by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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Depending on where you are in life, this may seem like a ridiculous thing to consider.  On the other hand, you may be knee deep in it already.  If it is the latter, please keep reading and let me know how accurate my assessment was.  If it is the former, consider this an exercise in Lifestyle Design so you can avoid a very common human existential crisis.

Existential Crisis:  noun    refers to the ensemble of feelings and questions we have to do with the                                                             meaning and purpose of our life.

You may have heard this term before, and associate it with the 45 year old guy who goes out and buys a sports car as a way of recapturing his youth.  In some cases it leads to exiting a marriage and finding someone younger, as a life “do-over” of sorts.  Men and Women both do this in various forms, but not without a lot of impact on those around them.  It is so hard to have an accurate view of the future, but here are some things to consider that may help.

Think about where you are now and where you want to be.  This includes everything from where you would choose to be physically living, what type of work you do, and who you are with.  If you look at a target age of 30 for example, what do you need to do between college and age thirty to hit that mark.  Here is s tidbit of advice that not nearly enough people are told:  Figure out how to make yourself happy FIRST, and then you can add someone into your life that will compliment this.  Not complete your life, not do it for you, but compliment the life you have built for yourself.  This might be an opinion heavily weighted towards the male perspective, but hopefully you have factored this in already.  I am a guy, and my experiences and viewpoints are from this and no other.

Choose your partner wisely.  There is no more important financial question to answer then who you partner with for a lifetime.  This person has to be on the same page with you for this partnership or marriage to be successful.  Money issues is the number one reason couples fight, much of which stems from lack of conversations about this topic.  But even more important in my opinion is finding out what your partner thinks and how they view money in general.  Are they a saver or a spender?  Do they have a lot of debt already accumulated, and if so, is it “good debt”?  By good debt I mean are they things like a solid degree that helps get them a high paying job, this is probably good debt overall.  Real estate is better debt, but at least if you can earn a living due to having an expensive degree, you have a chance to overcome that financial burden.  If you don’t get aligned early on, you are setting yourself up for problems.

I know this from experience.  I had an ex that was very much caught up in the world of keeping up with others, and I somehow got sucked into this.  I was guilty of not saying no often enough; instead I spent money I didn’t have.  I ran up credit card debt, maxing out one and then opening an account on another.  We lived in an apartment that I could not really afford, in a part of town that was cool but overpriced.  She barely worked and contributed little or nothing most months.  We were not aligned, and after this relationship ended, I was stuck holding the debt.  It took me a LONG time to climb out of the hole I dug but not saying no and/or not having more conversations about money sooner.  Ground rules and boundaries must be established for any relationship to work.

Having kids too soon.  Ok, this one won’t sit well with a lot of people, but hear me out.  I see far too many people that meet someone in college, getting married a year or two later, and start a family shortly after that.  This is the classic approach that so many take, and for some, it is the right thing for them.  But for many, it seems that they follow what they think everyone says what they should do.  Here is an easy question to ask, but not to answer:  What is the rush?  Why are people in such a hurry to check all the boxes of adulthood before they are 30?  It seems our society still lives by many of the old rules established back when people lived shorter lives and had far fewer options.  Here is a stark reality that not nearly enough people consider:  Once you are married and have a family, you are greatly limited (in most cases) as to what you can now do with your life.  You’ve got people to support, bills to pay and life is harder.  The level of responsibility goes way up.  The penalties are higher than ever; you can go crash at a buddy’s house for a bit if needed.  You can’t do this with a family in tow.

Get your sh*t together first.  We as men tend to only grow up when we have to.  Some of us figure it out sooner rather than later, but many only mature enough to get by at the current level they are operating at.  In other words, many a man stays in his college day, frat boy mindset for a long time after college.  Sure, some are getting their act together right after school, getting a job and establishing themselves for a solid future.  But lots of us chase a dream, make some decent money but spend it all, etc.  We are not necessarily thinking long term in our twenties, even though we probably should be.

I am a big advocate of chasing the dreams, doing the crazy and less than sensible things now,, while in your twenties, before you get into the situation where you can’t.  And I am not knocking the family approach at all, but I am definitely saying that if you do not want to be a candidate for that pending midlife crisis, do things now that you can’t later.  When you have a family to support, you can’t take a year and ride a motorcycle across Europe.  You can’t couch surf with friends while you start a business venture.  You can’t be obsessively involved in getting a business off the ground.  Your life will be far easier if you run through the things you want to do for yourself first, and then get your feet under financially.  I knew I wasn’t going to make any money as a Pro Racquetball Player, but I also knew that if I didn’t answer that dreaded question, I would spend the rest of my life wondering:  “What If….?”  THAT is a recipe for a midlife crisis.  Trust me, I have seen it time and time again.

You will experience far less stress, and so will your partner and family, if you get yourself aligned first.  Do your thing(s) and once you get a handle on where you are headed, have a plan in place and a little money in the bank, then you can give some real thought to settling down.  This, in my opinion,  will set you up for a happier life in the long run.  You will have less regrets, a more secure future, and are far less likely to wake up one day, look around and ask yourself: What did I miss out on?  That small sentence can be the domino that starts the whole system crash…

Take a big picture view of life, start by honing in on when your 50 and reverse engineer it from there.  Check the boxes, do the things, and make a life for yourself before you add someone else to it.

 

I wish you luck in your lifelong endeavor

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