Stages of Retirement

I recently re-looked at the Robert Atchley (2000) 7 Stages of Retirement. He details the stages from pre-retirement through termination of retirement. I re-read his entry into retirement stage with renewed interest, as I have just passed through this stage (16 months since that day), as well as spoken to many about their own path entering this stage. And I have come to realize my own experience does not match his model!


He identifies 3 key entry paths into the actual retirement stage, and I do know of individuals on each of these paths.

  • The Honeymoon Path. This is the path of “one long, lovely vacation.”   While I wished we could have immediately entered the travel mode (I have many places on the bucket list), we had family limitations that made an immediate honeymoon path impossible. I envy a bit the folks that are taking off for 10 days in Paris, a trip cross-country, or a month in Rio….and then their next Facebook post comes with still another destination.
  • The Rest & Relaxation Path. This is the path of “everyday is a Sunday”. My hubby is on this path. He has his books to read, his movies to watch, the dog to play with, and some grass to mow (as needed). Between a nap or two, and maybe dinner out if I insist.
  • The Immediate Routine Path. This path is for the pre-planners who have the giving-back board membership lined up, the second career already part-time established, the time with grandkids pre-scheduled, and the exercise program fully in place. They slide seamlessly into retirement and just don’t understand why I am experiencing any angst!


Atchley refers to the stage after the retirement entry stage as Disappointment. Often those who began a Honeymoon Path or Rest & Relaxation Path find those paths to become a bit boring or unfulfilling. When I explored this stage a bit more, I found it intriguing that it’s also a stage of uncertainty and missing aspects of the work environment like feelings of accomplishment and connection to people. Atchley’s work indicated that Reorientation follows Disappointment, hopefully quickly. Reorientation is designing the retirement life you want to live.  This is the stage I have been in for the past year and I would hypothesize that it could be another entry to retirement path.


I do love that Atchley states “mastering a comfortable and rewarding retirement routine is the ultimate goal of retirement.” The Retirement Routine stage is the long-term stage of retirement, and one that my retirement transition planning has been targeted to create.


So my experience in retirement entry has been one of re-orientation from the start!   While I am only an N=1 versus his more in-depth sociological paper, I expect some others might also be on a similar entry to retirement path.  Learning the tools to create the retirement life you want is what I am blogging about, so feel free to steal and reapply, even if you are entering your Reorientation stage at a different point of your retirement journey.


What I find exciting is I know I now have tools in hand to re-create my vision and action plans again and again, if/when some of my retirement routine plans don’t work out as anticipated or as life happens. And perhaps I will take a Honeymoon, when my hubby gets bored with Rest & Relaxation and/or our family limitations are alleviated.

12 thoughts on “Stages of Retirement

  1. Reorientation – THAT would have been a good OneWord!

    I thought I’d be this person…The Immediate Routine Path. This path is for the pre-planners who have the giving-back board membership lined up, the second career already part-time established, the time with grandkids pre-scheduled, and the exercise program fully in place. They slide seamlessly into retirement and just don’t understand why I am experiencing any angst!
    Alas, all those things are in my head, waiting for execution. One day at a time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A couple of days too late with that word! I like your’s anyway. I am a planner as well, so having no plan when I retired was a challenge. I now have a plan, and am starting to activate it. And still doing things one day at a time. Re-orienting an entire life isn’t easy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting ideas. I’m 86 days from retirement and will definitely look the book up. I’ve been doing a lot of planning, so I’m guessing I will have a new routine rather quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you will be one of the immediate routine ones! And I hope you never hit the disappointment stage….with 150+ things on your not-be-bored list, that is a slim possibility. I will be watching to see you slide effortlessly into retirement!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Patricia,
    Clearly Mr. Atchley is a man, which makes a huge difference I believe! He seems to have retired in quite a linear fashion. I’m all over the place and it seems that I’m doing it all in the wrong order. Disenchantment first, dropped pre-retirement altogether, then got stuck at near retirement and I don’t think I’m ever gonna see retirement routine.
    I’ve taken my time to relax over the past year and a half. Now I have to invite someone home to make sure I can motivate myself to clean up the house! I think the next stage for me might be “get a cleaner!”
    I hope you are well and with you a very Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL on the cleaner! My husband & I have talked about getting rid of the cleaner since we are both retired and have time now. But I just don’t like cleaning! And I help the economy by having a cleaner. And they been with us for 10 years. And, can I come up with any other reason besides I hate cleaning? The stages were laid out linearly. I of course didn’t do pre-retirement either…and jumped to re-orientation immediately. And I also am not sure I will ever hit a regular routine. But I have met many who have followed the path. One just yesterday is coming off 3 years combined Honeymoon & Rest…into re-orientation. Yeah, it was a guy! LOL!


  4. Your post on Mr. Atchley’s retirement “entry points” is really interesting. While I see that there may be some retirees that fit distinctly onto each of the three paths, I feel like I exploded into retirement on all three at one time. I am enjoying “every day is Sunday” mode and we are currently planning our travels for when the weather is better and I do have a routine, though much more fluid than when working. I think that’s what I like best about retirement so far – each day can be extremely different yet fit into the very flexible routine we’ve established.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your term “flexible routine”! That is my new goal statement. I think the fact that you can say you have a routine would put you in his “immediate routine” path…just your routine includes relaxation, spontaneity and travel. Again, that is my goal as well.I just started planning a small trip for this spring! (We have family commitments, so this is a big deal for us to coordinate.)


  5. I’ve never heard of the paths before, so this is interesting! I think I’d aim somewhere between honeymoon and immediate routine to start out. I don’t want to go into full-fledged routine, because we have years of high-stress work to decompress from! But we don’t want to just sit on the couch either. Of course, you know what they say about good intentions… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And after a year, I still don’t have a true routine in place…so totally get it! But I did create a vision and this year have many plans in place to start activating the vision. Even though I love structure, I am not sure I will ever get back to a true routine. I have friends who love their routines. I like weekly plan that changes each week feels more my “routine”!


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