane (Dee) Burman is Co-Founder and Director of the RetireRight Center in Chicago, a non-profit organization devoted to educating pre- and post-retirees in the “Art of Retirement,” focusing on non-financial aspects.Ms. Burman worked for over 25 years in the human resources field, both as an independent consultant and for international corporations. She was also founder and first President of the Organization Development Network of Chicago. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. from Middlebury College Graduate School of French in France.
Donald Strauss is Co-Director of the RetireRight Center in Chicago. He is a career and change management consultant, having worked in the human resources and organization development/change management fields in Fortune 100 companies for over 40 years. He also teaches graduate school programs in human resources and career management at Benedictine University. Mr. Strauss has a B.A. from NYU and an M.A. in Labor/Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois.
Together, they are the authors of the book, Customize...Don't Minimize...Your Retirement: 7 Paths to Explore Possibilities, Choices and Your Future Happiness.