Tess Vigeland: So… 40 is the new 30, right? Life begins at 40 and all that? Well, commentator J.D. Roth could not agree more. And we asked him to give us a sense of what makes the 40s so financially fabulous — at least, for him.
J.D. Roth: Here’s a confession: The best thing about being in my 40 is I don’t worry about money. But I didn’t get there overnight. I used to worry about money a lot.
In my 30s, I was careless with cash and credit. I bought whatever I wanted — usually computers and comic books — and I never thought about the future. I was the proverbial grasshopper. I sang the summer away while the ants saved for winter. And guess what: I racked up more than $35,000 in debt by the time I was 34.
Eventually, I realized I needed to stop worrying and do something. I paid off my debt. I changed careers, and I stopped comparing myself to my friends. Now that I’ve reached my 40s, my financial life finally seems stable — solid, even. It took a while, but I’ve made the transition from grasshopper to ant — from spender to saver.
And it’s a transition that many of my friends have made too. I hear the same stories from them. We did the things we thought we were supposed to do — buy a house, buy new cars, have kids — but now that we’re entering middle age, we care less what other people think. It’s more fun to follow our own goals. And many of us are discovering that we have enough: We’ve already bought everything we need, and we realize it’s senseless to buy everything we want.
It probably helps that most 40-somethings earn more money than they did in their 20s and 30s. Often a lot more. Still, our extra income is being poured into Roth IRAs and 401(k)s. Why? Because we failed to think about retirement in our 30s. So, now we feel pressure to save as fast as we can. We’re making up for lost time. So, when you hit your 40s, your lifestyle really doesn’t change much. Well, except for kids.
Most people my age have children, and these kids are getting older — and more expensive. Then there’s the cost of college. Some folks are faced with a tough choice: Do I save for retirement? Or do I help put my kids through school? The lucky ones can do both.
I think it’s ironic, really, that in our 40s, we’re more focused on the future than we were in our 20s and 30s — back when we actually had more of a future to focus on.
Vigeland: J.D. Roth writes about personal finance at GetRichSlowly.org.
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