The Critical 50s


Whether you are seeing through the front windshield of your life, you are in the middle of it, or you are glancing through the rear view mirror to see where it went, your decade of being 50 Is critical.

You are too old to be young, and you are too young to be old. You are a “tweener” for sure.

Here are some of the ways life changed during your 50s:

1, The kids left, almost through college, and you can feel the financial strain beginning to lift.

2. Your spouse goes back to work or changes jobs and perhaps you do too.

3. If you have daughters, you have a wedding or two yet to pay for.

4. Grandkids show up and become a focus for your family.

5. You’ve read Bob Buford’s book, Half-time, and you are wondering what going from “success to significance” even means for you.

6. You start actually thinking about a “bucket” list and begin talking about how to fit those items into your life and yes, your budget.

7. You learn how to look up your retirement account savings and are appalled because you were sure there was more in there. You use the provided calculator and learn that your savings will translate into about $400 a month and fear starts to well up from within.

8. The employer provided 401k or 403b becomes more important, all of a sudden.

9. You start spending money you don’t have yet to do some of the things you’ve always talked about but could never afford. Now it is time to “live a little.”

10, Your parents are now getting really old. Time and money need to be allocated there too. And the grandkids need stuff, and you are the prime source of stuff satisfaction.

There is so much more so pause for a moment and add your items to the list above. Starts to be a pretty long list. Each decade of life has its issues and no decade is more susceptible to both over and under compensating for what is behind and what is ahead.

And here is the real heart of the financial matter – if you are not ramping up your savings now, the lack of funding for ministry or anything else will be acute.

Said more simply, “You won’t have enough.”  

Of course, the earlier you start saving the better because the laws of compounding work in your favor instead of against you. Starting to plan to support your older self early is best. The middle years, during your 50s, is the best time to plan and save. Why? There is still enough time and you’re most likely in a better financial position to put a few more dollars away.

When you are approaching the turn towards 60, much of your future is already pre-determined. Pre-determined in that your willingness and capacity to save has already reached its zenith. This does not mean you can’t continue to work for pay until you are 70 or 75. Often health or your employer have something to say about how long you will continue to contribute to the cause and for the benefit of the cause. More people want to work after age 65, so preparation for the time when the pay check stops is important.

There is more to it than money.

Relationships change as a function of age and circumstance. Learning how to fall in love again with your wife or husband is a challenge for many. My mother in law continued to buy bread and baked goods long after the household was reduced from 5 growing kids to two senior adults.

There is a spiritual dimension to being 50 too. Whatever spiritual connection you determined to have in your 20s or early 30s most likely has progressed without much additional thought until now.

The 50s are that time of both evaluation and re-evaluation.

“What is important and what is important to me now and going forward?” Those pesky thoughts about meaning, purpose, and significance stick their heads up either again, or maybe for the first time. It is tough to play “whack a mole” with them, they keep re-appearing.

I know for myself, the 50s, now clearly in the rear view mirror, was the time when I reaffirmed my faith and began to see all that I was and all I was doing as part of God’s grander scheme for my life. As a matter of fact, it was in my 5s that I locked into the certainty that God did, does, have that plan. Once that issue was firmly planted in my mind, the next issue was to understand the plan and get on with it. Perhaps you are still at the seeking stage or not gotten there yet.

If you are beyond your 50s,  similar issues keep reappearing and are uniquely connected to each decade of life that follows. I’m afraid it is not “one and done.” Re-occurring examination using the language of “Why am I here” and “What should I do” are foundational to a life filled with love and joy, rather than being stuck in the grasp of discontent and ongoing sorrow, ongoing emotional pain.

Acknowledging the reality of longevity, the fact that our older years now stretch to 30 of them, and that money, health, and relationships will occupy our time until we die, the 50s become the decade of preparation.

Since our 20s, 60 plus seemed a long ways away. The future was represented by the issues of our parent’s parents, and was psychologically disassociated from our lives. Then all of a sudden, we are about there and we want to understand the future so it’s unknowns won’t be so scary.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are a ministry leader, a ministry worker, or the man or woman in the pew, the 50s are critical and they matter. They matter a lot.

As a reminder, it’s time to come face to face with:

1.     Spiritual realities

2.     Financial realities

3.     Relationship realities

4.     Health realities

Those would seem to be the “big 4.” There are lots more little ones, so you might as well start with the obvious and work towards the subtle.

Be affirmed that the 50s are critical. Make the most of them, or if they have already passed you by, reflect on what you learned and maybe what you have yet to do. Then as Nike says,
“Just do it.”

In His name and for His service,

Bruce Bruinsma

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