Recognizing and Embracing the Honeymoon Phase of Retirement

As much as you anticipate the day you can retire, and eagerly anticipate all the things you’ll get to enjoy – a vacation to end all vacations, spending time with the grandkids, wide-open days to do whatever you please – the reality of leaving the workforce for good involves a period of adjustment.

After those first few weeks, you may begin to wonder what’s next and how exactly you should manage this major life transition.

You’ve entered what experts refer to as the honeymoon phase of retirement, a time that may prove to be especially emotional. Even though you may feel well prepared for retirement – you’ve given a lot of thought to it, you’ve planned and projected your finances, and you feel ready – when you actually get there, you realize you didn’t expect to have these emotions, that your new day-to-day would impact you in this way.

And then there’s this: on top of any normal early-retirement feelings you’re experiencing, are the extraordinary circumstances we’re all finding ourselves in right now – a global pandemic.

Particularly for recent retirees, the myriad physical and economic impacts of COVID-19 on everyday life poses unexpected challenges.

For example, say you retired at the end of December 2019, and started your retirement thinking your financial situation was very solid. Maybe you had been planning a big vacation, but then life as we knew it changed and your travel plans evaporated. Perhaps your financial picture shifted, too.

Add to this no longer going into the office, where you had a sense of purpose and enjoyed time with colleagues and friends. It may feel particularly isolating.

If the pandemic has negatively impacted your financial picture, you may be considering your options. Do I need to go back to work? Do I need to modify my goals?

Making the most of the honeymoon phase – and beyond

Eventually, the honeymoon phase of retirement will evolve into what Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, refers to as the three subsequent stages of retirement: The big decision phase, the navigating longevity phase, and the solo journey phase.

Here’s how to approach the honeymoon phase of retirement, which in turn, will help you move through the next stages as smoothly as possible:

  • Surround yourself with support and resources. This could be a group of family and friends, a professional advisor, a longtime confidante – people with whom you have meaningful relationships and are individuals you can turn to for comfort and insight.
  • Create a new routine. Figure out how you’ll spend your time – do you have a favorite hobby? An activity you’d long wanted to try? – and make plans for enjoying these things on a regular basis. Set both short- and long-term goals, to have something meaningful to look forward to.
  • Figure out your identity outside of your career. Feeling productive, whether through volunteering, working part-time, or learning a new skill, will go a long way.
  • Give yourself time. You shouldn’t expect to hit your retirement groove right away – it may take six months, a year, or more to find new roles, routines, and relationships.
  • Talk through your finances with an advisor. Check in with your trusted financial advisor if you have questions about how you’re spending your money. An advisor can help you understand your financial situation and retirement income plan.

Taking these steps can help you embrace the honeymoon phase of retirement. Recognize that life truly is a series of transitions. Some are more impactful, some more dramatic, some more significant than others. Realizing that this is a phase - this is a transition - is helpful.

Published in Retirement

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