If the 30s are the new 20s, then the 40s are the new 30s. Whether or not you agree, the milestone age of 40 comes with the advantage of more experience, and thus, a little more life insight. Neither the new kid on the block nor the most senior, your 40s mark a new era of wisdom and introspection gathered from young adulthood. And they should include the answers to these six life questions.
1. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is crucial for both personal and professional development. For example, understanding your strengths makes it easier to leverage one of your best skills for a promotion or raise. As for the value of recognizing your shortcomings, perhaps it’s so that you can work on them—or not.
Actually, according to brand strategist and consultant Rebecca Horan, it’s important to distinguish between weaknesses that need improving and weaknesses that you’re better off “delegating to others or letting go of altogether.”
“By the time you're 40,” says Horan, “you realize it's OK to just let some weaknesses be. We don't have to constantly be working on improving everything about ourselves. We can be a bit choosier about what we will and won't pursue (both professionally and personally).”
2. Does this make me happy?
From both a professional and personal standpoint, Holly Wolf from SOLO Laboratories labels this life question as the most important one in her eyes.
“By 40, you should know if spending time with people makes you happy or if spending money on something will make you happy,” Wolf shares. “If it doesn't—don't do it. Your ‘no thanks’ doesn't require an explanation.”
Knowing what to say yes or no to is a critical piece of your mental well-being, and by age 40, you should be able to distinguish between what invitations to accept or forgo.
3. Am I taking care of my health?
The likelihood of chronic illnesses increases with age, making year 40 an optimal time to evaluate your health if you haven’t already been giving it due diligence. After all, bone mass begins declining at age 40, and can lead to feeling more aches and pains. With that in mind, it’s important to know whether you’re taking adequate care of your body. Knowing the answer to this life question can help you take preventive measures to ensure even more healthy decades ahead.
4. Do I want kids?
Although the average age of parenthood has steadily risen over the last decade, over 98% of women have their first child before the age of 40.
Small business owner Deborah Rogers shared that she first began having kids at 38 years old, a choice that allowed her to travel and pursue a second degree more flexibly in her 20s and 30s. However, Rogers also notes, “Being in my 40's with young kids, I feel so much older than my kids' friends parents... I'm constantly aware of my age as I attend events at school for my kids. When my son was in kindergarten, a classmate asked if I was his grandmother.”
That’s not to say that women over 40 shouldn’t have children—there may even be upsides, such as greater financial security from more work experience. However, the fact remains that pregnancy beyond age 40 comes with a higher risk of medical complications, for both mother and baby.
5. If anything happens to me, what will become of my children and assets?
Taking a more pragmatic stance, business expert Taylor Johnson from Legal Templates advises getting a headstart on estate planning by age 40.
“It’s not too early to begin planning, especially when you have young children in your care,” says Johnson. “By setting up a last will and testament, you can designate who will be your children’s legal guardian if anything happens—as well as who your beneficiaries are and how your money and property should be distributed.”
While a last will and testament can’t prevent the unfathomable from happening, it can at least help your loved ones carry out your final wishes without the need for a judge.
6. Am I on track for retirement?
At age 40, standard retirement is still a ways off on the horizon, but that doesn’t take away from its importance. Unfortunately, a recent survey by GOBankingRates found a dismal fact: nearly 37% of Americans between the ages 35 and 54 have less than $10,000 in savings.
“By age 40, if not sooner, you should have a realistic goal of how much you will need to save for retirement, and how you will accomplish it,” says Drew Parker, founder of the Complete Retirement Planner.
Parker notes that time is still on your side when it comes to compound interest, and every dollar invested now will have greater returns than if it's invested in ten years.
Joyce is a digital marketer and freelance writer who focuses on writing about personal finance on Financial Impulse. You can find out more about her work on her personal website or by following her on Twitter.