For many people, retirement is something far in the future that they are saving for. However, as you approach your 40s, you may begin to realize that you don’t want to wait another 10 or 20 years to make a change in your life.
You may be exhausted in your job or interested in trying another type of job. You want more freedom and less daily stress. Meaningful work and experiences are more important than saving a certain amount of money for a quiet retirement. By exploring your vision of a good life and starting preparations in advance, you can create the life of your dreams in your 40s and beyond.
I worked as a veterinarian for 28 years. Although the work was rewarding, it was also very stressful. I wanted more freedom to travel and try new experiences. I wanted to try different interesting and enjoyable jobs. I am now a certified life coach and nature therapy guide and have recently started writing travels. This trip was enjoyable and allowed me to try a lot of new things. Here are the areas to consider and start planning for your midlife transition.
1. Assess your finances and responsibilities
Because we all need food, shelter, and medical care, you need to start by assessing your financial situation. If you are financially savvy, you can determine if your income and expenses allow you to make changes in your job. Assess your long-term costs and day-to-day expenses. Do you still have children in school, a mortgage to pay or family members who need care?
If necessary, consider hiring a financial planner to help you make these decisions. When my husband and I were in the process of selling our clinic, we hired a certified financial planner to help us invest the proceeds. We looked for a company that matched our values and our needs. You can also read books and listen to podcasts to learn more.
As you think about spending, you may find that many things you spend money on don’t improve your life. You may be able to move into a smaller house or trade in an expensive car. You can also move to a less expensive area. By assessing your values and what is most enjoyable and meaningful in your life, you may decide to cut back on your expenses to reduce your work hours or move to a lower-paying job.
Because my veterinary work was causing me physical and mental strain, I began to cut my hours and looked to sell the practice. The sale allowed us to pay off our mortgage and invest enough to finance a reasonable retirement. However, we still have to pay for our daughter’s college, and I want to travel a lot more. Working with our financial planner, we determined how much income we still need.
2. Explore your options
Remember when you were young and spent time dreaming about all the things you could do in your life? Midlife offers another opportunity to do so, along with all the experience and resources you have accumulated over the years.
Take the time to imagine all the things you like to do and the new things you want to learn. Let yourself dream big for now. If you could do any job or spend time doing anything, what would it be? What would your ideal day look like? What about your ideal week, month or year? Write them down and expand your list as new ideas come to you.
Start exploring the most appealing ideas now. Would you need to change jobs or transition to a new career? Do you need a diploma, courses or vocational training? Do you need to earn income from this new activity or will it add to your expenses? Changing jobs could also allow you to reduce your expenses. For example, if you currently have to commute or buy expensive clothes or meals, working from home in a new position may be less expensive.
3. Pursue additional training
It’s never too late to learn. Once you’ve discovered the new knowledge you need, you can start taking classes or practicing skills while continuing your current job. Many online options for courses and certifications are available. Local community colleges and professional associations can also be a good place to look. You may also want to research ways to improve your sports or hobbies so you can enjoy them better as you age.
As I began to prepare to cut back on my work as a vet, I explored other types of work that I found interesting and fulfilling. Life coaching turned out to be a good fit for my skills and interests. I researched a few coaching schools to learn their philosophy and methods. Co-Active Training Institute offered a course spread over five weekends, and I flew to Los Angeles every weekend to attend.
I then took a 6 month certification course of zoom calls with my group of nine coaches. I also discovered and completed a certification in Nature Therapy Guiding, which also involved 6 months of bi-weekly Zoom meetings. These classes all fit into my part-time schedule at the vet clinic. I then took an online course in travel writing and started to become active in this community.
4. Try new options
Once you’ve narrowed down what your vision is, start looking for ways to sample your options. Working part-time or volunteering can help you determine if what you envision is feasible.
You may find that the work you want to move on to isn’t enjoyable once you actually do it. You may need to modify your plans a bit. Talk to other people working in the field or in the organization you think you want to join. If you can reduce your work hours or take a few weeks off to travel, you can see how that feels like a lifestyle.
Before starting my coaching classes, I looked in the International Coaching Federation directory and interviewed three coaches about their work. I then spoke with nature-based coaches before doing my certification to guide nature therapy. When I started my travel writing course, I started writing articles about local tourist attractions for travel publications, such as The journey awaits youto get feedback right away.
5. Find support
Making the transition to a new career or changing your lifestyle is difficult. It can take a few years and long hours to explore options and gain new knowledge. Support from family and friends can go a long way. They can help with brainstorming and finding options. By taking courses and joining organizations, you will bond with people interested in similar goals.
A business or activity group in your area or online can be a great resource for learning what’s involved with your new interests. Join seminars or meetups to experience what it’s like to be in the trenches of your job or desired activity. People who have been involved in your new quest for decades and people just starting out like you have helpful insights.
My classmates from my coaching and nature therapy guide classes have developed a strong bond and we keep in touch regularly. We can always receive the necessary support and guidance from each other. I also learn a lot from the travel writing community and we love to hear about each other’s adventures.
6. Gain the courage to move forward
It certainly takes more effort to switch to a new type of job or change your lifestyle. Continuing the same way of working and living may seem easier, but it also has its price in terms of pleasure and fulfillment.
Now that the pressure to build a career, raise a family, and fund your retirement is easing, you can once again dream and plan a life that is enjoyable and meaningful to you. You can focus on your mental, physical, and emotional health as you age.
Even if you disappoint or frighten others around you as you change your life, don’t lose your resolve. By moving forward courageously, you will find what works for you and will serve as a model for others. I have met people of all ages throughout my journey and they all inspire me to continue my efforts for a happy life. Being intentional with your life takes effort but is rewarding.
By starting your planning early, you can make your transition into quarantine intentional and enjoyable. Start dreaming of your best life, then achieve it. If you need help with your transition, consider hiring a ICF certified coach to help you create a vision and develop a plan.