The 4 Phases of Retirement: How to Plan for a Satisfying Retirement

Ken Weingarten |

Dr Riley Moynes, an author and retired educator, published The Four Phases of Retirement: What to Expect When You’re Retiring. While the common question on everyone’s mind is whether they are financially prepared for retirement, this book dives into whether you are psychologically prepared. As such, it frames retirement under a different lens: not just as a singular phase of life, but four gradual, evolving changes where you can hopefully end up in a better place. Below we outline the 4 phases:

Phase 1 – Vacation

The idea of freedom takes over during the first two years of retirement. In this initial phase, there is no set schedule/routine and you tend to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Typically, retirees find themselves crossing off most items in their bucket list. While this is all well and good, the lack of structure tends to creep in which leads to the next phase.

Phase 2 – Disillusionment

Decades of structure from work, commitments, responsibilities, etc. are now gone, leaving you with a lost sense of purpose and loss of power. You ask yourself, “What now?”. This phase may affect some harder than others as fears and anxieties can take over. It is also the period of time where retirees can experience what the author called the “3 Ds”: Divorce, Depression, and Decline (both mental and physical). This is a critical phase as many retirees may find themselves trapped in this phase.

Phase 3 – Trial and Error

“How do I make life meaningful again?” is a question posed by many during this phase. Introspection of how to make life productive begins to take hold. Experimentations and adjustments to your lifestyle should be at the forefront to avoid slipping back to Phase 2. Looking into new hobbies, activities, work/volunteer, etc. are typical ways to regain structure but often this discovery period is met with false starts. Something to keep in mind when searching is to try to maintain five key aspects of your life: Structure, Identity, Relationships, Sense of Power, and Sense of Purpose.

Phase 4 – Reinvent and Rewire

With a renewed sense of fulfillment, retirees find themselves at their happiest state of mind. With a new mission at the forefront, many retirees find themselves in a position where they are contributing back to the inner circles or society.


There many angles in which to approach retirement. Whether you are approaching retirement or already retired, you may benefit from reflecting on where you are now and where you would like to be. Consulting with a fee-only financial advisor can help address the financial side of retirement while you focus on the non-financial aspects of retirement.

Weingarten Associates is an independent, fee-only Registered Investment Advisor in Lawrenceville, New Jersey serving Princeton, NJ as well as the Greater Mercer County/Bucks County region. We make a difference in the lives of our clients by providing them with exceptional financial planning, investment management, and tax advice.