Deal With Your Mid-Life Crisis By Buying Experiences, Not Things

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Last updated 31 August, 2016

It's perfectly normal for Singaporeans to experience a mid-life crisis. Here are some healthy, financially sound ways to deal with it.

There’s nothing embarrassing about a mid-life crisis. In fact, the whole idea behind it may be a myth.

No matter the age, we Singaporeans tend feel insecure about where we are in life and what we’ve missed out on. It happens throughout our lives, and the times it happens in our mid-thirties or forties is not any different.

What’s important is to maintain a healthy perspective and avoid going into financial ruin.

financial dangers of mid life crisis

The Financial Dangers of a Midlife Crisis

Can money fix a midlife crisis? No, but money can be used to soothe some of the issues (beyond that, counselling should be considered). The key is to keep things in perspective: one of the deadliest effects of a midlife crisis is an uncontrolled shopping binge.

This is when someone buys big-ticket items, such as sports cars or S$15,000 shoes, in order to feel better. These material items never have a long-lasting effect, so they have to make repeat purchases of this kind. This can rapidly escalate into high debts and financial ruin.

Here’s what we suggest instead:

1. Buy Experiences, Not Things

A midlife crisis often contains anxiety over not experiencing everything life had to offer. You’ve “missed out” somehow.

Now this is probably untrue. Nobody can experience everything in existence, and many experiences are unnecessary.

Still, one way to overcome this sensation is to spend on experiences rather than material items. Instead of buying an expensive car, use the money to visit a country you’ve always wanted to see. Go skydiving, kayaking, hiking - anything within the limits of your health.

If there is some kind of dream you’ve left unfulfilled, take small steps in its direction. Pay for a masterclass under a famous musician, take painting lessons in a private art school, learn to be a stand-up comic (there are courses for this). Perhaps even go overseas and do it.

Experiences like these will help you with your regrets and longings. It helps to get it out of your system, whereas material goods will do nothing to help that.

spend time with friends midlife

2. Spend on Group and Family Activities

One of the dangers of a midlife crisis is “drifting”. In extreme cases, people have upped and abandoned their families.

But you don’t have to “reset” your situation and blow up your life to be happy. So don’t just march out of the house, and go to Tibet for a week or something without telling anyone. Rather than act impulsively, reconnect and rebuild your relationships.

Now would be an ideal time for a long-neglected family vacation. Alternatively, spend on things like bringing the family on a kayaking trip or to Universal Studios. The point is to do things with them.

3. Enroll in Courses You've Always Wanted to Attend

Examine the root of your dissatisfaction. Does it come from feeling like you should have pursued another line of work? Or do you regret not finishing your degree?

That’s where you should be spending your effort and money. Even if you don’t end up changing careers or finishing your degree, it’s still beneficial: you are getting a taste of what it’s really like, and you can stop being badgered by thoughts of “how it could have been”.

If you do finish the programme, you could be more qualified when you end your new studies and embark on a new career.

The key to doing this is to plan for it financially. Make sure you accumulate at least six months of your income in savings before embarking on a dramatic career change.

While education loans may be closed to you at this point (check with banks), you can shop around for the cheapest possible personal loans to fund the programme. Use to find a good personal loan for education with a low interest rate.

Do not pay the entire cost of the course you are attending upfront, even if there would be a discount. This ensures you can quit at any time, should you change your mind.

take care of health midlife

4. Spend On Your Body Instead of Your Clothes

A common facet of midlife crisis is to worry about our appearance. We may feel we look much less attractive, or that we appear undesirable.

But remember that looking “worn out” is more about stress levels, personal confidence, and physical health. To that end, you should focus your spending more toward looking after your body. Paying S$600 for a pair of shoes will not fix this.

Spas and saunas can relieve stress, but don’t pay for more than a month or two in advance, in case they close down. You can also consider indulging in a personal trainer or joining a boutique fitness studio.

Keep your spending focused on things that improve your body, rather than on material trappings like clothes, watches, or jewellery.

5. Spend on New Creative Pursuits

Dancing, painting, playing an electric guitar, or taking a masterclass to write a novel: these are all better ways to spend money than buying a new smartphone.

Taking up new creative pursuits can change a midlife crisis to midlife growth, especially if you discover a new talent in the process. These activities can fulfill an often subconscious desire: the need to express yourself and be heard, or to leave behind a legacy you’re proud of.

Your friends might make fun of you for buying an expensive sports car (a midlife crisis car, as they’re called), but they will pause and give respect if they see you’re taking up creative pursuits instead.

quality time midlife

6. Spend Money on Time

If you need to lose income to get more personal time, a midlife crisis is a good time to do just that. Time is more valuable than money (you can get money back, but not time), and chances are you will not be at your best in the office anyway.

It is absolutely worth taking a long sabbatical, even if it might be unpaid, to lower your stress levels. Do not end up in a situation where work becomes a retreat (you work obsessively to avoid thinking about what worries you), as the stress results in cortisol build up. This makes you gain weight (which makes you feel worse about yourself), and raises the threat of health complications such as hypertension.

If you can trade money for time, it’s usually worth it.

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Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.


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