A couple of years ago, a friend offered an observation that has stuck with me and I think much of our lives (and financial perspectives) can be traced back to this one single idea. That is “We can only see half of our life ahead of where we are.”
Meaning, if you are 20, the oldest you can truly see yourself being is 30. Thinking about my own experiences and thought processes to this point in my life, I think this may be one of the more accurate and interesting observations I have heard. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking about it.
Let’s explore this and what this could mean for various ages and I have some (very) brief thoughts on life at the end.
If we are 20 and the oldest we can see ourselves being is 30, then we can spend our 20s “finding ourselves” and making plenty of life mistakes. Because of course, we have our whole lives ahead of us.
Once we hit 30, we can envision ourselves being 45. If we’re not already married with kids, many of us stress about needing to make those life changes. We can also see ourselves being settled into our careers and start to think more long-term career-wise. Our life’s purpose may also start rounding into form. Having a family encourages our savings habits if we weren’t one of the smart twenty-somethings who started early.
Once we hit 40, we can start to see 60 ahead of us. This means that for the first time we can see ourselves nearing retirement. I think this a major reason why so many people start saving for retirement in their 40s because it’s the first time people can see themselves actually retiring. There’s nothing quite like being able to see the finish line to get us to take some action toward that goal.
Once we hit 50, we can see 75. We know we’re in the home stretch of our career and hopefully doubling down on our savings. Our career capital is peaking and we try to max out our earnings. If we’re lucky, we have avoided major health problems, but we may not be as spry as we once were.
By the time we reach 60, we can envision 90. This is the first point in this (perhaps silly) thought experiment that we can envision the end of our lives. It’s when we start stressing about being retired because the hopes and dreams we have put off to this point have a much shorter time horizon in which we can actually realize those dreams. I know that for my dad, turning 60 was the first birthday he had trouble with. He said it was the first birthday that meant he was getting old because it’s the decade you file for Social Security and Medicare. For many people, it’s the decade that people start to feel their age.
So, what should we make of this thought experiment? After reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, something I have tried to turn into a bit of a mantra for myself is, “Let’s do something.” The quote from his book that inspired this mantra is,
“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”
What can you do to make a meaningful life? Or, thinking of the question slightly differently, what can you do to make stories (a.k.a. memories)? No matter what age you are, I want to offer a simple reminder that there is still time to create more stories. This might sound overly simple, but making memories involves “doing something.”
Don’t let this overwhelm you. “Doing something” can be simple. It can be a walk in the woods with your spouse or grandchildren. It can be exploring the national parks. It can be setting up weekly family dinners. Let your mind run, but allow spontaneity to play a part. It’s what I like about the idea of “let’s do something” is that it encourages spontaneity.
I honestly can’t say what the next step is for you to figure it out. I just hope that if you feel like you have just been floating by, that you let that quote be an inspiration to you as it was for me. Take heart that there is still time to pivot from our comfortable chairs in front of the new Netflix series to make things happen and make new memories.
Maybe read Miller’s book as a starting point. It was one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year.
Then go do something. I know I am.
Thanks for reading!
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