4 Phases of Retirement. The Second One is Not Much Fun

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This blog usually focuses on the financial side of retirement. But if you’re not preparing emotionally and socially – and many boomers aren’t – retirement will be a bumpy ride.  

Riley Moynes, a writer and public speaker, issues this warning in the video that appears below. But he also offers sound advice on how to smooth things out. The advice is dispensed in his descriptions of the four phases of retirement: vacation, loss, experimentation, and the reward. He arrived at these phases after interviewing dozens of retirees.

The vacation is the fun part. At least that’s the stereotype for older workers who are eager to give up the pressures of work and a rigid schedule and look forward to a more relaxing way of life. But the perennial vacation quickly gives way to Phase 2: a feeling that, without work, life lacks purpose. This phase can be depressing and even traumatic, Moynes said. So you have been warned.

Things start improving in the third phase. That’s when retirees emerge from their funk and start experimenting with productive activities that give them a new purpose, he said in this TED Talk. This phase involves hard work, and some of the ideas will fail.

Moynes provides a personal example of what Phase 4 looks like after retirees have put in the work. He and other retirees in his social circle had a big success when they started a program to teach others the skills they were good at – painting, using an iPhone, repairing bicycles, tutoring school children, and teaching bridge, Mahjongg, and English as a second language. In the first year, 200 people signed up for the nine programs being offered. By the third year, 2,100 participants had enrolled in 90 programs.

Every retiree will arrive at their own pursuits that match their particular skills or interests. But whatever it is, it should keep them busy and engaged with other people and bring them joy and a feeling of accomplishment.

“The most gratifying and satisfying of the phases is the fourth, and that’s when you can squeeze all of the juice out of retirement,” says Moynes, who has written a book on the four phases. Not everyone makes it to Phase 4, he said.

But for the people who do, he said, “It is magic to see.”

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us @SquaredAwayBC on X, formerly known as Twitter. To stay current on our blog, join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.  This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

1 comment
Richie Gibson

Title should say the Second Phase is not much fun.

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