For many folks, turning forty is a mythical milestone. It’s a celebration of life as it has been compiled up to that point. Like turning twenty-one, New Year’s Eve, entering your teen years or reaching retirement, we’ve all been led to believe that the significance is in the ‘arriving’ and not what you’ve done with your life up to that point.
Life advisors and financial gurus like to pontificate that forty should be seen as summiting the halfway point in your life. I would suggest ‘embracing’ is a better word for it. These self-anointed Sooth-Sayers hint that you’re at your pinnacle and it’s all downhill after that. That assumption is about as inane as the one proposed by career counselors who like to advise their lemmings that they must be making the same amount in salary as your age.
My son Brian turned forty this year. My daughter Melanie is three years behind him. In their relatively short time here on earth they’ve both managed to unearth a treasure trove of wonderful experiences, relationships, educational opportunities, travel adventures and between them have brought five incredible human beings into this world. Not to mention their life partners who both seem to balance the quirks and foibles of my own kids.
While this is not unusual for two highly motivated and ambitious individuals it still bares mentioning because it’s an admirable benchmark and it has nothing to do with riches or real estate or status in our society.
I’m usually reticent to give ‘life’ advice to my kids. There isn’t a whole lot that they don’t already know and much that I could learn from them. The only realistic advice I ever got came from a book that’s been around forever and has gone through countless editions. It’s called ‘What Color is your parachute?’ Its premise is quite simple. Find out what you love to do or what your passion is and then do it for the rest of your life. It isn’t a focus on making the most money or accumulating the most toys or material objects. It’s a straight forward analysis of what’s really important in life. As the cliché goes, on one’s death bed, the monthly financials are usually not at the top of one’s list of memories.
Retirement is another one of those much-touted clichés about slowing down and taking time off from life. You’re supposed to savor your past accomplishments and sit around doing little to nothing until the grim reaper comes knocking. Isn’t that what past generations did?
If you’re going to do an assessment of your life I think you should first figure out what your values are. Relationships should be at or near the top of your agenda. Flying solo is never as satisfying as sharing the bumps and stumbles and elevations with someone close to you.
The second step is to adhere to what your guts and instincts tell you to do. Listen to all the advice you can get then go with what you know to be right. There should never be a mention of the limitations of one’s pocketbook or bankroll. In the end, your legacy will be the friends you made, the people you helped and the kind things you did for others. Values before valuation. Kids before cash. Legacy before estate.
Milestones like reaching thirty or fifty or seventy years of age are just mile markers on a road that could detour or end at any time. Go with your gut and do the right thing. In other words, have the courage to do whatever the hell you want to do.
Life is too short for anything else.