What Are the Phases of Retirement?

Phases of retirement is a six-stage process described by researcher Robert Atchley in the 1970s that includes pre-retirement, retirement, contentment, disenchantment, reorientation, and routine. Not all individuals will experience all of these stages, but the underlying idea is to provide a framework for thinking of retirement as a process that involves both emotional and financial adjustments rather than just a one-time event. Also known as stages of retirement.

Understanding the Phases of Retirement

A comprehensive retirement plan should consider more than just how much money one needs to save in order to leave the workforce. A strategy for tackling the emotional aspects of retirement, such as finding meaningful activities to take the place of work, will help circumvent the feelings of loneliness, boredom, and disillusionment that sometimes set in after the initial excitement of being job-free wears off.

Coping with Retirement

Academic researchers, since Atchley's initial study, have, to a remarkable extent, confirmed his findings and expanded on this. In a paper, Donald Reitzes of Georgia State University and Elizabeth Mutran of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explain:

First, we found general support for Atchley’s model of retirement adjustment (1976). Second, the factors that influence retirement adjustment in the data analysis revealed that: 1. pre-retirement self-esteem and friend identity meanings, as well as pension eligibility, increased positive attitudes toward retirement at six months, 12 months, and 24 months post-retirement; 2. retirement planning and voluntary retirement increased positive attitudes toward retirement earlier, but not later, in the first two years of retirement; 3. poor health decreased positive attitudes toward retirement later rather than earlier in the first two years of retirement, and 4. there were only limited gender effects.

Atchley suggested that about a third of older adults experience difficulty in making this adjustment to retirement and than counseling and other interventions would help these people not only have a more satisfying retirement but a better life outlook in general.

"Professional counselors may not be experts in financial planning, but they can certainly help clients explore what they want their lives to look like after retirement and take steps to make that vision a reality," states the American Counseling Association

Wendy Killam, an ACA member and co-editor of the book "Career Counseling Interventions: Practice With Diverse Clients," told Counseling Today: “Counselors can offer career guidance, testing, and career exploration. They can give a wide number of [assessment and aptitude] tests that can help clients consider opportunities that they might not otherwise have thought of."