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Three phases of retirement: Go-go, slow-go and no-go years

When it comes to retirement planning, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach in terms of how much retirement income you’ll need. People retire at different ages, with different amounts of savings, and with different goals in mind – no two retirement journeys are exactly alike.

However, there are some helpful concepts to think about that can provide general guidelines with respect to what your main sources of retirement income will be and what your spending might look like as you progress through retirement – namely by thinking in “threes.” The three-legged stool concept and three phases of retirement; this article will focus on the latter in more detail.

Of course, your best course of action is to prepare a written retirement plan with the help of your advisor or CSS Pension Plan Consultant. They can help you prepare a customized plan that suits your unique goals and circumstances – both before and during retirement.


The retirement income system in Canada can be compared to a three-legged stool where each pillar represents a different source of retirement income: 

1. Pillar 1 is comprised of federal government programs – Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

2. Pillar 2 is comprised of personal savings – Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), and other non-registered savings accounts, as well as home and vacation property equity, equity in businesses and farms, inheritances and other wealth transfers, and the like.

3. Pillar 3 is comprised of workplace pensions for those of us in Canada fortunate to work for employers that provide one (for example, our very own CSS Pension Plan!)​

The stool metaphor emphasizes the fact that you’ll need to look at all three legs when trying to balance your retirement plan. Tinkering with one leg without considering the other two may leave your retirement-income plan unbalanced. Nevertheless, the amount of savings you may have stowed away for retirement only shows one part of the big picture. The other key question to ask yourself is: what will you do with those savings and when?

To create the most effective plan, you need to think about what you want your life to look like in retirement, what your goals are and what you want to accomplish in the first few years – and perhaps the next few decades. 

According to Mercer, the average Canadian will spend 25 years or more in retirement. This is where the three phases of retirement concept becomes a handy tool, because you likely won’t need a consistent amount of retirement income throughout retirement.


Popularized by Michael Stein’s book The Prosperous Retirement: Guide to the New Reality, the go-go, slow-go and no-go years consider the financial and wellness requirements at different points in your retirement journey.

Go-go years (typically up to age 75): 

Your go-go years typically happen in early retirement. You’re done working (though it’s common for those in early retirement to continue working part-time) and you may still be healthy and active, whether choosing to travel, spend more time with family, volunteer or pursue your favourite hobbies with greater intensity. Retirees often spend the most money during this phase funding these activities.

Slow-go years (typically from ages 75-85):

 During the slow-go years, life becomes more about the familiar. The body may slow, putting limits on your mobility, and your desire to travel may fade. You’ll likely establish routines and spend more time at home, thus decreasing the amount of retirement income spent. You may also decide to downsize (though this can also be a hallmark of the go-go years) and start to think about retirement living or assisted living options.

No-go years (ages 85 onward): 

Retirees’ activity during these years becomes more limited. Health concerns (and costs) may arise and your mobility will decline. You may move to a retirement home or assisted living facility during these years, which can add costs to your retirement plan.

Of course, your retirement journey is unique and these guidelines are not to say you will experience all three stages, or in the particular order listed in this article. You may decide that you need more retirement income to help offset anticipated expenses in your no-go years, or alternatively, you may choose to do some travelling in your slow-go years or purchase a park model in an RV park down south.

Whether you have a picture in your mind of what you want your retirement to look like or not, the CSS Pension Plan can help. We offer many tools and resources to provide you with information about the factors to consider both before and during retirement, and give you the flexibility to customize your retirement plan.


Pension Plan Consultants

We offer personalized advice to CSS members through our noncommissioned Pension Plan Consultants (PPCs), all who are Certified Financial Planners®.

They can help you create a customized retirement plan that considers all your sources of income, including your funds in the CSS Pension Plan, RRSPs, TFSAs, CPP and OAS, along with your spouse’s sources of retirement income.

They can also answer any questions you have about the retirement income options available for your funds in the Plan, along with providing guidance concerning how your funds should be invested leading up to retirement or in retirement.

Online tools

Our website ( offers numerous resources to help guide you along your own unique road to retirement. The following tools and calculators can help you keep track of your CSS account(s) and projected retirement income, and gauge your comfort with risk:

  • myCSSPEN for members – Check the value of your account(s), estimate your retirement income, keep track of any contributions made and more.
  • Basic Retirement Planner – Map your route to retirement by creating a basic retirement plan using our new Basic Retirement Planner tool on myCSSPEN (Our PPCs can help create more comprehensive plans, recommended for those closer to retirement).
  • Risk Tolerance Estimator – Assess your individual comfort with risk using the Risk Tolerance Estimator, which can guide you toward an appropriate investment mix.
Investment choice

The Plan offers Variable Benefit payments for members who choose to withdraw retirement income through their investments. We offer four professionally managed investment funds that give you the option to set an investment mix according to your own goals, circumstances and investment comfort. Members also get two free investment trades per year.

For members who wish to convert their accumulated retirement savings into a regular monthly income, the Plan offers a fixed monthly pension. These monthly pensions are paid from our Pensions Fund, which is invested in high-quality, long-term bonds. Here are some investor profiles typical of members in their go-go, slow-go and no-go years.

Retirement income options (RIO)
Support for our members doesn’t stop after retirement. We offer retirement income options directly through the Plan, or you can choose to set up retirement income payments with your credit union or financial institution.


Retirees typically require a more conservative investment strategy

as they progress through the stages of retirement, because they

have less time to make up market losses and need steadier returns

 to provide a regular retirement income.

The CSS Pension Plan is considering designing and offering a

more conservative “Balanced Fund” suited to a typical retiree.

To help us assess interest in this proposed product, we would

like your feedback and invite you participate in the poll.