by Damon Carr
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Approximately 10 years ago, I wrote an article entitled,“Look at what you can do when you’re 40.” In the article I shared a story about my aunt on her 40th birthday. She was in a state of happiness as she danced and pranced with the biggest smile screaming, “Look at what you can do when you’re 40.”
I likened this to personal finance. When we’re in our 20s we’re just getting started. Everything is new, fun, and exciting. New college degree or polished skills we take into the workforce to earn a living. First apartment or house. First car. We meet new people and forge new relationships. We start a family. When we’re in our 30s, we begin to fully understand our parents’ struggle and sacrifice raising us. We begin to stabilize our life and appreciate what we have. We’ve been through some ups and downs. We summarize that maintaining our children, health, relationships, homes, and cars is a daily grind and a huge financial load. When we’re in our 40s, our children are independent or grown and on their own. We’ve paid off some debt. We’ve saved and invested money. We’ve accumulated some stuff. Bigger and newer stuff is no longer the center of our world. We see stability as being more important than stuff.
It’s been 20 long strenuous years. But finally, once we’re in our 40s, we begin to take our life back. With the kids more independent, we can turn our attention to “OURSELVES.” We can dance and prance with a smile, screaming, “Look at what you can do when you’re 40!”
When I wrote that article, I was under 40. I was gleamy eyed and hopeful. During that time, it was constant forward momentum for me. I had the “Midas Touch.” Every decision I made seemed to be the right one. Then life happened. Things weren’t going according to plan. I’ve gone through some mess. I couldn’t seem to get forward traction. It was either status quo or going backwards. Not exactly the trajectory that I was aiming for. I’m on the other side of 40 now. I’ve gone from “Look at what you can do when you’re 40” to “Age 40 and over, you have Zero F-ups left to give.” I’m right in both instances!
As adults, where we are in life is a reflection of the decisions that we’ve made. If we consistently made good decisions, we will avoid some stumbling blocks that either delay or thwart us from reaching our desired goal. If we constantly made bad decisions, it creates a misstep, a mishap, a missed opportunity, broken dreams, broken heart, or broke pockets.
Here’s the good news. Struggle teaches you a lesson. Lessons make you wiser. Wisdom gives you strength. Strength turns into self-belief. Self-belief shows you that anything is possible.
If you’re in that 40-and-over group and you’ve made more good decisions than you’ve made bad decisions, congrats, you should be coasting now. Stay on the guard, one bad decision can derail you! If you’re in that 40-and-over group and it feels like you keep running into roadblocks, check the quality of the decisions that you’re making.
When you hit age 40, you’re in the “Red Zone” of your life. Every decision is mission critical. On average, we might get 85 years on this earth if we’re lucky. We don’t want to spend the last 45 of those years paying for a lifestyle we couldn’t afford, healing from mistakes we could have avoided, recovering from bad habits that we knew were bad, or dealing with people who don’t have our best interest at heart.
During my 40 + years on this earth, I’ve come to learn through observation and experience that it’s harder to maintain than it is to acquire. You can acquire a good relationship, a nice body, a nice home and car. You can produce children. While it creates a feeling of fulfilment and happiness to acquire these things in life, maintaining them is the real grind.
Maintenance requires attention, hard work, consistency, sacrifice, and patience. Key word being consistency.
Have you ever delayed doing a chore around the house? When it comes to chores, I’m a huge procrastinator. I don’t like doing them. For example, I’ll put off organizing the garage until the last minute. By the time I get to organizing the garage, there’s more clutter than it was when I was supposed to do it. When I get to organizing the garage, it requires more time, effort, and energy to complete the task. Had I consistently maintained it, and kept it organized throughout the course of time, it would have required less time and effort on my part.
The same holds true with life. The sooner we wise up and consistently make good decisions about our life, health, finances and our relationships, the less effort we’ll have to expend to maintain them. Take some time to reflect on your life. If you’re 40 and over, you’ve been through some things. You’ve had your fair share of fun. You’ve had your fair share of successes and failures. You’ve made your fair share of mistakes. You’ve delayed making yourself a priority because you had responsibilities you deemed were more important.
It seems like just yesterday we were graduating from high school. Now our children are walking across the stage. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone. The next 20 years will be here in the blink of an eye. Things will not get easier. It’s time for us to get better. It’s time for us to make ourselves a priority. The best gift that we can give our children is not to be a burden to them.
We can no longer afford to continue to make bad decisions. If you’re age 40 or over, we have ZERO MISHAPS left to give. We must be prudent! It’s imperative that we make wise decisions about our personal finance and relationships. Our future self is counting on us!
(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached @ 412-216-1013 or visit his website @ www.damonmoneycoach.com)