Stage 4 — Depression
"It's all over." "Why go on?" You lose hope, you give up on the bargaining. You come to view your retirement plans as a pipe dream. You brood; you'd just rather not talk about it.
Stage 5 — Acceptance
"Things have worked out differently than I'd planned, but I will adjust." You come to terms with what has happened. You begin looking for practical ways to rebuild your portfolio and modify the old retirement plan, with your ambitions cut back to conform to the new reality. Saving more, working longer and retiring on a lower budget are all among the unpleasant alternatives from which you eventually choose.
It's hardly a happy ending, but look at it this way: In Kübler-Ross' scenario, the next step was the grave. You get to go on with life, wiser and more realistic than before.
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Joseph R. Hearn is the author of The Bell Lap: The 8 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as You Approach Retirement.