Put up your hand if you found yourself doing a tiny bit of soul searching at the end of last year?
Even if you don’t subscribe to the media-driven New Year’s Resolution hype, each one of us has that fleeting moment when we find ourselves contemplating how we are going to be better during the next 365 days. It’s almost as if a hard-coded reset button gets automatically triggered the very moment midnight rolls around and ushers us into a new year, filled with endless opportunities for do-overs and do-betters.
Like it or not, our subconscious picks a few do-overs and do-betters and locks it in for us.
That’s cool because a new year is a great time to make changes in your life. What isn’t so cool is the pressure you might feel if this year is a milestone year in your life.
Are you turning 30, 40 or 50 in 2019?
How do you feel about that?
It’s a little bittersweet, isn’t it?
30, 40, 50 and even 60 are big milestone numbers, and if you don’t have a few of them under your belt already, you are going to feel a little different on your birthday. If the New Year had you spending some time pondering life, wait until your birthday rolls around. Sure, it’s all psychological, and it’s only a number but somehow turning 40 is different to turning 39.
Why is that? Why do we feel different?
The reason is simple.
Milestones are ingrained in the fabric of society and have always had significance in our lives. Think about it for a second – a cricket batsman gets to lift his bat when he has chalked up a century of runs, not 99 runs. A tenth wedding anniversary carries far more significance than a ninth anniversary although a mere 365 days separates the two. And you can only call yourself a millionaire if your bank balance has six digits and not five.
We are all fixated on numbers and the big, rounded off numbers we call milestones do tend to carry more weight.
Right or wrong, society paints a picture of what we need to look like by the time we reach these milestones, and that’s what makes us feel a little uncomfortable about turning 30, 40, 50 and 60.
For many of us, the idea that we are falling short of the mark is what takes a little shine off the occasion.
So, what are the three questions you should ask yourself every ten years?
If you cut to the chase, all our lives are broken into three life stages.
- Early adulthood – 19 to 45 years
- Middle age – 46 to 65 years
- The Golden years – 65 years and older
As you move through these life stages, we think there are three simple questions you need to keep asking yourself.
- Have I set goals for each of my life stages?
- Am I on track to meet my life stage goals?
- What must I do to get back on track?
Have I set goals for each of my life stages?
It’s easy to take life as it comes, but this is a mistake. Plotting your future could look something like this:
- Buy your first home at 30 with the intention to pay it off by the time you turn 45
- Have your first child at 32 with them going to university once you turn 50
- Have a second child at 35 with them going to university when you turn 53
- After 35 my focus will be on retirement
- Aim to retire at 60
Things don’t need to be set in stone, but the great thing about this is that it makes you focus in on each of the milestones. If you’re 40 and still without children, then you’re aware of the potential impact down the line.
Am I on track to meet my life stage goals?
Now it’s time to pull out your original plan and see if you’ve veered off track. If you don’t own a home yet, and you’re edging towards 50, is it even worthwhile buying one? Maybe you prefer renting to buying.
A plan that you don’t bother to review is a waste of time. Once you’ve set out your goals, you need to make sure that you track your progress against those goals.
What must I do to get back on track?
If you’re not on track, then you need to ‘recalculate’ in much the same as a GPS does. Any plan you put in place is probably not always going to go exactly to plan. That’s life. The trick is to have a financial plan with a set of well thought out logical conclusions or goals. When it’s time to re-evaluate your progress, you are either on track or not on track.
If it’s the latter, decide to get back on track.
Take retirement for example:
If you don’t have enough money saved, can you postpone your retirement age? Perhaps you have a skill which will allow you to continue working after 65. A bookkeeper, working for a company, might be able to set up a small private practice after going on retirement that could keep the home fires burning for a good few years.
Take buying a home:
If you’re buying a house at 50, what must you do to pay it off in ten years? Does it help to buy a 3-bedroom home when the kids leave home next year? Maybe a smaller house is a wiser decision?
If you are celebrating a milestone birthday in 2019, let us be the first to congratulate you.
Don’t let the occasion weigh you down.
If you get the feeling you should be doing a bit better, decide to give yourself a break and focus on making some time to work out where you want to be in 10 years from now and how you are going to get there.
Try the life stages model yourself; Let us know if it works for you
.The Wise About Life Team