Media often portrays mid-life crises in caricature — like a normally family-minded parent buying a two-seater sports car instead of an SUV/van, or a 40-year-old suddenly dating a much younger partner following a divorce. But, as many people discover when they enter the years of life that could constitute a “mid-life” crisis, the reality is often less dramatic but more confusing.
Research cited by The Atlantic found 10 to 20 percent of Americans “have an experience that qualifies as a mid-life crisis.” However, it’s likely many more find themselves evaluating their progress in life and changing certain habits as a result.
It’s only natural to take stock of your life halfway between starting your career and ending it. It’s a time of transition for many families — kids nearing college age, parents aging and more. For many, it’s also a reflective time on what they’ve achieved and, perhaps more intensely, what they hope to go on to accomplish in life.
These conditions create the perfect environment for fears and doubts to arise.
One major component of getting a handle on a mid-life crisis is money management. There’s no better time to take an honest look at your finances and make the tweaks necessary to help you thrive as you move toward retirement. Here are four tips for beating a mid-life money crisis.
Calculate Your Net Worth
Net worth is a simple calculation meant to help consumers understand at a glance what they owe and what they own. Add up all your assets, then subtract the sum of all your debts from that number. It’s helpful to do this exercise year over year so you can see whether your net worth is growing, remaining stagnant or dropping.
Here are some net worth figures by age, according to Bankrate:
- 30s: $174,002 (average), $32,600 (median)
- 40s: $457,783 (average), $93,460 (median)
- 50s: $998,416 (average), $152,400 (median)
The reason there’s such a difference between the mean and the median here is wealth distribution; average is higher because it accounts for people with unusually high net worth.
Calculating your net worth periodically will motivate you to understand your assets and debts over time, which is the first step in taking action to optimize them.
Get a Strategy for Getting Rid of Debt
Debt drags down net worth — and causes stress. This is why it’s so important to come up with a workable strategy to get rid of debt. People go about debt elimination all different ways: among them are consolidation loans, debt relief programs, debt management plans, bankruptcy and do-it-yourself repayment.
The key is figuring out which strategy best fits your circumstances, based upon factors such as the amount/type of debt, income, timeline and credit score considerations.
Revisit Your Life & Financial Goals
If you feel somewhat lost in midlife, you’re not alone. It’s very easy to lose touch of our goals, and to start feeling like we’re going through the motions of money management. This is why we suggest getting back in touch with your larger life goals and your specific financial goals.
Think about what really matters. Do you want to take a big vacation? Pay off your mortgage? Send your kid(s) to college? Buy an RV or boat? Renovate your home? Ramp up your retirement savings? Write down the short- and long-term goals you want to accomplish, then review your budget, savings and investments based upon when you want to meet these goals and how much you need.
Earmark All Your Savings Efforts
One pitfall many Americans experience is having a single, catch-all savings account from which all funds are drawn. This risky approach can leave you feeling frustrated — like you have “no direction for your savings.” A better approach is earmarking all your savings efforts, separating them into distinct accounts. That way you can measure your tangible progress toward savings goals for travel, emergency savings, health savings, vehicle down payment, etc.
Beating a mid-life money crisis is a matter of understanding where you stand, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.