Study Pinpoints Five Retirement Stages

January 11, 2006 ( - A new study asserted that people go through predictable and identifiable stages centering around their retirement similar to those experienced in other major life transitions such as pregnancy or grieving.

A news release from Ameriprise Financial said it’s the New Retirement Mindscape study pinpointed five such retirement stages. The news release described the emotions experienced in each stage:

Imagination (from 15 to six years before retirement) – Retirement is still years away, but during the Imagination stage, people have very positive views about retirement, although only 44% say they are “on track” in terms of preparation. In this stage, people have high expectations of adventure (65%) and empowerment (53%) for retirement.

Anticipation (five years before retirement) – As retirement draws closer, positive emotions are on the rise with 80% saying that they “will be able to achieve their dreams in retirement.” However, in the two years prior to retirement, worries and anxiety mount with 22% saying that they will feel a sense of loss after their working years are over.

Liberation (Retirement Day and one year following) – This is a time of great excitement, relief and enthusiasm as 78% of people say they are “enjoying retirement a great deal.”

Reorientation (two to 15 years after retirement) – During the Reorientation stage, many say the joy of retirement has passed, giving way to feelings of emptiness (49%), worry (38%) and boredom (34%). Four distinct profiles emerged in the Reorientation stage: Empowered Reinventors (19%), Carefree Contents (19%), Uncertain Searchers (22%) and Worried Strugglers (40%).

Reconciliation (16 or more years after retirement) – This stage is marked by increased contentment, acceptance and personal reflection. While there are lower levels of depression (5%), some people (22%) report feelings of sadness as they confront end-of-life issues.

The report said that one group of retirees referred to as Empowered Reinventors stands out as role models and may be the first glimpse of how many baby boomers will reinvent retirement. This group, which was the most proactive about retirement planning, is most apt to view retirement as a time of new adventure (70%) and empowerment (56%), with almost half (43%) saying doing more meaningful or satisfying work is very important to them.

To help people navigate the retirement mindscape to their greatest advantage, Ameriprise Financial has created The Dream Book, a new guide to help people identify their priorities, values and dreams for retirement. The Dream Book encourages and helps people to envision how they want to spend their retirement years from a lifestyle and emotional perspective before crunching the numbers.

Harris Interactive fielded “The New Retirement Mindscape” via a telephone survey in August 2005 covering 2,000 adults age 40 to 75.

The survey report is here .