Life at 50 and Beyond

James Duffy

“Life is not just coasting in once you reach the age of 50.”

One of my pet peeves over the years has been an individual or a couple coming into my office to review a home loan, and the phrase slips out, “I am 50 now, so this will be the last home loan I get, of course…” or “I just turned 50, so I am on the downside of working now.”

But it is not ever said in the current ‘FIRE’ trend (Financially Independent, Retire Early). Rather the phrase always encased in a context of fatalism and defeatism. As in the bulk of life has run its course; nothing further can be on the horizon to look forward to but a slow decline that will inevitably end in the old folks home.

And we help with the home loan.

Knowing there is so much more.

If anything, that is a symptom of a bygone era, when life expectancy was much lower than it is today. And, if you follow current medical advancements, most significantly around stem cell advancements, you will know that one of the leading diseases that kill adult males in the US and Western world is heart disease.

But a lot are predicting that will be all but wiped out by 2030 or so.

Sure, we will still all take that long, cold dirt nap at some point. None of us get out of this alive. But we can live to the fullest while we are here and this side of the grave.

My proposal is that we actually do so.

What’s Holding Us Back?

Probably, in my experience, two things.

First, habit.

We have built a life that is now in a routine, to a large or smaller extent. We all have. But that does not have to define us going forward.

Example: Morgan Freeman. I really like just about every role he plays…and he plays a lot of roles. I really don’t know the numbers, but if I had to guess, Freeman is in more films than any other A-list actor.

But I remember him on The Electric Company an awfully long time ago. And as good a kids’ Saturday morning show as that may have been…it was not the stuff of A-list actors.

His first break-through role, Street Smart, came when he just turned 50. And that was followed by Driving Miss Daisy, and, well, the rest is history. He’s even played God on occasion. I submit you cannot get a higher role than that! Divine.

But, of course, Freeman is a star. And you and I are not.

We can still excel, and live, and love life. Even if it means living a life different than what we wake up to every day at the moment.

Change is hard. No one disputes that.

But change is exactly what is needed. And we resist. Take this common conversation:

Jennifer: “You look great, Michelle, what have you been doing?”

Michelle: “Oh, a few months back I changed to a largely plant-based diet. And I hired a personal trainer at the gym. He works me hard, but I love the way I feel.”

Jennifer: “Wow, I could never do that.”

And life goes on, a bit overweight and dissatisfied. Because change is right there, but requires habits that are not easy to create.

That, and nothing happens overnight.

Tony Robbins says, “We overestimate what we can do in a year; and we underestimate what we can do in ten years.”

So true.

But habits, small changes to them, compound over time to dramatic transformations. If we are willing to develop new habits.

A second reason exists, I believe. And that is upbringing.

A lot of us were brought up in a time where the industrial revolution was waning, but still part of out collective psyche.

My father, for example, is a great man. He worked in a factory for General Motors as a tool & die maker; and was skilled at his trade. That career afforded us a comfortable upbringing, and he a fulfilling career.

And yet, I recall a time when I was a teen where he strongly considered venturing out on his own. I really don’t know if the entrepreneurial bug bit, or if he was just so confident in his skills that he thought he could offer more to the world than the factory life afforded.

What I do know is, the conclusion when presenting that to my mother was a resounding ‘no’. And he never did follow that urge.

The E-Myth by Michael Gerber would indicate that had he followed that path, of course some new skills would have had to have been employed to go from a great technician to a business owner. And perhaps I am just overly proud of my father – but I think he would have excelled.

Now, we will not ever know.

That story does not have to be yours. Not if you don’t want it to be.

A lot of millennials are looking at the economy and their place in it quite differently than our parents. For all the articles that lament how millennials do not have the opportunities that we had; there are just a lot of them that do not get stuck on that, and are forging a way that does not involve planning for a long career in one job, with a pension as they grey into their twilight years.

In fact, they know that does not exist. So, they adapt. And so should we.

Listen to what Gary Vaynerchuk  has to say about being 50 and starting something new, perhaps something you’ve always dreamed of…

True, you didn’t always know how to ride a bike. You learned. You didn’t always know how to be a good parent. You learned. And I agree with Gary Vee, a lot of 50 year olds look at technology and think how lucky that the millennials grew up with the internet and social media and Instagram…it is their world to conquer.

Yes, it is. And it is your world to conquer, too.

Only you have the advantage of life experience as you set out to build your thing. You are not infatuated with the number of ‘likes’ you get or the latest ‘influencer’. You have too many grey hairs to be sucked in by the things that just don’t matter. And that is why you have the life experience to focus on what matters to build a business.

Oh, and just like riding a bike or learning to parent, there is a learning curve to the whole thing…the whole new experience. The difference, for most of us, is crucial. We pretty much learned to ride a bike with a push from our parent, and a few scraped knees. And we learned to parent in a similar manner, with some advice from our parents…and a few scraped knees. Ours. Not so much our kids’ knees.

But with experience comes wisdom. And we know from any other effort to pick up something new that the learning curve can be shortened, the scrapes can be largely avoided, by relying on someone who has been down this road before us.

And that can come from buddying up to a mentor who has built something similar to what we are thinking of. Maybe a few books by the experts, Youtube videos (who hasn’t turned to Youtube to fix some appliance or household need?), or even a coach that you hire. Yes, it is amazing how much a coach can hold you accountable and shorten the learning curve in a new field for you.

If you are 50ish and not content to just do that same thing you have always done, and not content to just binge the next Netflix series, then do. Reach for help where you need it.

Life is not just coasting in once you reach the age of 50. Maybe it was a few generations back. But not now. This is the time to live, to dream, to create. And that’s my hope for you. That you live.

About The Author

For years, 18 as of this writing, I have walked beside average men and women of all ages on a specific journey. The journey of home ownership.
And what I have discovered in opening up the financial reality of thousands of individuals & couples is a constant mix if fear, hope, confusion and achievement. It really is an exhilarating journey!
And I have read innumerable books on personal finance, read the blogs and listened to the podcasts, and spoken to the experts. And there always seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the theory of ‘personal finance’ and the lived reality of what is, truly, personal finance.

This is a place where real life meets real money. I hope you will come along on the journey to explore Finance, on the Front Line.


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