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The 4 Stages of Retirement

What you need to think about way before you plan to retire from teaching

As at 30 June 2020, approximately 4.2 million people (16% of Australia’s total population) were aged 65 and over – it’s probably the same in other countries.

With a longer life expectancy, due to improved health you could now live 1/3 of your life in retirement. That’s a long time. Do you have a plan of how you’re going to spend that time?

Probably not!

We are encouraged to plan for retirement financially and most people start doing this way before they eventually retire. Getting your finances sorted out, of course, is important but what about your emotional and social needs?

Getting ready for retirement psychologically as well as financially will ensure you make the best of your retirement years.

Many of the teachers in my Facebook group Teachers in Transition are either thinking about retiring soon or have retired recently. And some of their common concerns are about having a purposeful retirement and loss of identity as a teacher.

If you’re retired this may help you work out what you need to do (if you are feeling lost) and if you’re not retired yet you’ll have a better idea what to expect. If retirement is still quite a way off for you, you’re in the best place because you have the for planning

Different types of retirement

Retirement can take many forms, depending on your age when you retire from your career and your financial situation. There is no such thing as a standard or ‘normal’ retirement because everyone is different and has different circumstances, needs and goals.

Many people, of course, reach retirement age but can’t afford to retire so that they continue working out of necessity. Others may choose to continue working part time to help to meet some of their social and emotional needs and also pay the bills. One option that is becoming more common is to take early retirement from your long-term career and change careers into something completely different. There are now a growing number of people choosing to begin a business, do some freelance or consulting work.

Whichever category you fit into, read on because all of these different retirement options involve a transition And just like other transitions, there is a period of adjustment as well as a series of stages you will go through. How quickly you adjust and find your new normal will to some extent depend on your pre-retirement planning and how emotionally ready you are for the next phase of your life.

If you have prepared for retirement beforehand you are less likely to find yourself in stage 2 – which is the low part of the cycle (but more about this later).

If retirement is still quite a way off for you, you’re in the best place because you have the time for planning .

What are the 4 stages of retirement?

Stage 1 Holiday or Honeymoon Stage

This stage could literally be an extended holiday/vacation - this is the time when many retirees will go on a long overseas trip that they’ve been planning for years. The events of the last couple of years have perhaps changed that tradition to some extent.

It may also be the time when as a burnt-out teacher, you just need to take some time out to re set your mental health and recover from the effects of stress, anxiety, overwhelm and toxic environments.

After spending your working life following a prescribed routine, it is during this time that retirees in general enjoy the freedom of doing what they like, when they like,

getting up when they like and generally having no set routine. Teachers will also enjoy spending more time with family and friends, not having to work weekends and evenings and even being able to eat and go to the bathroom when they choose.

Stage 2 Feelings of loss or grief

At some point though, if you haven’t got a plan in place, this honeymoon period will end. With no structure and routine in your life you’ll begin to experience a feeling a of loss or grief. Retiring from a long career, even if you weren’t happy in that career towards the end, will result in a number of losses.

  • Loss of Identity

Not long after you have retired, you realise that a large part of your identity was associated with your work. As teachers our careers are such a big part of our lives, they become who we are. You don’t know who you are now that you no longer have that role to play. You seem to have lost your identity.

As a result of your retirement, you have lost your identity and sense of purpose. Your social connections as well as structure and routine to your days.

  • Loss of purpose

Just like identity, we usually get our sense of purpose and meaning from our work. While we are working we look forward to a life of less responsibility and commitment in our retirement. But what we may not realise is that it is the responsibility and commitment that give us purpose and meaning.

When we retire we miss that sense of purpose and if we do not find another activity that gives us purpose and meaning we end up feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

  • Loss of structure and routine to your day

Are you one of the many people who dream of the day when you don’t have to be ruled by the clock? You can wake up when you like. You won’t have to follow the same morning routines day in and day out. You won’t have to sit in the same traffic jams or on the same bus or train every day. You will be free to do what you want, when you want and that is certainly one of the most attractive features of retirement

  • Loss of social connections

You miss the social contact that came with your job.

Even though you may not have met your colleagues socially outside of work, work provides an opportunity for incidental social interaction at break times, at meetings or just social chit chat during the course of a day. Teachers also very commonly say they miss the contact with the children/students that they teach

Stage 3 Looking for purpose

At some point during stage 2 you’ll realise that you will need to rekindle your sense of purpose. The good news is that there are many ways to maintain our sense of purpose in retirement, although they may not be immediately obvious. Finding something that suits you, may need some self-reflection and guidance.

Stage 3 is the time when you can have fun and experiment with things you could do. Try out some new things, if you don’t enjoy it, find something else. Find a way to meet people.

Stage 4 Getting the most out of your retirement years

Find fulfilment and meaning or discover your mission through activities that give you a sense of purpose (not everyone gets here)

Find an activity (or activities) that give you purpose. Create a new identity. Establish new social connections with people that have similar interests to you.

If you reach stage 4 you are living a happy, fulfilled retirement. Not everyone gets this stage though.

Unfortunately, some retirees will get stuck in stage 2 or 3, perhaps thinking that is all there is. But I’m sure that is not where you want to be. I certainly don’t.

It takes a certain level of self-awareness and willingness to try new things to get the most out of your retirement years.

Does everybody go through these stages? I personally think it depends on how prepared you are for retirement before. If you haven’t got a retirement plan, I think there is a strong likelihood that you will. With a plan already in place you will sail through Stage 2 and 3 and find your purpose in stage 4.

What next?

If you have retired, do you recognise these stages? Which stage do you think you are currently in? If you’re not yet at Stage 4 what is something you can do to get the most out of your retirement years?

If you are yet to retire, I think the overwhelming message is to prepare for your retirement psychologically as well as financially.

If you need help with this, or even just someone to bounce ideas off, I offer transition to retirement coaching – you can find out more by booking a complimentary call here. If you are looking for a career change following retirement , online course Getting Started with Career Change for Teachers will help you work out what you want to do next. Get the details here

I also have quite a few other blog posts about retirement on my website, you can find them here.

Leave a comment below or email me your questions.


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