The "Honeymoon Phase" of Retirement

The "Honeymoon Phase" of Retirement

| July 23, 2018

In our last blog, "Are you EMOTIONALLY Ready to Retire," we mentioned many issues clients discuss with us—sometimes sheepishly—that block them from committing to a retirement vision. Truth be told, if not for the aging process, those who say "I don't know what I want to do in retirement" or "I'm scared of growing old" would feel relief continuing to earn an income, watch their invested assets grow, and feel relevant, needed, and connected to their colleagues and friends in the workplace.

Unfortunately, just as an athlete begins to see a decline in his or her performance—and for an athlete that can happen at the tender age of 35—so it is with many of us at some point along our life horizon. The mind may not be as sharp. Limbs may not be as sturdy. Skills may fade. Life in the Information Age may feel like it's moving too fast. Even if we feel fine, in personal services industries, where face-to-face impressions are important, potential clients may not want to do business with someone who has liver spots or walks with a limp.

So, what will we do next? Instead of planning for retirement as a single state, Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, proposes a four-phased concept of retirement, with each state characterized by the tasks and issues individuals are most likely to be managing.

The first phase is the Honeymoon Phase. You've seen it on TV: Sunset cruises, hiking and biking, golf, and quiet sunsets at your summer home by the lake. Maybe that's not for you. Or maybe life has decided you will be a caregiver to an elderly parent or summoned to babysit for grandchildren five days a week while your children are at work. And maybe that's not really for you, either.

The keys to a true retirement honeymoon, planned and thought through in advance, are: 

  • Creating a new routine: How do you plan to spend each day? What are your hobbies? What activities will fill each day? What have you always wished to do if you had time for it?
  • Finding your new identity: Will you volunteer? Perhaps you will want to teach college courses as an adjunct professor. Is there a class you'd like to take or a new skill to learn? A client of ours who was a successful advertising executive loves his retirement gig as an extra in television shows and movies. For more ideas, visit
  • Discovering new relationships: It is important to identify ways to build new relationships to replace work relationships. If you are looking to take a class, work part-time or join a group, visit
  • Being clear about your finances: Without a regular paycheck, the panic of running out of money as you draw down retirement assets may set in. Work with your adviser on a retirement income plan well before your last paycheck.
  • Giving yourself time: You likely know people who have taken work sabbaticals during their careers. Consider the honeymoon phase as a sabbatical of sorts; six months or a year during which you give yourself time to find your new routines and relationships.

Our next blog will address The Big Decision Phase, which takes shape as work truly fades from our view.