Retirement planning arguably starts with you identifying the signs that it’s nearly time to give up work for good.

And although many people may be emotionally afraid to retire due to the perceived lack of purpose, nothing could be further from the truth, as there are unbounded opportunities in this stage of life.

Pre-retirement (or the planning stage) is the first of the five stages of retirement and if you are in this phase wondering what to do next, this article might prove helpful.

So here are 5 emotional signs that you need to retire.

1. Friend Envy!

One of the first signs of impending retirement is the envy of friends or co-workers who are already in that position.

After all, social activities and meetups may happen mid-week, precluding you from taking part, given the time flexibility that this phase of life provides.

While even younger employees may dream of retirement, the desire to retire may compound as we age and more of our social groups move on from work.

Do you find yourself frustrated when friends leave the world of work and embark on a fun-filled retirement?

If so, it might be time for you to think about retiring too.

2. Work Stress

We all feel stress in our working lives, regardless of our age. But, as we get older, stress can have more obvious health consequences, including high blood pressure and cholesterol.

The longer we ignore these, the worse they can become.

However, there are conflicting opinions about the best age to retire for health. A study quoted in the Harvard Business Review argues that 65 is the best age to retire for health.

It suggests that working provides social interaction, mental stimulation, and, of course, money.

It’s vital to balance these benefits against the potential impact of a demanding job, though.

After all, there’s little point in working another few years for the sake of social interaction if workplace stress results in health issues.

3. Career Apathy

As you reach the later stages of your career, it can be easy to feel ennui towards the work you do.

Whether or not you combine your personal identity with your career, a lack of enthusiasm for work can impose an increasing psychological burden.

For younger adults, the solution is either a job or career change.

While nothing is stopping you from doing this later in life, if you are already imagining your retirement, it might be time to take the jump.

Job dissatisfaction can also come in the form of turning down opportunities for progression, or not seeking them out.

After all, it can be difficult to find the motivation to take on new responsibilities if you don’t think you’ve got long left in the company.

Not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy their jobs. Plenty of people go through the motions to earn money, and that’s fine.

But, if your level of job dissatisfaction is reaching new highs, maybe it’s time to pack it in.

4. Retirement Daydreaming

Do you catch yourself daydreaming about what you’ll do when you finish work and time is no longer a limiting factor?

We all do this, but it can become more obvious as you reach retirement age.

It’s particularly difficult if you’ve got a finish date or age in mind.

Maybe you have plans to pursue certain retirement hobbies, set up your own side business or even retire abroad.

If the future looks exciting, you might find yourself counting down the days until you reach it.

5. Retirement Planning

Another sign that you might be ready to retire is spending increasing amounts of time planning your post-work future.

In 1998, Phil Rich published 'How Best to Retire', in which he described the 5 stages of retirement, which might help those in this position. These are:


This is the decade or so before your retirement when you plan what you’ll do with all your free time. You may currently be in this stage. You spend your time thinking about activities and feeling excited, even if there is some trepidation around making the switch.

Honeymoon period

The first 3-6 months of retirement are known as the honeymoon period. Much like any other time this phrase is used, you feel happy, motivated, and maybe even emotionally overwhelmed at all the possibilities that lay ahead.

Disenchantment period

After that initial happiness wears off, you move into a period of disenchantment. Again, this is a fairly standard process after any honeymoon period. You can feel disappointed that reality doesn't live up to your expectations. In short, it can be the culmination of everything that made you emotionally afraid to retire. How long it lasts depends on the individual.

Reorientation period

But, luckily, it does end. Once you’ve separated your true self from your work identity and managed to reassess your needs, you can create a new identity based on being a retired person. It helps to pick up new hobbies and activities to drive your personal rediscovery.

Stability period

As the name suggests, this is the time when you even out and get on with enjoying life. In theory, the stability period will last for the rest of your life, so make sure you enjoy it!

The 5 stages of retirement can be quite an emotional journey.

Practical planning around these emotional stages can make you much more prepared for dealing with them, reducing the impact of any negative feelings and allowing you to enjoy a happy retirement.


Retirement planning involves being prepared for what lies ahead from a practical standpoint.

But, it also involves understanding your emotions - including what you’re experiencing now and how you may feel in the future.

Many retirees overlook the emotional burden of such a drastic lifestyle shift, which can have adverse consequences.

So, start thinking about your emotional journey ahead of time.

If you feel you’re emotionally afraid to retire, think about why and what you can do to change that, including reaching out for support if required.

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