How Gen X’ers Are Redefining the ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ And Retirement

Today was a day of awakening. I took my 13-year-old son to a two-hour tour of the high school he’ll be attending next year. While there’s a part of me that’s so excited about the new journey he’s about to embark on, the other part of me is having a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that I’m old enough to have a high schooler. After all, in my mind (and perhaps in yours) I’m still 29. It’s just a shame that the math doesn’t add up!

As the reality of my age stared me square in the eyes, my mind wandered back to a fantastic article I recently read in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Virtuous Midlife Crisis.” I can already see the wheels spinning in your head as they were in mine. Mid-life crisis…Vegas, motorcycles, facelifts, tattoos…or maybe unmentionables not fit for print. However, I was pleasantly surprised to read the tagline “Forget the sports car and new trophy spouse. For Generation X it’s yoga, meditation retreats, and keto diets.” My attention was immediately captured.

The premise of this piece is that Gen X’ers are not approaching mid-life the same way generations before us have. The article cites a 2017 report from AARP that Gen Xer’s conception of the American Dream is focused on “well-being, being healthy and not necessarily worrying about the big expensive things and having all the money.” Instead of feeling the lust for glitz and glamour, we’re feeling the lust to be in shape, maintaining healthy minds and healthy bodies. Instead of spending our time and money decorating our new McMansions, we’re more likely to be scheduling a trip to hike a mountain or making reservations for a spa retreat where green juice is the only item on the menu.

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It’s very reassuring to me that our generation is taking their health and wellness more seriously and focusing on the big picture. After all, we want to be around in order to enjoy the big milestones coming up in both our own lives and our children’s lives. Nevertheless, while I agree that money is not the key to happiness, money does serve a purpose, particularly as we get closer to our “golden years.”

As we enter mid-life it also means (hopefully!) that we are closer to retirement than the day we started our very first job. So, the looming question really becomes, “do I have a plan for my money?” If you can answer yes- and your plan includes a strategy whereby your money will outlive you, as opposed to outliving your money, that’s great! If retirement planning is something that you’ve pushed to the side, there’s no time like the present to take the proverbial bull by the horns.

Whether you’re just beginning to think about your retirement plan, or you’ve spent many years constructing and tweaking your plan, there are a few key questions you’ll want to be able to answer.  

1. At what age would I like to retire? For many people, there’s a discrepancy regarding when they want to retire and when they can retire. It will take some number crunching to figure it out. Keep in mind some critical dates such as when Medicare kicks in (65) and what your Social Security benefits look like (if they are going to be a meaningful income stream for you).

2. How much money will I need annually when I retire? Your financial needs now versus when you retire may be different; consider how your life may change and try to put a number on how much you expect to spend per year.

3. What are my sources of income when I retire? What will be your streams of income in retirement? Do you have rental income from real estate? Income from private equity investments? How much can your investment portfolio generate? Social Security? Are you one of the few lucky people that will still receive a pension?

4. What is the purpose of my money? There are some people that want to live life to the fullest with the simple goal of just not outliving their money. Others have estate planning concerns and would like to leave a nice inheritance to their children, grandchildren, or perhaps a charity that’s near and dear to their heart. The purpose of your money is a key component in your overall planning.

5. What do I want to do when I grow up? Don’t laugh- this is a real question! We have found time after time that the happiest retirees are those that have core pursuits, or “hobbies on steroids.” Everyone’s core pursuits will be different- the important thing is to find something that you’re passionate about- volunteering, golf, tennis, traveling, etc. A very large factor in your happiness in retirement will be based on how you spend your time.

If you haven’t yet created your version of a happy retirement, make a commitment to start today! And as an interesting side note, the original Wall Street Journal article garnered so much attention that a follow-up article was published based on real people and their midlife stories: ‘I Refocused on Living a Life With Purpose’: Readers Share Their Stories of Midlife Crisis. I hope you take the time to read and enjoy the article and perhaps it will spur on some new thoughts of your own.