The Four Phases of Retirement and Leaving a Legacy

Dr. Ken Dychtwald, CEO and founder of Age Wave, is a researcher on aging and financial habits in America, author of 18 books, and one of the world’s foremost experts and visionary thinkers regarding aging and longevity. In some of his recent work, Dr. Dychtwald interpreted research on retirement, organizing retirement into four phases.

According to his analysis of the research titled “Longevity and the New Journey of Retirement,” Dr. Dychtwald stated that“(r)etirement unfolds in stages.” He believes that knowing where you fall in your retirement journey can be very important when it comes to better planning for retirement.

The Four Phases of Retirement

Dr. Dychtwald divides retirement up into four phases: the Anticipation Phase, the Liberation/Disorientation Phase, the Reinvention Phase, and the Reflection/Resolution phase. Here’s what Dr. Dychtwald’s phases of retirement entail:

Phase 1: Anticipation Phase (10 years before retirement)

The Anticipation Phase is marked by optimism and excitement over the prospect of retiring, with some anxiety over financial readiness. This is where people may feel they need guidance to know all their options and, is the period in which financial advice is most sought.

Phase 2: Liberation/Disorientation Phase (the day after retirement to two years after)

The Liberation/Disorientation Phase is where newly minted retirees are excited by new freedoms and the luxury of time, but they’re also uncertain about how to spend their time and money. During this phase, “25% of retirees consider themselves semi-retired and may still work,” Dychtwald said.

Phase 3: Reinvention Phase (year three to 14 after retirement)

The Reinvention phase is the heart of retirement. Now is when retirees do the most and explore the most, and family is a growing pleasure. Health, however, becomes more of a concern, and this is where retirees learn to shift their mindset from accumulation to distribution. According to Dr. Dychtwald, “It’s not just an economic thing, it’s a psychological thing. If you’ve been getting a check your whole life, how do you live on a lump sum? How do you know inflation isn’t going to eat away at what you have, or how do you feel about spending money not knowing how long you’re going to live? Currently, there are tens of millions of retirees in this stage.”

Phase 4: Reflection/Resolution (at around year 15)

In the last stage, happiness, contentment, and enjoyment remain strong, even if there’s been some downshifting due to health issues. Retirees in this stage have for the most part learned to live within their means and have remained resilient even in the face of loss.

“And people get very serious about wanting to talk about the legacy they want to leave,” Dr. Dychtwald said.

When asked about how they want to be remembered, research found the top two responses were “for their personal characters” and “for the experiences they shared with loved ones.” The bottom two were “work accomplishments” and the “wealth they accumulated and bequeathed.”

“Now I know that wealth matters, believe me. I’ve seen the stats. The more financial engines people have, the more security and possibility for well-being they’re going to have,” he said. “But when people think about what matters most in their lives it’s not their money. It’s who they are as people.”

What Other Aging Experts Had to Say About Retirement and Leaving a Legacy in “The Sages of Aging”

The topics of aging, longevity, retirement, and legacies were further explored in Dr. Dychtwald’s recently released book and soon-to-be-released podcast titled “The Sages of Aging: A Guide for Changemakers.

The book is the result of a series of 12 conversations conducted over Zoom with some of the foremost elder changemakers in the fields of aging and longevity, and it captures their wisdom and perspective in their own words. Each leader is asked about their own origin story, their feelings about the fields of aging and longevity, and to reflect on their own aging, among other topics. The interviews first came out as a 12-part podcast series, which you can watch or listen to on the American Society on Aging’s site or read excerpts in that site’s “Generations Now” area. The interviews will be shown on over 200 PBS stations this fall.

Leaving Legacies and Retirement

The 12 experts in Dychtwald’s book are all in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, and one of the main focuses is coming to terms with aging and the legacies they chose to leave behind.

Dr. Dychtwald, himself, has had the kind of “legacy experiences” he discusses in the book with his parents that he did with the experts in his book. He also filmed his grandmother when she was still alive. Dr. Dychtwald hopes the book’s readers will have such conversations with their parents, filming the interviews for posterity and using the list of questions he created and published in the book for that purpose.

Your Legacy Imparts Life’s Lessons

Similar to what Dr. Dychtwald discusses in his book, a Legacy Story is a way to document and share (in writing or via an audio or video recording) your values, your spiritual beliefs, and your “life’s lessons,” and is a great way to convey these things to grandchildren when you are no longer around. Your Legacy Story is a personal statement you make about yourself — your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your regrets. It may contain professions of love and forgiveness for loved ones in your life.

In connection with creating your Revocable Living Trust and other Estate Planning documents, the Farr Law Firm can help you leave your loved ones with your own Legacy Story. Click here to create your own Legacy Story at no charge.

The Sages Also Discuss Their Views on Retirement

Besides legacies, the sages also speak of retirement. When asked if they see themselves as retired or if they wanted to retire, the general consensus was,”(n)ope. I’d like to work less. I don’t want the pressure. I want a little more freedom.” Dr. Dychtwald describes how they were still very much in the game. They didn’t feel that full retirement was productive, useful, or the right thing for people to be doing in their later years.

Whether you are personally ready for retirement or not, as you can see from the four phases of retirement described above, it is important to plan ahead regardless of what stage you are in so you are ready when the time comes!

Planning for Retirement

Besides being a Certified Elder Law Attorney, I am also an experienced retirement planning advisor and long-term care financial advisor registered with Protection Point Advisors. Click here to view my profile.

Retirement planners generally work with people ages 55 and older, who are within 10-20 years or so of their desired retirement age. To get started on retirement planning, estate planning, or long-term care planning, please contact us to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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