If we look beyond the physical implications of aging and hitting our 50s, I believe that decade is a mental and financial sweet spot. I see my clients in their 50s enjoying life more with ample free time for their interests and families, more income to spend, and a better understanding of what their strengths and passions are in their work and personal lives.
When I review my clients’ assets and liabilities, along with their cash flow statements, I typically see a stronger financial picture than they had in their 30s and 40s too.
That said, while you might be tempted to start “kicking back” at this point in your career, I encourage you to think differently and Lean In as Sheryl Sandberg has stated. I recommend you save aggressively during your early- to late-50s because these typically are the best paying years of your career. By your mid 50s your kids are probably older and more independent, or you may be approaching empty nest syndrome and can afford more time to dedicate to work.
Drive your career as if it’s a journey and position yourself as an expert that your company, clients or directors can’t live without. Market yourself based on what you can do that others can’t. Position the services you provide as essential for getting things done in your business. Find out what unique attributes you bring to the table that are needed now and will be needed 15 years from now. If you have to learn a cutting edge new skill, go for it.
If your employer offers training to learn how to get more out of your computer, the Internet, social media or even learning a new language, lean in and get it! Your local community college or university probably offers all kinds of affordable classes in person (and online) to suit your schedule. Of course, you don’t need a formal class to learn. Read a book as an avenue towards broadening your skill and knowledge base. You can also mentor a college student or intern–you may be surprised what they can teach you.
If you’re having a tough time with this one, seek help. I find many career coaches are very good at transforming your career. Now may be a good time to gain clarity in how you will transform your career from working full time in your 50s to working when it’s convenient for you in your 60s. The sooner you develop a roadmap for this exercise, the better off you will be.
Not sure where to find a career coach? The International Coaches Federation or the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches websites are good places to start. Ultimately, it’s about leaning in and taking responsibility for your growth to make you that much more invaluable.
This leads me to a TechGirl Financial Tip about your 50s: it’s time to take care of you and your retirement needs.
You may be tempted to spend a fortune on children’s college education expenses now. It’s an understandable desire. However, if you do not have adequate funds saved for both your retirement and your children college expenses, you must save more for yourself and your retirement than you spend on your kids. (Should I repeat this?) Your kids can get loans and have a lifetime of income to earn, there are no loans or do-overs if you don’t get it right in retirement. If this is hard for you to do, think from your children’s future point of view. The burden for your kids to pay off a student loan will be far less stressful than the burden of having to take care of an aging parent physically, emotionally, and financially. You must protect your retirement first, then help with college funding once you know your retirement is secure. See more college funding ideas in my blog article 5 Ways to pay for college on your terms.