Life Day By Day

Phasing into retirement

It has been three years since I moved into a new phase of life – retirement. One of the blogs I follow is Kathy Merlino, an American, who blogs about the emotional journey of retirement. It was Kathy’s blog that bought my attention to the different phases of retirement, first identified in 1976 by Dr Robert Atchley of the American Institute of Financial Gerontology.

Dr Atchley identified seven phases of retirement: pre-retirement; near retirement; retirement; disenchantment; reorientation; retirement routine; and termination of retirement. Since that time when the phases or stages of retirement are discussed most commentators have combined the pre-retirement and near retirement phase.

Recently a number of people have asked me “what do you do all day”? The question comes from people who are working and in response to me telling them I am retired. I am not one of those retirees who are bored, I have plenty to do and it all began before I was retired with preparation in the pre-retirement phase.

Pre-retirement: This is a great time when you are getting ready for retirement. It is time to plan for your financial future post retirement and start writing that list of things to do. It is full of anticipation and excitement such as having a freewheeling life around Australia in a caravan or that long-awaited European trip that includes a Seine River cruise through France.  For me and my ‘One and Only’ (O&O) we had done the European trip several times and the caravanning life, while enticing, was abandoned for the comfort of our own home. I believe the pre-retirement phase is the most important phase as this is when all the preparation takes places for what happens next.

Retirement: The retirement phase is when the honeymoon begins. This is the time to do all the projects identified in the pre-retirement phase. However, the bonus for the retiree is that if they don’t happen all at once or some get postponed, that is okay. This is the time when you are the boss of your own time, you have flexibility and the opportunity to reorganise priorities and when desired, live life at a slower pace. I like the flexibility and being able to fit in with the weather and on a wet and cold winter’s morning stay in bed for a little longer and listen to the radio. I was not the type of person that had many ‘mental health days’ when at work so I did not have the inclination to phone in sick, when the real reason would have been I was indisposed because of the weather! I am aware that at any moment I can become disenchanted with retirement, but it hasn’t happened yet!

Disenchantment: I am still in the honeymoon phase as I have not become disenchanted with retirement.  As each week goes by I become more enchanted with this phase of my life. Yes, every day retirement becomes more enjoyable. While I have had to make changes and adjust to retirement in has not been tiring, it has been given me time to rewire my life; to live it a different way. This then brings me to the next identified phase of reorientation.

Reorientation: This time is usually about working out what you are going to do with your time, such as a new hobby, learn a new skill or volunteer in the community. My re-orientation happened very early as I settled into my honeymoon phase. I took on the role as lady-in-waiting for five chickens, took up knitting again and danced around the kitchen to a Latin beat as I tried new recipes. Then there is the piano and those pieces of music that I need to practice! It is a busy life in retirement. It has been particularly busy for me and my O&O, given that we have renovated our house. Though the renovations are more on the smaller scale of things it takes up our time. We have engaged trades people (note the word ‘people’, one of our painters was a woman) to do the bigger jobs but there are plenty of jobs left over for us.

Just this past week we attended to an old chest of drawers: scraping off the old paint on the legs and staining them the right colour to match the wood finish. It is a tedious job but the reward is in seeing the finished product (see photos). While I understand there is freedom in establishing a routine I can also change my routine at short notice. Having the ability to do this is much more liberating than an everyday routine that requires working to the clock.

The old paint is gone as preparation happens for a new life for the old chest of drawers
The old paint is gone as preparation happens for a new life for the feet on an old chest of drawers
The preparation phase is over and the feet have a new look. I am no longer disenchanted with the peeling paint and their old look!
The preparation phase is over and the feet have a new look. I am no longer disenchanted but completely enchanted with the transformation!

Routine: During this phase you have generally worked out what you are doing with your time and established a retirement identity and have stability, satisfaction and a new sense of purpose. While I am satisfied with retirement my ‘sense of purpose’ is still a little wobbly (this could be a good topic for another time)!

So while there are recognised phases of retirement it is not a “one size fits all”. Some of us may combine phases, jump phases or cruise through them seamlessly. For me it is good to know that retirement is a transition and if I know what to expect, including being honest with myself that there will be adaptation and change, then I am better prepared.

What I discovered in retirement was my changed consciousness of time and the adjustment I had to make to feel comfortable with my choices, even if that meant in a ‘working life’ paradigm I was ‘wasting’ time. At least this was how I programmed myself when I was in full-time work.  Now if I sit and read, watch a movie or give more time to projects that I enjoy I don’t feel guilty. I am very content with my current choices and how I use my time.

Termination of retirement: I do think about the termination of retirement however, I would not like to achieve this by returning to work. However, that is what has happened to many retiree’s as they either do not make the adjustment to retirement or are forced back to work for financial reasons. Another popular reason these days is that retirees terminate their retirement through taking on the role of caregiver for grandchildren or a spouse. The final termination is death and as we get older I am sure it is something we all contemplate. But for now I only want to concentrate on life and living it. What about you?

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