In the first chapter of her superb book on midlife challenges,
Awakening at Midlife,
Kathleen Brehony writes eloquently about the many forms these challenges take.
She captures the essence of their meaning in quoting a passage from Dante's
"Midway upon the journey of my life I found myself in a dark wood, where the right way was lost..."
She mentions that at midlife most people undergo some type of physical, relational, professional or psychological challenge. You begin to realize that you are beginning to age. Looking in the mirror can be a shock. You might be living an unhappy marriage or having an affair. You might be fed up with doing the same job year in and year out. Or you may be experiencing some form of disillusionment or despair.
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In my own case a major challenge in midlife was dealing with money.
Midlife challenges and money
On the topic of midlife challenges Dr. Fred and I did a small, informal survey among midlife business contacts and friends at the end of 2007. We found that their top concerns were financial security, health and well-being and fulfillment or happiness. It’s not surprising.
I myself am no exception to these findings. Even though I have a nice house, a car and an interesting savings plan, I had serious midlife money challenges. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings about money that I wrote in my journal in late 2005:
• I lost a hell of a lot of money because of bad business decisions. I’m really angry because it has eroded my purchasing power, increased my debt, and caused me unnecessary stress and discomfort. • I feel sad because time is marching on and I haven’t been able to do the things I want with my family. • I feel afraid about not having enough passive revenue to provide for my future years. • I feel ashamed about having to borrow so much. • I feel guilty about having to ask my wife for money.
How often have you had similar feelings of anger, sadness, fear and guilt about your handling of money?
A weekend session in money management
In 2005, a business contact whom I had met through Business Network International gave me T. Harv Eker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, a book that I still have in my library (see below). She also invited me to Eker’s weekend session on money management. I had absolutely no interest in attending what I considered a motivational event high on hype and low on substance.
My attitude towards midlife challenges and money changed after reading Eker’s book. I was initially sceptical, but I decided to attend the session. I wasn't disappointed. I found that Eker and his team, using varied and imaginative teaching techniques, offered tremendous value to the thousand people or so attending the “free” three day event. Of course, there was a lot of heavy selling of what seemed like an endless list of workshops, seminars, workbooks and audio programs. It’s not easy resisting the temptation to buy a $2,000 seminar when you are highly charged.
What did I learn from the seminar? In a nutshell, I learned to look at money in a radically different way and take responsibility for my financial decisions and success. I’m convinced that those midlifers in attendance came away better equipped to face money midlife challenges.
How I changed my thinking
The Eker weekend seminar encouraged me: • to recognize my limiting or non-supportive beliefs regarding money, such as, I’m not a good money manager • to develop supporting thoughts, such as, I create the exact amount of my financial success • to reflect on my real reasons for wanting to be financially independent, such as, desiring to live in Mexico during the winter • to use simple money management techniques, such as, the five jars in which you put money aside for: 1) financial freedom, 2) long-term savings for spending, 3) education, 4) daily necessities, and 5) giving.
Another book I often refer to in my conversations about money midlife challenges with business contacts and friends is Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life: Transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence.
I like their notion of “The Fulfilment Curve”. It’s a simple graph that shows the relationship between the experience of fulfilment and the amount of money you spend. The authors describe four different levels of fulfilment: survival, comforts, luxuries and over-consumption. The horizontal line at the bottom of the graph represents money spent and the vertical line fulfilment. As you spend more money you go from just surviving, to attaining comforts and then having luxuries. The authors argue that you reach your peak fulfilment level when you have just “enough.” After that point you overspend, clutter your life and reduce your level of fulfilment. They preach the unpopular notion that bigger or more is not better, but rather less is more.
Finally, I occasionally refer to David Bach’s,
The Automatic Millionaire: A powerful one-step plan to live and finish rich.
The advice in this book is simplistic compared to that in the Dominguez book. However, I like to reread from time to time his advice on becoming debt free: don’t use a lot of credit cards and pay off in full your monthly credit card balances. You should try it sometime.