The term “midlife crisis” often conjures up images of sports cars, reckless affairs, and existential dread. However, it isn’t all bad. A midlife crisis can also help you chart a course for the future and transform your life. Many people in their 30s and 40s are going through the same thing.

I had a midlife crisis when I was 35. Back then, I had a big house, a beautiful wife, a nice car, and a well-paid career. Unfortunately, I was also constantly stressed out and unhappy. My engineering career was great when I was 22 but it wasn’t the right fit at 35. The company demanded more allegiance from its senior engineers. I couldn’t handle it and my health suffered. That’s when I started Retire by 40. Blogging gave me an outlet and it helped me plan an exit strategy. Luckily, I was always frugal and invested a large percentage of my income. Consistent investing gave me a huge head start toward financial independence.

In retrospect, a midlife crisis was useful for me. I didn’t want to work in a grey cubical for the rest of my life and I escaped successfully. Life has been fantastic since I retired from my engineering career. However, I’m 50 this year and I sense another midlife crisis coming on. This time, it’s more subtle. Today, let’s talk about the midlife crisis and see how we can make it a positive experience.  

Are you having a midlife crisis?

How do you know if you’re having a midlife crisis? The most obvious signal is that you feel unhappy and need to change. But it can also creep up unnoticed. Here are some common signs.

  • A sense of restlessness or dissatisfaction. You might feel like you’re going through the motions, or that your life is lacking meaning or purpose.
  • Increased introspection and questioning. You might find yourself asking big questions about your career, relationships, and overall life trajectory.
  • Changes in mood and behavior. You might be more irritable or anxious than usual, or you might engage in impulsive or reckless behavior.
  • A yearning for something more. You might feel a deep desire for new experiences, personal growth, or a stronger sense of connection to something bigger than yourself.

Does any of this sound familiar? I had all these symptoms when I was 35. I needed to change my life or figure out how to accept being a corporate drone. Fortunately, my exit strategy worked out beautifully. I reduced our expenditure and invested as much as we could. After a few more years, we achieved financial independence via the 4% rule*. I retired from my engineering career and became a stay-at-home dad/blogger. Over the last 11 years, our net worth grew 300%, thanks to Mrs. RB40. She kept working and we were able to continue saving. Anyway, it worked out better than I imagined.  

*4% rule – Figure out your annual expenditure and multiply it by 25. That’s how much you need to accumulate to retire. You can withdraw 4% every year and your investment should last over 30 years. If you can keep the withdrawal rate under 3%, your asset should keep growing.   

Another midlife crisis?

I’m 50 this year. It’s a big birthday. The last time the number rolled over, I accomplished my goal of retiring early. Retire by 40! This time, I don’t have any big goals. Life is good and I don’t need to make any big changes. However, there were some big personal events this year that changed some of my behavior.

My mom passed away earlier this year. She was just 74. She had dementia since 2018 and it got worse every year. I spent 6 months with her last year and it saddens me. She couldn’t move or communicate at all. At the end, she was bedbound and had horrific bedsores. It was a terrible existence. I’m glad she doesn’t have to suffer anymore, but I miss her tremendously. Her passing made me think about my mortality.

74 wasn’t young, but it wasn’t that old either. It made me realize that life is short. I’m 50 and might not have a lot of time left. In 20 years, I might get dementia and start to deteriorate like my mom did. 20 years is long, but it’ll be here before you know it. We’d better live our best life now. Anyway, other things could go wrong. We never know how much time we have left.

This is probably the main reason why I became less frugal this year. Previously, I’d be hesitant to spend money on everything we did this year. We went to Disneyland, visited Washington D.C., and we’re flying out to Tahiti next week. I also got 2 new e-bikes, a new washer and dryer, a Blu-ray player, a new fence, and various other things to improve our lives. We are still saving, but less than in previous years. This is a big behavior change for me.

Work

Another big change this year is work. I’ve blogging about personal finance since 2010, but this year feels different. Blogging became a lot more difficult for some reason. Each blog post took more time than previously and some posts are not as good as I’d like. It’s hard to find a topic to write about. I feel like I lost my mojo for blogging. At this point in life, I’m not as passionate about FIRE as I used to be.

I still enjoy writing a blog post, but it doesn’t flow as easily these days. Also, I don’t read other blogs as much as I used to. Many of my favorite personal finance blogs I used to follow have diminished. They either stopped blogging or reduced their posting frequency. You could say the FIRE is growing dim. Dad joke, hahaha…

The future is now

If you’re experiencing some signs of a midlife crisis, don’t panic! It can be an opportunity for a positive change. My biggest tip is to talk to someone you trust and figure out a plan for the future. Take it slow. Don’t run out to get a new sports car right away.

Anyway, this bout of midlife crisis is pretty mild for me. Being less frugal is okay because we’re comfortable financially now. We don’t have to save for the future as much because the future is here. It’s time to enjoy the fruit of our labor. As long as we keep our expenditure under 3% of our net worth, we should be perfectly fine.

Blogging is a more difficult conundrum. I might be able to push through this period and get my mojo back. I need to find some new FIRE blogs to follow. Let me know if you know some good sites.

Have you had a midlife crisis? How did you get through it?

image credit: Martin Katler

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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