Navigating the ups and downs of life after work


The newfound freedom and opportunities provided by retirement can be liberating. Still, it’s natural to experience some ups and downs at various stages of your post-work journey. The good news is, you’re probably not alone in your experiences.

A benchmark study published in 1975 by American Professor of Gerontology, Robert Atchley, identified six sequential phases people typically experience during their retirement. While the world has changed significantly over the past 40 years, these six ‘phases of retirement’ are still commonly felt by retirees.

Of course, not everyone will experience all the phases, but knowing about them – and recognising the various feelings and challenges they can bring – might help you feel better prepared and more in control as you navigate your own retirement journey.

The six phases of retirement

  1. Pre-retirement – planning time
    Due to the demands of work, family and mortgages, many people don’t start thinking about retirement until it is almost upon them. Even if you’ve already in the retirement phase, it can still be a good time to consider consulting a financial planner* (such as those available to members via CareSuper), as your circumstances may have changed. For example, you could be affected by the super changescoming in at 1 July, or you may be interested in exploring newer retirement income options, such as CareSuper’s Guaranteed Income product.
  1. Retirement – the day work ends
    The last day of work is often marked by a work function and a celebration with family and friends. An exciting time for many, it can also generate a bittersweet combination of feelings. As we dwell on the end of our working life and thoughts of leaving work colleagues behind, we’re also ushering in the beginning of a new life stage full of time, activities, relaxation and – this is the big one – options.
  2. Honeymoon – a sense of freedom
    For many, this is the ‘yahoo!’ phase, when we finally have the time (and, if things have gone to plan, the money) to do the things we’ve dreamed of, from travel and hobbies, to sport. For others, it’s a time to kick-back at home and enjoy a new life of leisure. It’s easy to see why most people in the early stages of retirement report feeling happier and more content.
  3. Disenchantment – is this it?
    After looking forward to it for so long, some retirees feel a bit dejected after the ‘honeymoon’ phase is over and the initial novelty of retirement has worn off. Some miss the purpose and routine of work, or discover that it’s not just a permanent vacation and has its own moments of boredom and uncertainty. Others start to worry about money. This is a phase that calls for positive action, including (if needed) a revised plan to manage your money, as well as a ‘happiness’ plan that sets out all the things you want to do and all the places you want to go. Which brings us to our next stage…
  4. Reorientation – forging a new ‘you’
    Finding a post-retirement identity may involve chipping away to redefine yourself beyond your career, or even adjusting to having a spouse around the home more often! The disenchantment stage of retirement is likely to diminish quickly once you try a few things, find a new purpose and discover the most satisfying ways to use your newfound freedom. This might include making time to catch up with friends and family, travel, do some volunteer work, be more healthy and active (the Vic Government Better Health Channelhas great health and exercise tips for seniors), learn a new skill or hobby, or join a local book, cooking or social club. Finding your ‘new you’ can be a lot of fun.
  5. Retirement routine – acceptance and joy
    Most retirees eventually find a comfortable retirement routine, centred on a schedule of regular activities punctuated with moments of spontaneity and fun. If you’re in a couple, finding the right schedule might include negotiating a balance of time together and time alone. Once this new life and identity become familiar, you’re sure to discover a new and lasting sense of self-acceptance, stability and contentment.


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* Financial advice is offered through CareSuper’s relationship with Industry Fund Services Limited (IFS), and is provided by an authorisation under the Australian financial services licence of IFS, ABN 54 007 016 195, AFSL 232514. The information provided in this article is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account your particular financial needs, circumstances or objectives. You should consider your own investment objectives, financial situation and needs and read the appropriate product disclosure statement before making an investment decision. You may also wish to consult a licensed financial adviser. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance and you should consider other factors before choosing a fund or changing your investments.  CARE Super Pty Ltd (Trustee) ABN 91 006 670 060 AFSL 235226 CARE Super (Fund) ABN 98 172 275 725

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