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Reflections: Transition Through Retirement

What does transition to retirement look like?

By Glenn Mangurian BS, MBA and Joanna Cain, MD

Like major life commitments, moves or loss of people we love, retirement is a major life changing event. Unfortunately, the emotional and psychological frontier of retirement has remained unexplored until recently. This is particularly true for those of us in the “healing” professions.  What is emerging is that the psychological process of retirement process follows a pattern similar in nature to the emotional phases accompanying other areas of transition.

Looking at the retirement transition from a financial planner point of view, Mark Cussen, believes the transition into retirement can be broken down into six main phases that resonate with our thinking.

1. Pre-retirement - Planning Time
During the working years, retirement can appear to be both an oncoming burden and a distant paradise. For many it is not real. Many will save for retirement but few will give thought to what they will actually do during retirement.  (PS remind your junior colleagues to save now for retirement!)

2. The Big Day - Smiles, Handshakes, Farewells
Before you know it the “big day” is upon you. This may be marked by some sort of celebration of your distinguished career, or more subtle phasing out. But it is an EVENT with a point in time change of status.

3. Honeymoon Phase - I'm Free!
Of course, “honeymoons” follow more than just weddings. Once the retirement celebrations are over, you are likely to find yourself free of many responsibilities. Your experience and decisions define how long the “honeymoon” phase lasts.

4. Disenchantment - So this is it?
After looking forward to this stage for so long, a number of retirees might deal with a feeling of letdown. Some may miss the engagement prior to retirement. The new freedom may be experienced as a void.  

5. Reorientation - Building a New Identity
Fortunately, the letdown phase of retirement doesn't last forever. Retirees begin to shape their new circumstances of their lives. This stage takes both time and self-discovery. "Who am I, now?", "What is my purpose at this point?" and "Am I still useful in some capacity?" Building your new identity is necessary for closure on you working days. However, part of your new identity will still be “professor (retired)” or “professor emeritus” or “scientist” or ….and will be part of the core that is reshaped into the new “retired” identity.

6. Routine - Moving On
Finally, retirees get comfortable with the “new normal” which still may change over the variety of “encore” identities and careers that happen in “retirement”.  Hopefully, you will discover that you are still the same person with a new set of circumstances. This phase can create a new sense of purpose.

Obviously, these phases are not prescriptive but rather natural transitions. But, most retirees will experience some form of this process after they stop working. Your ability to navigate these uncharted waters will be helped by knowing that what you are experiencing is normal and shared by others.

Reflections on Your Transition to Retirement

  • What dreams do you have for retirement?
  • Does your financial situation allow you to pursue your dreams or do you need to modify them?
  • What do you think will be the most exciting about retirement?
  • What will be the most difficult to lose from your present position?

Glenn Mangurian (MBA, UMass Amherst) is a semi-retired business consultant new senior citizen.  He spends his time consulting and teaching leadership as an adjunct faculty at UMass Amherst and Lowell. He is currently a consultant to the UMass Chan Office of Faculty Affairs.

Joanna Cain, MD, FACOG is a Professor and Vice Chair of Ob/Gyn and Director of Faculty Talent Management at UMass Chan Medical School.  As a former Department Chair, hospital administrator, and gynecologic oncologist she has experienced many transitions both personal and with patients and faculty.

Mark P. Cussen, CFP®, CMFC, AFC, (BS University of Kansas) has 20 years of experience working with investments, insurance, mortgages, taxes and financial planning. He has several years of experience as a financial author and has written numerous educational articles for various financial websites. He is currently working as a financial planner for the U.S. military.


Glenn Mangurian (MBA, UMass Amherst) is a semi-retired business consultant new senior citizen.  He spends his time consulting and teaching leadership as an adjunct faculty at UMass Amherst and Lowell.