phases of retirement

The 4 Phases of Retirement

I’ve been planning a post about the phases of retirement for a while, but I wanted to be sure I’d spent enough time in retirement to write with credibility.  In my 5th year of retirement, the time has come.  At this point, I’ve moved through all of the major phases of retirement, and my life has stabilized to the point that I can write from experience.

As I was preparing to write this post, I came across an excellent TEDX talk on the topic and realized it was the best content I’ve ever seen on the topic.  The video has gone viral for a reason.  Yes, it’s that good.

So today, I’m sharing a TEDX talk on The 4 Phases of Retirement, with a summary of the key points and my commentary on how my experience compares to the phases of retirement presented in the talk.  I’m also adding suggestions on how best to prepare for the various phases to help you achieve a great retirement (my byline).

If you’re curious about how your retirement is likely to evolve, this post is for you. 

  • If you’ve not yet retired, today’s is a great lesson to get you thinking about how to increase your chance of retirement success and avoid the dreaded Phase II. 
  • If you’re already retired, today’s post will help you figure out how to “squeeze the juice” out of retirement and join the 60% of retirees who achieve Phase IV.
I came across a TEDX Talk that is the best content I've ever seen on the phases of retirement.  Today, I'm sharing my experiences and thoughts on the phases. Share on X

what are the phases of retirement


The Four Phases of Retirement

How many stages of retirement are there?  That depends on who you ask, as demonstrated below:

6 Stages:  If you ask Investopedia, you’ll find Journey Through The 6 Stages of Retirement.  It’s an interesting read, but in essence, they present the same 4 stages I’ll discuss below.  Their additional 2 stages include “Pre-Retirement” (fair enough, since each of us should have a planning stage prior to retirement) and “The Big Day” (one day seems too short a time frame to truly be considered a phase).

5 Stages: If you ask the Second Wind Movement, you’ll find 5 Emotional Stages of Retirement.  Again, you’ll see the four phases discussed below with the additional phase of pre-retirement.  

4 Stages:  If you ask Riley Moynes, you’ll see the four stages discussed below.  I’ve chosen to go with this option for today’s article, since the “pre-retirement” phase is, by definition, prior to retirement.  I prefer to focus on the changes that occur after you’ve retired, though I’m a huge believer in the value of retirement planning.  To me, however, the bigger question of “what’s retirement really like” is best answered by using the 4-stage approach.

3 Stages:  If you ask Merrill Lynch, you’ll find 3 Stages of Retirement, but I found their “Exploring, Nesting, Reflecting” phases a bit simplistic and insufficient in addressing the reality of most retirement transitions.


Riley Moynes – The Four Phases of Retirement 

For today’s post, we’re going to listen to Riley Moynes, who “wrote the book” on the subject.  His book, The Four Phases of Retirement: What to Expect When You’re Retiring (Amazon affiliate link) has an impressive 4.4 rating on Amazon.  

More importantly, he’s the speaker in a TEDx Talk, “The 4 Phases of Retirement,” a video that’s gone viral with over 2.3 Million views and 2,000+ comments on the YouTube presentation.  Below is the video, well worth 13 minutes of your time to watch (if you don’t have time, no worries – I’ll be summarizing each of the 4 phases he presents below):


My Commentary On The Four Phases of Retirement

Below, I’ll present a summary of the four phases of retirement as presented by Riley Moynes (the “quotes in italics” are taken directly from the video).  In addition, I’m including my commentary, personal experience, and suggestions for “How Best To Prepare” for each of the four phases.  Finally, I’ve included links to past articles that relate to each phase.

how long does the honeymoon phase of retirement last?

Phase I:  Vacation Phase

Phase I is the initial phase experienced in retirement often referred to as the “Honeymoon Phase.”  In this phase, retirement feels like a vacation.  “There is no set routine.”  For most people, this phase represents “their view of an ideal retirement.  Freedom, Baby!”  For most folks, “Phase I lasts for a year or so, then it begins to lose its muster…we begin to feel a bit bored…and we ask ourselves, “Is that all there is to retirement?”

My Commentary:  Riley is spot on with his description of the first phase of retirement.  I remember the joy of not having to wake up to an alarm clock, never having to deal with the commute, and celebrating the Freedom we worked so hard to earn.  It’s exactly what you were hoping retirement would be.  However, just like in marriage, the honeymoon doesn’t last forever.  For most people, the transition to Phase II happens 12-18 months after retirement. 

How Best To Prepare:  Embrace your Freedom and enjoy it.  You’ve earned it.  Realize, however, that the honeymoon won’t last.  Prepare yourself emotionally for the reality that you have not yet settled into retirement.  In time, you’ll be doing some personal reflection.  You’ll soon realize that there’s more to retirement than a permanent vacation, and it will take some time to work through the next few phases before you settle into your “real” retirement lifestyle.

In the introduction to my book Keys To A Successful Retirement, I wrote, “At about the one-year mark, I want you to pull this book back off your shelf.”  There was a reason I wrote that sentence, and Riley captured perfectly the mental shift that takes place at that time.  The honeymoon is ending and it’s time to move into the next phase of retirement.

Articles Of Interest:


how do I deal with depression in retirement

Phase II:  Lost & Loss

While everyone experiences Phase I, an interesting thing happens with Phases II and II.  While some retirees struggle and “get stuck” in these phases, others can avoid them entirely (Riley cites that 10-15% of retirees skip these phases, which was also, fortunately, my experience).

Phase II is the most challenging of the phases of retirement, and a dangerous phase that some retirees struggle to get out of.  Riley cites the following characteristics of Phase II:

“Phase II is when we lose The Big 5…significant losses all associated with retirement.  We lose that routine…sense of identity…relationships, sense of purpose, and for some people a loss of power.  We don’t see these things coming…

Phase II is also where we come face to face with The 3 D’s:  Divorce, Depression and Decline, both physical and mental.  The result of all of this is we can feel like we’ve been hit by a bus.”

Before we can appreciate and enjoy some of the positive aspects of phases three and four, you are going to, in phase two, feel fear, anxiety, and quite even depression.  That’s just the way it is.  So buckle up and get ready.”

“Fortunately, at some point most of us say to ourselves, Hey, I can’t go on like this…and when we do, we’ve turned the corner to phase three.”  

My Commentary:  Riley does an excellent job summarizing what Eric Weigel called “The Messy Middle” in his book Reimaging Retirement.  Given that only 10-15% of retirees skip this stage, the remaining 85 – 90% find themselves dealing with Phase II.  It’s an uncomfortable place to be, and can only be overcome when the retiree decides she is going to do something about it.  That decision is one that each individual must make for themselves.  Some never make that decision, and suffer through years of difficulty.  Don’t be that person.  You can move on, but it will only happen if you make an intentional decision to pursue a better life.

How Best To Prepare:  The question that comes to my mind is, “What’s the difference between the 10-15% of retirees who skip Phase II and the 85-90% who don’t?”  Given I was in that 10-15%, and have spent years researching and writing on the topic, I think I know the answer.  The good news is that it’s within grasp for anyone preparing for retirement.  The highest correlation I’ve found between retirees who have a smooth transition vs. those who struggle is the amount of time they’ve spent preparing (both financially and non-financially) before retirement.  It was the primary focus of my book and a topic I’ve written about extensively. If you’re struggling in Phase II, or not yet retired, I encourage you to read my book.  I’ve also included a few relevant articles below which you may find helpful.  The key to avoiding Phase II is to pursue your curiosity, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Articles Of Interest:


how to get through the difficult phases of retirement

Phase III: Trial & Error

When someone decides they need to do something to change their life and end the struggles of Phase II, they’ve turned the corner and entered Phase III.  As Riley says, “In Phase III we ask ourselves “How can I make my life meaningful again? How can I contribute?”. The answer often is to do things that you love to do and do really well.”

Riley cautions that Phase III will be a period of trial and error, and the retiree should not be disappointed with some inevitable failure.  You should continue to pursue things that interest you.  From the video: “I know all of this can sound bad. But it’s really important to keep trying and experimenting with different activities that will make you want to get up in the morning again.”  In time, as outlined in Mike Drak’s book Retirement Heaven or Hell, you’ll find your way out of Retirement Hell and into Retirement Heaven. 

My Commentary:  In my experience, Phase III and IV will make up the majority of your retirement years.  Even though I consider myself happy in Phase IV, I continually challenge myself to evaluate what I’m doing with my time and consider new activities that interest me (Phase III behavior).  In the past, I’ve used the metaphor of picking up and putting down cards, constantly seeking to improve my hand.  For me, this is one of the true joys of retirement, and all of the things I’ve discovered that have brought purpose to my retirement have come as a result of the trial & error Riley discusses as an element of Phase III.  Enjoy the process, it’s fun to challenge yourself to improve your hand continually. 

How Best To Prepare:  Riley was a guest on this Retirement Wisdom podcast discussing the four phases of retirement and made the following statement, which highlights how important the pre-retirement planning stage is in successfully navigating the stages of retirement:   

“…be thinking ahead of what are some of their strengths, what are some of the things that they love to do and to be considering ways, well before they retire, that they might be able to apply those things when they do retire. And so to be able to have kind of a network that they might have built up or to look at some possibilities in advance, I think is extremely helpful.”

I agree 100% with Riley on this one and encourage anyone who is not yet retired to dedicate as much time planning for the non-financial elements of retirement as you do the financial ones.   That was the approach I used, and I jumped directly from Phase I to Phase III as a result.

Articles Of Interest:


how to squeeze the juice out of retirement

Phase IV: Reinvent & Rewire

Riley uses “squeezing the juice” as his metaphor for getting the most out of retirement, and encourages folks to ask themselves some pointed questions as they seek the most from their lives.  “What’s the purpose here?  What’s my mission? How can I squeeze all the juice out of retirement?  It’s important that we find activities that are meaningful to us and that give us a sense of accomplishment. And my experience is that it almost always involves service to others.”

On the Retirement Wisdom podcast mentioned above, Riley made the following statement about Phase IV (bold added by me):

“…only about 50 to 60% of retirees break through to Phase Four. Not everyone gets there. But those who are able to break through to Phase Four are some of the happiest, most productive, satisfied, and gratified people that I have ever met. Phase Four is when we rewire and find something new that really, really hits us and that we just squeeze all the juice out.” 

The purposes you find in Phase IV will result in the recovery of “The Big 5” cited as being lost in Phase II (routine, identity, relationships, purpose and power).  As Riley states, “It is magic to see.  Magic.”

My Commentary:  While Riley states only 50 to 60% of retirees break through to Phase IV, I’m a firm believer that it’s achievable by all of us.  I support his suggestion to pursue service to others as your means to finding your way into Phase IV.  The work my wife and I are doing building free dog fences through Freedom For Fido is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life, and I can testify to the “magic” Riley speaks of when someone learns how to squeeze the juice out of retirement.  Our working lives were, by necessity, focused on self.  Take advantage of your independence in retirement to focus on others.  Based on my experience, and thousands of others, it’s your most likely path for finding your way to Phase IV.

How Best To Prepare:  In my book, I encourage readers to pursue their curiosity.  Listen to that inner voice, and take the first step in whatever direction it leads.  If it involves service to others, listen extra closely. That approach is what led to my creation of this blog, where my focus is “Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement” (outwardly focused). The same approach led my wife to establish Freedom For Fido, where we help low-income people who are in need (outwardly focused).  The pursuit of curiosity and using your time to help others is likely the greatest differentiator for the 50-60% of retirees who make their way to Phase IV versus those who don’t.  

Articles Of Interest:


Conclusion

I frequently use “The Starting Line” when talking about the beginning of retirement.  That’s intentional, and I use it for two reasons:

1) Too many people think of retirement as the “end”, when in reality it’s “the beginning.”  I prefer to look forward and firmly believe life is better that way.  

2) Retirement is like a marathon, and crossing the starting line is a very small step in a race with many phases. The use of “The Starting Line” is my way of reminding people that they have a lot of life ahead of them, and they need to decide how they’re going to run their race.

Riley’s four phases of retirement captures the reality of a retirement life better than any other content I’ve seen on the subject.  If you’ve not yet retired, learn the important lessons he teaches to minimize your chance of getting stuck in Phase II.  If you’re already retired, apply the lessons thousands of others have used to move yourself into Phase III and IV.

Ultimately, you are in more control of your journey through retirement than you have been in any other phase in your life. Accept the responsibility, and enjoy the process.

Squeeze The Juice.

Enjoy Life.

Your Turn:  If you’ve already retired, what phase are you in?  What tricks have you used to avoid getting trapped in Phase II?  What tips do you have to help folks reach Phase IV?  If you’ve not yet retired, are you concerned about Phase II?  What are you doing now to maximize your chances of reaching Phase IV?  Let’s chat…

70 comments

  1. THIS is what I have been searching for…I have most of the financial preparation for retirement But I needed THIS to complete the rest of the preparation to actually move forward into retirement. I’ve been hesitant to retire because the future seemed relaxing but without real direction and purpose. This TED talk is simple but so extremely helpful and your summarization is perfect. Thank you so much!!! I will be rereading your words and rewatching this video again before I take that final step.

    1. I love the all caps “THIS.” Nothing better than writing words that meet a reader’s needs. Pleased to hear it resonated with you. It’s time to put that hesitancy aside and move yourself over The Starting Line!

  2. I am still in the vacation phase and retired 9 months ago. Have been traveling and have taken up biking, pickleball and walking. Keeping active has helped fight the winter blues. Can’t wait for spring and longer days. I am enjoying the vacation phase so far and find keeping some structure has helped. I enjoy following your blog and know what lies ahead in my journey.

    1. John, perhaps you’ll be in the fortunate 10 – 15% and find yourself avoiding Phase II. Best of luck on your journey, thanks for making me a small part of it.

  3. Awesome article about retirement. I’m only 42 years old but have been focused on our retirement since I am 20. A big saver for future. Only to realize that I need to live more in the now (be present).

    But really reading this gives me hope. What we see around from our parents or in-laws or any close people, is it seems not easy or not wishful to retire.

    I want to thank you for this beautiful article.

    Have a great day ❤️

    Vincent

    1. “Only to realize that I need to live more in the now (be present).”

      The most important sentence in your comment. Time to quit reading retirement blogs and embrace your present, Vincent. Wink. You’ll get to retirement in time, but don’t focus so obsessively on achieving the goal that you forget to live life during the journey. Hopefully, I’ll still be here when you cross the line…

    2. Hey Vincent, I took planned my retirement as soon as I started working at 15. Now, at 62 and 3 years retired, I would strongly suggest you read the book Die With Zero. It really gives a good perspective on life and financial priorities. Best of luck to you! Gary

  4. Thx for the article. I agree wholeheartedly with the research about retirement happiness coming out of preparation. I spent a long time planning, reading and dreaming and believe I’m in your 10%, now four years in. I’ve seen others who said they will start planning once they’ve retired struggle and wonder if maybe they should go back to work.

    1. You’re walking in my footsteps, Jack. Thanks for providing yet another example of the value of doing as much preparation as possible before retirement. Avoiding Phase II is certainly worth the effort.

  5. Great article Fritz and thanks for mentioning our book. I have a special offer for your followers. If they are willing to do an Amazon review on the book I will send them a free electronic copy.

    I had a hard time getting through stages 2 & 3 and our book will help people get through this period without suffering too much damage.

    1. Thanks for your generous offer, Mike. I hope my readers take you up on the offer, your words have helped thousands on their journeys, and I love your “legacy goal” of giving your book away to benefit thousands more.

    2. I would like to take you up on your offer to do an Amazon review of your book.

      I retired 2 years ago at 63. No regrets! I am active and volunteering for Meals on Wheels. I am considering also volunteering for Habit for Humanity. Tomorrow is my 65th birthday.

      I love to read and am open to suggestions to make the most of my retirement.

  6. Aloha Fritz!

    You thought provoking blogger,,,,,really lots of good stuff here for all pre and post retirees!

    I heartily agree on your suggestion to climb out of Phase II is to think of others. In fact, I have changed course in my volunteer track. Next charity will be one I choose after much consideration and praying consistently to our Father for guidance. Whatever path I choose, I want it to be long term and intentional. Giving one’s time, talent and treasure takes care of purpose and giving to others. It really warms your heart to make others’ lives better. Try a charity out for a spin and see if it fits your life and purpose! Retirement is grand and I know all of you look forward to the day you retire. Think of life’s issues just as much as your financials. Like Fritz has stated in the past, one hardly thinks of money once you have retired and it is all set up on auto pilot.

    God speed, Steve

    1. Steve, thanks for the kind words. Prayer is definitely a key element in finding your way to Phase IV. I believe God has a purpose for each of us, and finding that purpose is more rewarding than anything else you’ll do while here on earth. Thanks for your continued support of my work, I believe I’m doing what I’m meant to do.

  7. Thanks for writing. I enjoy your work. Great advise and a great tool for the tool belt, for the soon to be Starting Line participants.

  8. This post is perfect timing for me! I’ve been retired a few months shy of two years and I can feel I’ve slipped into Phase II. I’ve been thinking about volunteering and this has just confirmed that’s the direction I need to go. I’m an introvert and meeting new people is really uncomfortable for me, however I’m going to push myself to try. Thanks!!!

    1. Yep, two years is a pretty normal time frame, Sharon. Time to start pursuing those things you’re thinking about. I suspect you’ll be surprised to find there are a lot of introverts near you who feel exactly the same as you. It’s time to connect. Best of luck finding your way to Phase IV!

  9. The problems with your articles and posts are that they are directed to thoughtful people who are concerned about the road ahead. It’s going on three years since retirement and the maintenance projects on the house are only half done. My wife and I are leaving town for three months (diving in Malaysia and Indonesia – a big sacrifice on my part, I’ll miss a lot of skiing). I ski when there’s snow and bike when there’s none – unless we travel to a place that is in condition for biking, or skiing. Funny that I have six bikes, but only one pair of skis… None of this is helpful to society, or the planet. Maybe an article directed toward perpetual goof-offs might be in order?

    1. Think your point is spot on, if it works for you who cares. My wife and I enjoy random travel to small towns across the country in addition to the bigger trips while we can still manage them. Just about to pull the trigger, will see how long Phase I lasts, honestly think the US and the world are big enough to keep us busy for a long time. Will see if we get any grandkids (issue in doubt but certainly possible), and sure that would tweak our plans in a good way. That said this is an excellent resource to confirm what we have been doing on the financial end is a viable/reasonable path and making sure thought put into what you going to do once you retire if the money is all set. This blog is a great service to us all and appreciate it Fritz.

    2. Brett makes a good point. I’ve read a lot about the non-financial part of retirement and I really think it depends on personality type. I am only 7 months into retirement, so still in vacation mode, but I don’t think everyone fits into this mode. I agree that the type A personalities definitely need it. But many of us are more laid back and our work and career did not define us.
      I suspect those hard chargers would call us “Slackers”, but I like the term used by Brett — perpetual goof-offs.

      P.S. I am very fortunate to have a neighborhood of close friends so I didn’t miss my work friends.

      1. Mark ( & Brett), no doubt, Phase I works well for many, can’t recall exactly how many were cited as staying in Phase I, but it’s a path many take happily. I hope it works out for you both, but if you do find yourself drifting into Phase II with time, at least you’ll be aware that it’s normal. Best of luck on your journeys!

  10. This comes at the perfect time for me. I “officially” retired last week after having downsized a f/t career to p/t work for the past 6 years, so I was in a transitional phase for quite some time, allowing me a glimpse of what retirement might feel like but still having the security blanket of a paycheck. I was only able to downshift to p/t after paying off my mortgage early after years of prepayments.

    I feel I’m in pretty good shape as far as finances go and began thinking a few years ago about how I would fill my newfound free time.

    Here’s what it looks like: I’m still spending quality time with my 90 year old father and feel blessed he’s still around. He has a number of physical challenges, but has a great spirit and is always up for “an adventure.”
    I work out at the gym on the resistance equipment 3x a week and walk daily, weather permitting. I also like to cook and garden.

    Volunteer-wise, I continue online editing for a global non-profit. Closer to home, I joined two different groups in my hometown seeking to clean up the environment. Because the latter 2 groups tend to become inactive in the winter, I am still always looking for new opportunities that would suit me, as well as new friends in my area to do more fun stuff with. Facebook groups have helped me connect with a lot of people locally that I would not otherwise know.

    So I feel I have not fully enjoyed Phase 1 yet but have skipped Phase 2 and am currently still exploring Phase 3. I expect that could continue for quite some time. I’m aware of my natural tendencies to socialize less if left to my own devices, so am seeking to develop a close-knit pool of friends I can count on for various activities and support.

    1. Fern, I’ve always wondered how the phases apply to those who transition from FT to PT work. It sounds like it’s worked well for you. You’ve certainly taken advantage of the PT work window to begin developing interests that will help you achieve Phase IV. Keep me posted, will be interesting to these how things work out for you. Thanks for stopping by, and congrats on officially crossing The Starting Line last week!

  11. Thanks for posting this – I think these phases make a lot of sense, and can help to validate what most folks are experiencing. Unfortunately, for me, I skipped directly to Phase II when I retired, due to a hostile work environment, which made it more of an “escape” than a retirement. I eventually filed a complaint against the organization, which then forced me to re-live the bad experience over and over for 2-3 years (hence the extended Phase II). But now it’s several years later, and dealing with that problem head-on was a learning experience, and made me a stronger person as a result. I have come out “the other side”, with Phase II solidly in the rear view mirror.
    For me, and possibly for others, early retirement was not at all what I thought it would be, even with advance planning. But I’ve been retired for over 6 years now, and well on my way to achieving Phase IV.

    1. Sue, sounds like a horror story. I’m glad you found your way through Retirement Hell and are well on your way to Retirement Heaven. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  12. Thank you for another good analysis! I particularly like hearing your perspective, which is what I think those in retirement really like to hear, especially since you had a smooth transition. Mine was less smooth, and I never had much of a Phase 1 although certainly had some simple pleasures. I went right to Phase 3, I think because my “plan” from Day 1 was to organize my retirement life once I started it and to fill the gaps that leaving my job opened up. But I then went backward to Phase 2 where I had to recognize what the real gaps were — for me it was the importance of purpose that I hadn’t figured on. So I agree there are phases, but I think they don’t necessarily go in order! I’m actually feeling more of Phase 1 now than I did when I first retired 6 years ago. I think it’s what you expect from your retirement, why it matters to you, that might create the order of the phases more than a solid plan —my plan was to consult and after I retired it was no longer appealing.l once I got there! Great piece, thanks Fritz!

    1. Great comment, Judi. I agree the phases could certainly happen in a more random order, depending on each individual’s circumstances. Thanks for the transparent view of your experience, fascinating to me as a “student” of retirement.

  13. Hi Fritz
    After 17 years in retirement, I have a few observations on the four phases of retirement scenario. First I agree there are four stages. In My experience they are neither sequential nor are they necessarily linear. We/I have cycled through all four stages over our seventeen years. We have had periods in stage 4 only to tumble back into stage 2 after real health issues or a serious misdiagnose affected our retirement journey. We Believe life is all about learning and experiencing so we both have spent a lot of time in phase 3. Trying and learning new things and discover new places. Health and genetics are key influencers in retirement. Living in several retirement communities has exposed us to both the positive and negative effect heath has on retirees. We have lost loved ones and good friends that gives us a sense of don’t wait do it now about life. Serving yourself and others gives life meaning and purpose. One thing both my wife and I agree on is retirement has been the best time of our life’s . Keep up the great work you do I enjoy and benefit from your blog!

    1. David, great to hear from an old friend, and I agree with your observations. I love the “tumble back” phrase, and suspect that’s not uncommon when folks face serious health issues. I enjoy watching your travels on Facebook, thanks for being a loyal reader of my words. Glad to hear “retirement has been the best time of our lives.” I think back to all of those years we worked together, and smile when I think of us both enjoying our retirements in parallel. Keep in touch.

  14. Fritz, I enjoyed the video and your wonderful commentary. I will share with my wife who retires in October. I might have been one of the fortunate 10-15% who skipped the dreaded second phase, however, while enjoying my “Retirement Honeymoon”, Covid struck. Now that Covid is in the history books, I am happily squeezing the juice and can’t wait until my wife joins me.

    1. Good riddance, COVID. That pesky beast certainly played havoc on many of us as we were attempting to navigate the phases. Congratulations to your wife, sincere best wishes for many happy years together enjoying Phase IV of retirement together!

  15. Definitely in Phase I, as I retired 3 weeks ago. My husband and I went to Roatan for 10 days to Scuba dive and take in the sites. In March we are planning to spend some time in Orange Beach and in June we are taking the family to an all inclusive in Cancun for a week. It is a weird feeling, not having a schedule
    and I am thoroughly enjoying it thus far. I read your book a few months prior to retirement and it relieved some of the anxiety. I don’t plan to work, only volunteer, but that will come later. My new “job” is taking care of my health. Every day I go to the gym in the morning and focus on one of the three: strength, cardio or stretching. My muscles are a bit sore, but it is a good sore! I enjoy your blog…if you keep writing…I will keep reading! 🙂

    1. It sounds like you’ve had a great start to retirement, Jessica. Feeling a bit of envy over your Roatan trip, sounds wonderful! Thanks for reading my book, glad to hear it helped on your journey. I’m with you on the health focus, just got done playing 2 hours of pickleball! I’ve really enjoyed the ability to focus more time on fitness and have never felt better in my life. Congrats on your recent retirement!

    2. Fritz,
      Thanks so much for sharing your insights in such a thorough, concise, and helpful way. I feel I more or less shot straight into Phase 3. My wife and I began real financial preparation for the independence stage of our lives in our twenties, so that’s gone well. We left Corporate America at different ages, my wife assume full-time role of raising our son 22 years ago. That has just come to a close as he looks to be a fully functional adult. I began working for myself 7 years ago with my own consulting & coaching practice. A health scare last year with a debilitating case of AFib caused me to curtail my f/t work. And the last 6 months were “Dave gets healthy”…took up pickleball to the tune of 8-10 hours/week (That’s Phase 1 I suppose).

      2024 has my work somewhere 30% ish. So I’m experimenting. We relocated from California to the Midwest temporarily to follow my son’s college team while I do my scaled back work. Haven’t taken my first distribution from our retirement accounts, but that will happen this quarter. I suppose, without any kind of proclamation or party, that’s the gun sounding I’ve left the starting line (?).

      I was dreading the restart of my client work, but once I got back on the field of play, it was joy. Helping other people, with something I’m good at and I’m passionate about is the real sweet spot. I actually coach people to find their “Personal Hedgehog Strategy” (it’s from Jim Collin’s Good to Great). It’s the intersection of what you can be best at AND what you are passionate about AND what supports your economic need. If you don’t have an economic need it would make sense to consider what is the highest return on your time with the return being impact or your satisfaction.

      Anyway, I love this content, helps frame what I’m doing (Phase 3 with a smidge of Phase 1).

      Thanks for helping so many navigate this important chapter.

  16. I must be an under-achiever, entering year 4 of retirement, and I’m still in phase 1! LOL.

    Honestly tho, I spent 31 years at the same company (very large bank). First 25 years were awesome, the last 6 were a major struggle. Perhaps that’s why I’m still in ‘vacation’ phase….

    1. Tracy, nothing wrong with cruising in Vacation mode. Riley mentioned that some retirees do spend their retirements in Phase I, though he didn’t give any stats showing how many. As long as you’re enjoying the ride, life is good!

  17. I been though phase one and two. One lasted one year to the day, phase two lasted about two years. Weird. I’m now finally finding some things to do outside the house. I started substitute teaching at a small christian school. It has been wonderful to be around students, mostly high school and middle school. I also finally got accepted into a mentor program for middle schoolers at a public school. The service to others is for me the key. Otherwise I would sit at home and stay in phase one!!! Thanks for a great article.

    1. Interesting that you know the end of Phase I to the day, I wonder if the anniversary of your retirement triggered some reflection that launched Phase II? Glad you’ve found your way into Phase III and IV, the school work sounds rewarding and a great way to give back to the younger generation.

      1. Yes, I think that is exactly what happened. Even now I have to be careful not to try to revise my memory of career history to trigger emotions that take me back to phase II., work place conflicts, missed promotions, the what if’s and should haves, will destroy you!

        Thanks for a great article that I”m sending to a friend who just retired, although he jumped right into phase III somehow? But I think it is temporary.

  18. I guess I have a problem. I am 81 retired 7 years and stuck in phase I every day is like being on vacation I wake up in the morning and my wife and I ask what are the plans for today and we take off from there doing what we want together or by our selves. I am just lucky so far.

    RWW

    PS Keep up your great work love reading it all !

    1. At age 81, I think you’ve earned the right to enjoy 7 years of vacation! Best wishes for many more years of enjoying your hard earned retirement.

  19. I find myself moving between phase 1, 3, and 4. I love it. Like you, phase 2 was a rapid pass through. Service to others is the key as you state. Love your content.

    1. Joe, I’m honored to have a YouTube legend visiting my site. Wink. Ironic that our retirements have run parallel tracks, similar to our careers (with both of us being Plant Managers of aluminum plants). Thanks for confirming the value of giving back to others. Love your content, too. Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Hello Fritz,

    I loved reading all the comments from readers of this blog post, especially the ones stuck in Phase One (made me think of Jimmy Buffett, though of course he was actually a hard worker who made it through to Phase 4). For me, a career change @ age 57, which included a return to school and interactions with lots of great people with whom I remain friends, worked out better than I could ever have imagined. I was lucky enough to find someone willing to hire an older career changer part-time, so spent the next eight years doing work I loved. Retirement was so gradual that when I finally quit more or less completely in January of 2021 I hardly noticed the change (I’ve kept up on all my certifications which means I still take a lot of continuing education classes, and can work on short-term projects if I like). We are so lucky to live in a small town with wonderful friends and neighbors that we see daily, usually taking walks through the neighborhood. Volunteer opportunities abound. We don’t worry too much about the next stage, which will likely involve a move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) closer to family, but hope that we’ll be able to adapt and find new friends.

    1. Which has got me thinking, maybe there’s a Stage 5, which involves a loss of autonomy and greater dependence on others but during which life can still be rich and rewarding.

    2. Sabine, thanks for being a loyal reader of my work and for sharing your story. Ironic, I actually thought about the reality of a Phase V as well, the stage where we become dependent. Great contribution to the article, our minds work in the same way.

      1. Thanks for the post. I always appreciate the blogs where you can read the pre retirement years and the post retirement years. It allows me to see both sides of the important retirement day and helps me answer many of the open questions I have.

        There are very few bloggers who have shared both sides of this coin. Thanks

  21. Preparing for retirement to me was like preparing for a new career. Your blogs, book and podcasts along with many others was and still is so helpful as we adjust and accommodate to new situations, challenges and life adventures.

  22. Great article as per usual! Definitely interesting to see how this applies to my retirement.

    Frankly, I think I didn’t indulge enough in Phase I. I think having small children shortened this phase quite a bit.

    I’m onto Phase III trying to figure out what I can do to get to Phase IV and fully squeeze the juice.

    But my number one goal right now is squeezing the juice out of being a Dad at the moment, so that’s taken priority.

    1. AR, no doubt that retiring early and still having children in the house would significantly impact the sequence of the Phases. I suspect the children could keep you in Phase III and IV initially, with some adjustment (and potential regression to Phase II) when you become empty nesters. Will be interesting to see how things evolve for you.

  23. Always look forward to what Fritz puts out there for us to digest.
    I will mention that I waited to officially retire at 68, but went straight into a part-time contractor role to complete a major project for my company that lasted two years.
    So now 70 and “finally” retired. We have been blessed in that we can live comfortably retirees and even take a few trips if so inclined. We will not be buying a second house at the beach or buying new cars every other year. ☺
    One thing that wasn’t mentioned that can keep you in Phase “0” for a while is the caregiver (full or part time) role that will manifest itself if you still have parents that are aging in place. It is not a role that anyone would choose and it will flat wear you out, but that is the role. Until that role has finished, everything else is out of scope.
    Fortunately, God is in control and not us; so we are moving forward with God’s promises which have sustained and strengthened us for the last three years and will continue through this season. In the meantime, we continue to be grateful stewards of what we have been given.

    1. Jerry,

      You and I are on parrallel paths. I retired at 66 in 2019 and immediately Covid hit. Fortunately like you I had arranged to work half time as a contractor for my employer. That ended up lasting 3 1/2 years and I am now fully retired for 4 months.
      We also cared for our parents in their final years and while a lot of stress and work, i have no regrets. I know you will feel the same once you work is finished. God has blessed you and your parents with this responsibility!
      I have so many projects lined up that I will never finish before I am out of time! It is a great time of life and while I miss my colleaguees from work, I am happy and fullfilled with my current activities. Still up at 5 am most days to exercise and meet coffee buddies before tackling the days activities so my routine is pretty much as when I was employed.
      All the best, Jerry!

      Bruce

    2. Jerry, no doubt the care of aging parents has a major impact on the Phases. My mother-in-law lived with us for 4 years, and it wasn’t until her passing that my wife moved into Phase II. It turns out that caregiving, as difficult as it is, can provide a Purpose in early retirement that helps avoid Phase II. Once the parents are gone, there’s an adjustment as you determine what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. One thing we’ve learned is that the “sacrifice” we make in caring for our parents has lasting rewards, as you look back on their final years with fewer regrets, knowing you did everything you could to make them as comfortable as possible during a difficult time. As mentioned in earlier comments, the phases are interesting, not necessarily sequential, and unique for everyone’s personal situation and journey.

  24. I suppose I’m in phase 2, facing 2 of the Ds. Fortunately divorce isn’t one of them. And the disability is getting better – actually fixed a problem that started 20 years ago. At least finances didn’t make me wait on VA to get around to it. Those Ds were present before retirement and they are probably better now. Trying to move into phase 3 is complicated as we are both introverted and switched coasts at retirement so the social network has shrunk. Rethinking if we should instead move into a 55+ community – but we sure like having kids in the neighborhood and room between the houses. We should have spent more time on the social aspects of retirement planning. But we’ll get there.

  25. Your BEST post, Fritz.
    I entered phase 1 in 2009. It only lasted approx 8 months due to so many unforeseen circumstances (3 D’s). Since then I’ve been in phase 2. I’m afraid there are way too many of us here on the island.
    But thanks for the nudge.
    Blessings,
    d.

  26. Love and hate the newsletter this week. I am 60 and can retire financially but scared to because like I tell everyone “I don’t know what I would do with my time.” I am scared of getting stuck in phase II ! I am a planner by nature and not a “take the leap and you’ll figure it out in phase III” kind of guy. My friends tell me because I talk about retiring that I am “already there mentally”. Any suggestions ?

  27. Hi Fritz! Thank you for the great thoughts & insight. How cool that in phase 4, we get back everything that we felt we lost in phase 2.

    We’ve been “graduated” for 5+ years. My wife & I tend to cycle between phases 4 & 3 because of our personal/together growth & changing seasons/opportunities of life. We didn’t (know to) plan prior to discovering we were FI but we quickly jumped over phase 2.

    Our key has been to learn, grow, be agile, & pivot quickly. I tell people “we don’t retire from high school, we graduate!” They all smile or laugh. I then go on to share your good advice that it’s our new starting line & why not me/us.

  28. Fritz:

    Let me add to what many others have said, that your Blog is a wonderful resource for those in and planning for retirement. I particularly appreciate your posts on the psychological and “softer” topics that we all (most likely) go through during the journey. My wife and I have been retired for almost 10 years (gosh they flew by!), and I like to believe that we are in phase IV. We have gone through a recent significant change – moving from the east coast to western Washington, and are building new community.

    One key takeway from your writings and interviews, has been the importance of building flexibility into one’s lifestyle and attitude. Being open to daily moments of gratitude and mindfulness, are attributes that my wife and I are striving toward. I think it is also important to build the capacity for change into one’s life.

    BTW – I really appreciate how you and your wife’s nonprofit adventure follows your deep appreciation of pets. My best wishes for your 2024!

  29. Hi Fritz,
    another useful post chock full of foresight. I like how you embedded the video to add a significant amount of retention and impact on the topic.
    I am quite aware of phase 2 and can confirm that it did me in on my first attempt at retirement. I think I addressed my Phase 2 demons enough to sidestep them as I pass 9 months into this version of retirement, I’m still in vacation mode and dabbling with Phase 3. Chat GPT and AI offer marvelous exploratory tools.
    Based on this post and video, I will stop counting the passage of time since my retirement starting line after I file my final tax return with my final career W-2 in April. It’s more meaningful to start planning for phase 4 tangibles.

  30. Fritz,
    That is a big unknown. I am trying to find new hobbies other than planning for retirement. Winter-time is a concern here in the north. Maybe we will move south to reduce the long winters, but that would cause the loss of the few friends that I have here.
    Thanks

  31. Thanks Fritz for sending. I just watched the video. It was cute. I swear I don’t know how so many smart people get to retirement so unprepared. Did you not have grandparents, or did you not see your parents grow old and take note of their lives in retirement? Do so many people really not plan for short term and long term goals? What did you think would happen when you retired? You would just ride a cruise ship around all year? I have horses. They live in the moment. They do not foresee or care about what is going to happen 15 minutes from now. I wonder what these people that are so unprepared did with all their time. I am not being mean, but am sincerely curious and want to learn from your experiences. If you have children, please sit down with them and guide them on being better prepared. For me, I spent about 2 months in vacation phase, then straight to phase 4 just like I had imagined for 35 years.

    1. Fritz you may not let this reply go through but I need to respond…to Allen…
      No…actually, many of us did not have role models who had planned well for retirement. What did we do with our time? We worked 12 hour days to keep our kids fed after our marriage went sideways. We spent many years with unforeseen illness that derailed our perfect retirement plan. We spent time and money to make sure our kids got educated so they would have a better life (and retirement) than we had. Some of us were fortunate enough to overcome most, but not all obstacles and quickly cobble together enough assets to get started in some semblance of retirement. which is what brought us to Fritz in the first place. A wise man once said, “if you want to make God laugh, make plans.”
      Congratulations on having a perfect life and a perfect plan, Allen. You made it. Maybe if you had stopped off in phase 3, you would have learned humility, empathy and compassion.
      d.

  32. Pre-retirees and Retirees may yearn for a map as they head into the transition ahead (which can be a tough one.) But with this informative article they are well on their way to understanding as well as preparing for essentially what can be a brand new life. Your personal experience enhanced the narrative giving all of us a glimpse into a real life. A person needs to give new Ted Talk on this topic. This would be you. Thanks for an uplifting article.

  33. Thanks Fritz for your insight. It totally made me feel not alone on this path and I see how many others are struggling. I am struggling. Some days I search the ads for a part time job and other days I feel I could not commit to that. Other times I think about volunteering, but still have not committed to anything. I try to keep busy physically by going to the gym and walking but I do miss the human interaction. I’m sure I’ll figure it out but it is so much more difficult than I imagined and wish I had better mentally prepared. Thank you, Donna

  34. I’VE BEEN RETIRED ALMOST 19 YRS. (FROM AGE 60 DUE TO ILL HEALTH) AND I’M STILL IN PHASE I AND DON’T INTEND/EXPECT TO MOVE OUT OF IT (NOT THE LEAST BIT BORED)
    ALL MY LIFE I WANTED FREEDOM TO DO WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT, AND IN RETIREMENT HAVE FINALLY ACCOMPLISHED IT.
    I HAD RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CARE OF MY MOTHER AFTER MY FATHER PASSED WHEN I WAS 21, SO COULD NEVER DO WHAT I WANTED, BUT DID WHAT I HAD TO.
    SINCE I HAVE FINALLY ACQUIRED MY FREEDOM, THAT’S ALL I WANT — NO RESPONSIBILITY AND BEING TOTALLY SELFISH FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!!!

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