Last Friday the 13th I turned 60 years old. I realize most women go to great lengths to hide their age in our youth-obsessed society, but if we continue to act as though getting older is something to be ashamed of, attitudes about aging will never change. So here I am, realizing that I’m coming to the end of my 6th decade, and it’s made me a little philosophical.
Our culture tends to focus on all the negative aspects of aging and can marginalize people over whatever number you think is ‘old.’ But there are a lot of positives about turning 60, and getting older provides a different perspective about life, so I’m going to invoke my privilege as an ‘elder’ and share some advice and encouragement:
If you chose wisely when you pick your life partner, it only gets better. I watch young people struggle with dating and relationships and I don’t envy them at all. One of the greatest gifts in my life was meeting my life partner when I was only 15. When you find the right person, the struggles you face in life are not your own, which makes the journey infinitely easier. Work hard to get this decision right and don’t compromise on someone for the wrong reasons. And remember, the wedding is your commitment ceremony, not a requirement to throw the party of the year. Your financial advisor and your future self will thank you later.
Small things add up. I realize this flies in the face of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” advice you usually hear, but small things done repetitively over a long period of time have a much bigger impact than big, one-time events. When our kids were growing up and we were both working long days, our time spent helping them with homework, reading stories and tucking them in every night helped us build close relationships and memories they still talk about. On the other hand, a trip to Disney World their father and I thought they would love, and we felt we had to provide, was not filled with the magical moments we’d imagined. The best times are the day-to-day moments, appreciated for what they are. The same principal holds for consistent savings over your entire life (starting as early as possible) versus a big deposit later. Catching up is nearly impossible.
Don’t take 100% of the credit for where you are now. Humility is healthy. My peer group (OK Boomer) tends to believe we worked harder than everyone, which is why we are in much better shape than the generations who came after us. While I believe I have a strong work ethic, I also know many things happened during my lifetime that helped me financially and they had nothing to do with my skills or hard work. Real estate appreciation, stock market booms and other socioeconomic factors gave us some wind at our back. Of course, nearly every generation thinks those that come after are slackers. Don’t fall into the same trap.
It’s OK to make mistakes. This might evoke a ‘duh!’ from some of you, but this took me a long time to accept, so I’m tossing it out there for those of you who suffer from the same delusion I did. I was taught that it was not OK to mess up, which kept me from taking risks and trying things unless I was sure I would be a success. Some of my best learning has come from making mistakes and those lessons, while painful at the time, stuck with me and gave me a basis for moving forward. If you think you’ve made a poor financial decision, acknowledging it now and making a correction means you still have an opportunity to be in a better place.
Don’t stay in a job that takes away your life. I’m not saying ‘follow your passion’ because I believe that advice has made too many people think they have to be blissfully happy every moment of their work day or they aren’t in the right place. Work does take effort, and there are times when you may feel stressed or tired or just aren’t feeling up to it – but it should be something you enjoy. Before starting TAAG in 1988 I was a CPA and a banker, and neither gave me the satisfaction of helping people the way my work does today.
When what you do has meaning for you it adds to the quality of your life, it doesn’t take from it. I may be 60 now, but I plan to be happily working here at TAAG for another decade, because it brings me joy. Thank you for giving me that privilege!