Retirement, for most Americans, lasts about 15-20 years. Many plan for it in a very one-dimensional manner. That is, they only think about whether they will have enough money to live the life they want. Few, however, think about what they are actually going to do during those years, and how to best plan for that.

Riley Moynes, an author and retired educator, is well-known for the framework he devised to help people plan the “what to do” part of retirement. His book is The Four Phases of Retirement: What to Expect When You’re Retiring. There’s also an excellent TED talk that you can find online where he discusses it.

Here is a summary of his ideas.

Phase One: Vacation/Liberation

To the extent people ponder what their retirement will look like, many think pickleball, movies, travel, new restaurants, etc., i.e., an extended vacation, without having to check your smartphone every 15 minutes. There is little or no routine to your day. Not surprisingly, many become bored with this phase and, in fact, begin to miss the routine of working. This phase can last as long as a year.

Phase Two: Disappointment

Boredom leads to disappointment and, for some, even depression. Retirees feel lost and miss what work provides:

  • Routine
  • Identity
  • Relationships
  • Purpose
  • Power

They realize that working provides a lot more than simply a paycheck.

Phase Three: Trial and Error

To minimize the length of time you spend in Phase Two, you must change the narrative and engage in “trial and error.” Put simply, you need to do something different and regain what you lost when you stopped working. You begin to experiment to find meaning in what you do.

This is the most frightening and anxiety-provoking phase of retirement. That is because not all of your experiments will succeed. The challenge is to not give up. If you do, you’re back to Phase Two. The goal is for Phase Three is to evolve into the next and final phase.

Phase Four: Reinvent and Rewire

Here’s where you utilize the lessons of Phase Three to seek a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. You have successfully adjusted to retirement and have found new ways to be fulfilled and satisfied. For many, that involves service to others, be it family, friends, or community.

How the Framework Can Help You

Think back on your career as a lawyer. Was it all smooth sailing? Of course it wasn’t. Then why should retirement be any different? Moynes’ framework can help you plan a retirement that minimizes the frustrations of Phase Two and maximize the length and satisfaction of Phase Four. Good luck!
Feel free to reach out to me to discuss this further. You can reach me at 612-524-5837, or contact me online.