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When Changing Plans for Retirement is Unexpected: Adjusting to a New Normal

Since the recent pandemic landed in our world, how many of these feelings can you relate to?

  • Shock

  • Denial

  • Frustration

  • Depression

  • Loneliness

  • Anxiety

COVID-19 made us face a serious, unexpected socio-economic transition into a “new normal.” Such feelings are natural when life is suddenly disrupted and changed, and we are taken out of our comfort zone.


I imagine these feelings are familiar to all of us.


While many changes in our life might not be as drastic as this one, we may share the same feelings in response to the disruption and change.


Changing plans regarding retirement is no exception, especially if it’s unexpected; either as a result of a company-wide business decision forcing employees into retirement, or because your retirement savings plan has suffered and you need to move retirement out further than you had planned.


So how do we adjust into the “new normal”?


The Kubler-Ross Change Process explains the different and predictable phases we may go through when confronted with unexpected change. It outlines how we can move from shock to acceptance as we settle in to a new normal.

Phase 1: Shock — You are shocked or in disbelief about an event and worry about how it will affect you.

Phase 2: Denial — You want to believe the event is not true.

Phase 3: Frustration — You recognize how things are vastly different, and you may feel angry and/or anxious.

Phase 4: Depression — You feel moody and/or lack energy.

Phase 5: Experiment — You “dip your toe in the water,” trying to adjust to the change, but still feel lacking in energy.

Phase 6: Decision/Acceptance — You accept the change and discover options to help you move forward. You begin feeling less anxious while learning to live in the new situation.

Phase 7: Integration — You bring changes into your daily life and feel more comfortable.

The length of time it takes to move from one phase to another will depend on the individual. There is always the possibility an individual may move backward to a previous phase, before moving forward again. This is not uncommon.


Understanding these phases of change, whether it is retiring unexpectedly or working longer than expected, will help you process and understand your feelings.


After all, adjusting to a new normal is, in fact, all normal.