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middle age is realising you’ll never realise your dreams?

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I once read a definition of middle age as the point in time when you realise that you are never going to own a Mercedes convertible.

Now, I guess all the Mercedes owning readers get overexcited that they’re never going to reach middle age. The point that the author was trying to make is that when we are young, we have dreams about the things that we’re going to accomplish, and the stuff that we’ll have - we’re all going to be rich and successful etc, etc. But at some point we’ll probably realise that no, we’re going to have more modest and ordinary lives.

It sort of makes me think about lifestyle inflation. It’s reasonably easy for me to go without various luxuries - new clothes, expensive trips abroad, eating in posh restaurants - but I think that I expect to be able to do these some day. When I reach middle age, and realise that some stuff probably isn’t ever going to happen and that I’m probably never really going to be any richer, financially, will I succumb to lifestyle inflation then?

I know there’s that saying that Dave Ramsey fans are always quoting that goes something like:

Live like no one else will, so that you can live like no one else can.

Which is fine, but what happens when you suspect that no matter how much you live like no one else will, you’ll never really be able to live like no one else can? Perhaps, when you reach true middle age, that can be true and you make your peace with it. I certainly think it would help to have a fulfilling life in non-financial terms because nobody thinks money is everything, and being content with what you’ve got is easier when you have a rich life in intangible ways.

I don’t know. I get the impression that many of my readers are more mature than me, whether they are older in years or not, so why don’t you let me know what you think about contentedness in the comments.

Posts on other blogs that are related (in my mind at least) and certainly interesting:

  • are we financially worse off than our parents? [Moolanomy]
  • balanced living for today and saving for tomorrow [Paidtwice]
  • is your life fiction or non-fiction? [My Two Dollars]
  • developing a millionaire mindset [BripBlap]

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19 comments for “middle age is realising you’ll never realise your dreams?”

  1. I am only 31 but by that definition I’m already middle aged! I know that I will never have all of the things I want, but the trick is to decide which things I want most and which future dreams I am willing to sacrifice.

    Posted by Canadian | March 6, 2009, 9:00 pm
  2. Shoot, I’ve already hit the point where I realize that I can’t have it all. So I’ve decided to follow the dreams which are most important to me AND easiest to realize along with other dreams (i.e. ones that don’t require me to be single, because being married to Micah is a good thing).

    But I don’t yet know which dreams I won’t be able to achieve, because I’m still young and shooting for them. I hope that when the time comes, I’ll be able to make my peace with it and really live out what I do have. :)

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | March 6, 2009, 9:32 pm
  3. To me migdle age has meant realising how silly most of my early dreams were and having new dreams which are achievable.
    Being content to me is about having a simple life with few possessions, it took reaching 40 for me to realise this.

    Posted by Laura @ move to portugal | March 7, 2009, 6:55 am
  4. Yikes. What a depressing post… I am 38. I am slowly coming to the realization that while I can have a successful career and lead a financially secure lifestyle I will probably not own one of those Ferrari’s I periodically see driving around the neighborhood. I don’t think I would actually buy one even if I could afford to, but still.

    I have still not given up on my notion of winning a Nobel prize, an Oscar and a Congressional Medal of Honor!

    Posted by Shadox | March 9, 2009, 2:46 am
  5. I’ve come to realize in the past few months that I’ve probably over-focussed on the far-end of my goals, rather than the near-term.

    I’ve done a lot of living one way now, as Dave Ramsey says, but I’m wondering about how I’ll live like no one else can in the future.

    Lots of the ’sacrifices’ (which were nothing much compared to previous generations) were fine - I’m glad I’m not bothered too much about material things, for instance.

    But I do wonder about all those extra hours worked at weekends, only to see the resultant savings vanish in the bear market. Perhaps I should have seen more friends, or travelled more, or spent at least a little more of the money while I had it to spend!

    Illness in a parent really brings home to you what we all know - life doesn’t last forever. The Ramsey quote taps into a very Baby Boom-generation idea that they’re going to never get old. In reality there’s no point getting a nest egg of £1million, say, if you can only spend it for 3 years before you get really ill.

    Certainly not advocating spending it all today. But there must be some sort of balance.

    Good luck with your mid-life crisis! I’ve been having one ever since I turned 25 (too many years ago now!)

    Posted by Monevatir | March 9, 2009, 9:27 am
  6. Its crucial to decide which one is the better, either to lead a posh luxurious life or a simplistic life. There is no limit for becoming wealthier, its almost infinite. Only when you have got almost all the wealth in this world one will get satiated.Thats the constitution of the mind. It craves,craves and dies.Craving never ends.When it doesn’t get one which it craves for it gets depressed and opens up the pandoras box. On the other hand, think of leading a very simplistic life, where you dont have anything more than what is needed for sustenance. It has limit whereas the other is infinite. It doesn’t mean renunciation. It is satisfaction. When you are satisfied with whatever you have, you have half become a God!!! Become God and rule your inner world.Try to remember the butterfly effect here, when you dont eat more than what you need to quell your hunger you are helping the other one deprived of food. Be satisfied in turn you are helping the deprived even without your knowing. How great this world is working with its own laws. So enjoy in being satisfied.

    Posted by John | March 9, 2009, 2:14 pm
  7. I’ve spent the last 3 or 4 months doing research into my “Dream Job” and how I can get from a to b. The amount of years involved assuming I study it in Canada is, well, a lot. But the expense and opportunity cost of studying it in Ireland is also extremely prohibitive. Do I want to be starting a new career in my 40s? Would anyone even hire me? It depressed the hell out of me, to be honest.

    Posted by guinness416 | March 9, 2009, 3:28 pm
  8. @Shadox:
    I didn’t really mean it to be depressing. Just kind of thinking that at some point you realise that some of your dreams aren’t your dreams any more at least, not enough that you’re willing to put everything else on hold for them.
    I’m personally expecting to be in the honours list if not a knighthood (although not sure Baroness plonkee is a great name). An Oscar has never been on my wishlist, but I’m torn between a Nobel Prize for Economics, or the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite neither being an economist nor a peace activist.

    I think you’re right. At some point you have to start living your life like you want it to be (whilst maintaining a sensible financial position). I guess it’s hard to keep on the middle ground between spending like you’re going to be dead tomorrow, and saving like you’re going to live to be 200.

    The only advice I’ve received on the same sort of topic, is to not get caught up in how old you’ll be in x years time, you can choose to be in your 40s in your dream career, or in your 40s and not in your dream career, but you’re not going to get to stay in your 30s regardless. I think it’s supposed to counteract the whole OMG I’m going to be 42 by the time I finish this, because you’re going to be 42 anyway. Doesn’t mean you necessarily want to spend lots and lots of years studying for it.

    Posted by plonkee | March 9, 2009, 7:38 pm
  9. Middle age.
    I just turned 37 last weekend. I don’t care how many older people call me a “pup” I know I am middle aged now.
    There are dreams that I have had to leave behind, and only very recently realized that I will likely have to admit that these dreams are not practical for this lifetime now.
    The biggest one (that the husband and I shared) was we really wanted to own a hobby farm on the edge of nowhere with chickens, a garden and lots of fruit trees.
    We could swing it, but there would be major upheaval! The kids would be uprooted from their school (and friends), we’d have a bigger mortgage, more expensive commuting, be farther from needy family members, etc… and we aren’t prepared to make those sacrifices for the dream.
    Life has offered us a pretty good gig, and we recognize it as good so we are stating in suburbia for a while longer….

    Posted by Pol* | March 10, 2009, 9:01 pm
  10. I’m 38. Middle age is when most people trade the lofty dreams for simpler goals.

    Most people settle into the suburbs, raise kids, spend vacations visiting family instead of globetrotting, work 9 to 5 etc..
    It’s not all bad and you can still change careers or travel in mid-life of course, but it’s not as easy. Some dreams you just have to let go.

    Posted by jj | March 10, 2009, 10:47 pm
  11. We’re in our mid to late twenties and it is scary reading how some people realised that their dreams are never going to materialise in their middle age. I get really afraid sometimes thinking all of our “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later” might not account for anything “later” because we’ll still be in the same position slogging away at living frugally.

    We’ve fine tuned our plans a few times along the way, definitely, as our situation change or a lightbulb moment reveals a better way of doing things etc. Right now, we’re still on track on achieving our dreams and goals by the time we’re 40. I hope it doesn’t all come crashing down in our thirties… yikes! :)

    Posted by jill | March 11, 2009, 12:20 am
  12. Middle age scares me. To be honest, my mid twenties are scaring me, making me feel that if I don’t do something with myself soon, I am going to miss out on some serious opportunity.

    You just have to be careful about how you measure your success.

    Posted by Trevor @ Financial Nut | March 11, 2009, 3:45 am
  13. It took reaching 34/5, the end of a long-term relationship and the considerable financial trauma that came with that, and reaching a crisis in my career, to make me re-think the unquestioning values I held for most of my youth. It’s a scary process, but it is very true that crisis can lead to interesting growth. I now find myself clarifying what really matters to me in life, and thinking clearly for the first time about how whether I can live in a way that is sustainable financially and psychologically. The answers, when you start down this path of self-questioning, can be surprising. It’s horrifying in ways, but a mid-life crisis can be illuminating too.

    Posted by Mimi | March 11, 2009, 1:38 pm
  14. Wow, this was sort of a depressing post while I was reading it. But, when I really started to think about it I realized that although I may not have reached certain ‘dreams’ that I had when I was younger (I’m 36 now)…those dreams are no longer what I want anymore. I have changed so much since my twenties and even my early thirties, since I had my first child, that what I want now and what I wanted then are light years apart. I think that is closer to what happens. So you are not necessarily ‘giving up’ those dreams, you just recognize that it’s not what’s important to you any longer. You change, so your dreams change too.

    I will have to check out more of your blog…I stumbled over here from GRS. MB

    Posted by MB | March 13, 2009, 6:10 pm
  15. LOL! Middle age is when you realize you don’t WANT a Mercedes convertible. It’s not a matter of giving up a dream. It’s the dawning realization that all that glisters is not gold.

    Posted by Funny about Money | March 15, 2009, 1:53 am
  16. @Funny about money: I totally agree with you. What matters in the end is realizing your spiritual goal. There’s enough money around for that!

    Posted by SummerSun | March 19, 2009, 1:25 pm
  17. Age is nothing but a number.

    Posted by Frank | September 14, 2009, 11:10 am

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