Three phases of retirement

In basic financial planning, we often talk about the different financial stages of life. We start with the accumulation phase and then move into the income phase in retirement.

In the retirement phase, not all retirement will be the same. Retirement in your 50’s or 60’s is likely to be different that your life in you 70’s and 80’s and definitely different if your reach your 90’s. Let’s look at the three phases of retirement.

The Go-Go phase

The Go-Go phase is the active retirement phase. It is the early retirement phase when we tend to be physically and mentally capable of living a fairly active lifestyle. In fact, the phase may not be that much different than pre-retirement except that there may be more time to do things like travel and hobbies.

For some, the Go-Go phase or the active phase will include work. It may be part time work or consulting in the same field of their pre-retirement career or it may mean self-employment. Whatever the case, active retirement is really living the stereotypical retirement dream. For many retirees in this phase, they are busier than they were prior to retirement.

The Slow-Go phase

The next phase of retirement is the Slow-Go phase where the body is telling you to slow down a little. Often this happens between the ages of 70 and 84, life starts falling into patterns and the excitement of retirement becomes more stable. Sometimes this phase is known as the stable retirement phase.

Many of you know retirees in this phase because they have very predictable patterns like banking on Mondays, groceries on Tuesdays, bridge on Fridays, etc. Part of the reason for these patterns is that energy levels are changing and patterns help minimize effort and thought without compromising on the enjoyment of life. The older you get, the more important it is to find routines and patterns that give you comfort and security.

In this phase travel moves from plane rides around the world to bus rides within the province.

The No-Go phase

The last phase of retirement is the No-Go phase or the limited retirement phase. In this phase, time and age play a role in slowing down activities and abilities. Sometimes this is mental, sometimes physical and sometimes it can be financial.

Often this stage requires some level of support from family, governments or agencies. Again, this can be physical, emotional or financial support. Choices become much more limited.

Spending through the phases of retirement

Understanding the three phases of retirement can have a very significant impact on planning in the various lifestyle components of retirement. In terms of spending, you probably need more income in the Go-Go phase of retirement because that is the time in your retirement when you tend to be going more. The Go-Go phase is when you are travelling more, golfing more, walking more, etc. Statistics show that spending tends to drop the older you get and the further you get into the Slow-Go phase.

Many people will agree with the thought that spending on health care may increase as you age and especially when you hit the No-Go phase. One of the biggest financial fears on the minds of Canadians is the cost of health care in retirement and what it might cost to go into a care facility. While the third phase of retirement can be costly due to increases in healthcare, the question becomes how much does spending drop as a result of decreases in discretionary lifestyle spending. When you hit No-Go, you are not travelling at all. You are also not driving, golfing, shopping, etc. You are still spending money but only on the basic necessities to sustain life – food, shelter, clothing.

Another example is in terms of housing, the typical trend is towards downsizing in the second phase and then into care facilities in the third phase.

The key to retirement planning is to recognize that not all retirement is the same not just with regards to lifestyle but also to spending. It’s important to know where you are in life today and look ahead into the future to recognize plans for that future especially through the different phases of retirement.

Planning ahead can make a huge difference.


  1. Debra Sealey

    Hi Jim,

    This is good food for thought, but it would be even more beneficial if you’d also incorporate the tax implications of taking CPP early, and the costs of those extra tax payouts. Would you consider including this element into the scenarios for those of us who are trying to make informed decisions around retirement and CPP? Much appreciated!!

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks for the comment Deb.
      We have lots of separate article on CPP and the impact of taking CPP early. CPP also increases every year (Indexing). Other than that, CPP stays constant for the entire period of retirement.

  2. gary

    thanks for the great post jim. we are in the slow go phase a little earlier than we wanted. health plays such a big part in retirement as you have mentioned. we both hate flying now — “hurry up and wait” — so planning trips is much more a priority. we try very hard to be able to drive to ports or resorts rather than fly. you are right about spending habits; as we get older we spend less.

  3. Bob

    what about the canada disability pension, my question is A person is injured at 50 yrs old , and is on canada disability pension, when he turns 65 and converts to regular canada pension will he loose those 15 years of contributions and be deducted on his regular pension?

  4. Maureen

    I applied for GIS last year in 2014 when I retired then again more papers to fill in June an still have zero! How long do these government people take? Do they do One app a year? I dont get why its taking so long, is it still going to take another year??

    • Doug Runchey


      I’d suggest that you call Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 to see why the delays and why you haven’t been eligible so far.

      If you want/need my help on a 3-way conference call, email me at [email protected]. My telephone consultation fee is $50.

  5. Rs Junk

    This is great info. I’m in the Go-Go phase, and working on the Slow-Go phase. What I want to do is find a way to end it all when I get to the No-Go phase. The No-Go phase from my point of view is a drain on me and my family. I’d rather see my No-Go phase as a rather very short phase prior to starting the new angel /devil phase whichever was deemed by you know who.

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