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The Phases of Successful Retirement

The Phases of Successful Retirement

May 24, 2023

Preparing for a successful retirement requires disciplined planning. One of Pacific Wealth Management’s priorities in early-stage financial planning is centered around efficiently maximizing the saving of assets throughout an individual’s working career. Comprehensive retirement planning then requires a more granular approach.  We encourage clients to visualize their anticipated lifestyle and standard of living in retirement. We then model projections of that standard of living to ensure clients have accumulated sufficient financial resources to sustain the secure financial future they envision.  Many people, however, do not know what to expect from their new retirement lifestyle on a day-to-day basis, in what could be more than a third of their entire lifespan.

Retirement is a significant life transition that can bring about a range of psychological challenges.

The Stages of Retirement


The loss of a career, sense of purpose and daily routine can, at times, contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loss of identity. Dr. Riley Moynes is a successful author and speaker who has studied the psychological phases of retirement most individuals experience throughout this new chapter in their lives. He has observed many retirees transition through significant psychological phases which present their own set of challenges for people who have previously been focused primarily on their family, job, and career.

The First Phase

Retirement phase #1 is what Moynes refers to as the “vacation phase”.  People choose to do what they want, whenever they want to do it.  For most individuals, this initial phase is fun. This first retirement phase usually lasts around one year.  Many new retirees, though, soon find themselves missing their former routines.   Their career served as a source of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.

Phase Two

Sometimes the lack of routine with early retirees can lead to feelings of emptiness and less motivation. Some ask themselves, “is this all there is to my life in retirement?”  In phase #2, many people begin to feel loss or lost.  They come to the realization their former career routine was a large part of their identity and is permanently gone.  Many individuals detach from their former workplace relationships. The loss of social connections is another psychological challenge of retirement.  This can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation and sometimes a loss of power and purpose.  In some instances, these new dynamics can be traumatic for the newly retired, as they happen concurrently. In extreme situations, this transition can lead to fear, anxiety, depression, or even divorce.

Phase Three

As some of these new challenging realities become evident, a lot of retirees ask themselves, “how can I make my life more meaningful and contribute to the world around me?”  Phase #3 is essentially trial and error, where many try to embrace new activities and purpose. Unfortunately, some of those trials deliver disappointment and failure. Maintaining an ongoing, committed effort to discover new interests and alternatives is important so people do not slip back into phase #2.

The Fourth and Final Phase

Those retirees who are committed to new discovery transition into Phase #4.  These individuals are some of the happiest and most fulfilled people you may ever meet.  This final phase is an opportunity to reinvent and rewire. To get the most out of retirement, it is important to identify an aspirational purpose and mission.  These activities can provide a sense of accomplishment.   Invariably, our experience has shown the most rewarding purpose, mission and interest involves service to others.  Sometimes this pursuit can be exhausting while simultaneously exhilarating.


Planning for retirement in advance and finding new sources of purpose and socialization enables people to smoothly transition from their working career into a fulfilling retired lifestyle. Often, some of the losses people experience in phase #2 (routine, identity, relationships, purpose, and power) can be successfully recovered.  We recommend retirees relish phase #1, be prepared for losses in #2, experiment and try many different things in #3, and maximize their fulfillment in phase #4.   

If you’re preparing for retirement or entering one of these phases and would value guidance, our Pacific Wealth Management team can help.  Schedule a call to hear more about how we can assist you reach the Fourth and Final Phase.