First stage is feverish anticipation. It starts a few years before you quit work. You begin to identify the symptoms of restlessness, wishing, day-dreaming, sometimes for years before you are quite ready to take the jump, talking and ruminating, and planning, and occupying your leisure hours with factoring how and when and where you can retire.
Our main concern was money; how to save enough; how to budget with what we had; how to have a lifestyle that would be pleasant and doable within our budget. We had just built a new house, and had not planned on selling and relocating. But, when we crunched the numbers, staying in place would cost us so much more and we could not retire early as we ended up doing. We began to see how our lives would be like if we moved somewhere else. So, we began to research.
Second stage feels panicky, unreal. Yesterday you were working. Today, you are on the phone making sure everything you put in place is working fine. You will spend hours on the phone or by email double-checking that your bills, your mail, your doctors, your insurances, your investments are all accounted for. Then, even if you try to relax, you can't. You feel as though you committed a crime-of-sorts. You should't be home playing hooky from work. You feel useless, purposeless, empty.This stage can last a couple of months or more.
Third stage is a feeling that everyday is a holiday, everyday should be spent just the way you want to spend it. You begin to feel that your vacation time should actually be a vacation. You should be shopping, visiting, traveling. You'll spend way more than you had anticipated in traveling, visiting your children, seeing the world. This stage may last as long as your money is there to finance it.
Fourth Stage is a come-down to reality. You begin to be serious about connecting with the community, using your time in important activities. Hubby and I began to volunteer and join different groups. Some things were easy, such as coaching, or running the local food pantry. Some, a bit more complicated, like running for school board, or teaching at the local college. We still travel, but not with the same frequency. We keep active by participating and taking classes, entertaining friends and family. We live as though this is what we will be doing the rest of our lives here.
Fifth Stage. This is anticipatory. You don't know how and when your health will deteriorate and you will need more care than you can get where you are. This may happen suddenly or slowly. We talk about, and take small steps to put things in place, both financially, and with our life-style. We have talked about wills, legacy, end of life directives. Most importantly, we have arranged our lives so we can age in place comfortably. As we remodeled our house, we kept in mind how the changes might fit our future needs. We can shower in a wheelchair, for instance. As we anticipate purchasing a new car we will track down one where we don't have to bend down or climb up to sit in. It needs to fit us in this new stage.