Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: Are Gen X Women Really Experiencing a New Kind of Midlife Crisis?

An article recently published on Oprah.com, “The New Midlife Crisis: Why (and How) It’s Hitting Gen X Women” has appeared on my Facebook feed about a dozen times in the last few days, linked to by a number of friends, former classmates, and childhood acquaintances who, like me, are Gen X women. Maybe you’ve seen the article, too? Maybe you’re also a Gen X woman like I am and had trouble getting through the article? For me, my trouble with it wasn’t that it didn’t sound familiar. It sounded very familiar. I’ve had similar conversations with many women in my social circle about our/their midlife crises. Single or coupled, with children or without, there are some common threads that weave through our lives: anxiety about career choices we’ve made and worrying about running out of time to change course; concern for our aging parents; worrying about our own retirement and whether/when we’ll be able to afford to stop working. But I have to admit, I don’t feel as… all-consumed by the anxiety as the women in the article — and as some of the acquaintances in my social media feed — seem.

For that, I will count myself very lucky. I have a comfortable life, I’m healthy, my husband and kids are healthy, and we are financially stable. But I wonder if luck is all there is to it. I think it’s important to acknowledge luck and privilege, but I also wonder if it’s a disservice to women of our generation to discount personal choices, the pressures we put on ourselves to live up to impossible expectations and to keep up with the Joneses, the paths we take to deal with the pressure, and the “grass is greener” effect.

There’s no question we have more choices than our mothers and grandmothers did, and with that often comes regret that we made the “wrong” choices or that choices we made when we were younger limit the options we have in our 40s. (I’m thinking specifically of putting off having kids, or putting off following certain dreams you thought there would be time for later but still, at 40-something, haven’t found the time for and don’t know now when you ever will.) But I will say that my friends who do not regularly talk about being consumed by anxiety and regret aren’t necessarily the luckiest or the most affluent or the ones for whom life has turned out the way they imagined or wanted. They simply tend to have a different perspective — and, frankly, are the ones who celebrate and appreciate the little things (rather than focus so much on the larger things). Maybe that’s oversimplifying it, I don’t know. They also tend to be the people who accept what they can’t change and work to change the things they can.

Anyway, it’s a long, meaty article with lots of arguments and subtopics in it (insomnia! debt! being the product of latchkey childhoods! and the suggestion that perimenopause can start in one’s early 40s and last over a decade, what the fuck). I’m curious what your thoughts are if you’ve read it. Did you relate to it? Do you feel in the midst of a midlife crisis? Are you from a different generation and think Gen X women are just trying to recreate the wheel and that all midlife crises are equal? Do you think the internet — specifically, “aspirational” blogs and social media — contribute to feelings of inadequacy and feeling crappy about where you are in life (in comparison to others your age)? Discuss…

57 comments… add one
  • Bree October 10, 2017, 1:23 pm

    I got most of the way through that article and found it interesting. I was born in 1984 and feel like I’m in a weird in-between generation. That article placed me as being Gen X, but other articles call me a Millennial. I don’t feel entirely like a part of either generation, and most of my friends my age feel the same. We grew up before cell phones became omnipresent but started college when Facebook emerged. I still have fond memories of a childhood not filled with technology. However, I can relate to the Millennials to a degree. I graduated law school at the worst possible time (2011): when there were massive lay-offs of attorneys and really struggled to find work. I eventually opened my own practice, but live a bit paycheck-to-paycheck now. I’m just about to have a baby at 33, so I can relate to the Gen X’ers about struggling with debt. This article provided a lot of food for thought, and I enjoyed reading it.

    Reply Link
  • Leslie Joan October 10, 2017, 1:37 pm

    Wow. Well, maybe this doesn’t apply to me, because I’m smack in the middle of the boomers cohort, but all these people sounded unnecessarily over-stressed. And I think Wendy has it right, that it all has to do with one’s perspective. At any age or stage in life, people can make their situations better or worse by their attitudes and expectations.

    I don’t suffer from regrets, because I own my choices every day. I’m not flogging myself worrying about what-might-have-beens, because that’s a self indulgent waste of time. Reminding myself that I have choices and need to own them makes it easier to deal with problems when they crop up, because you aren’t flogging yourself and are always looking forward. It doesn’t guarantee perfection, but if things do go wrong you can remember the good reasons that you chose the path you did.

    The whole notion that family structure is so much worse for genX is kind of silly. Families have been broken and fucked up for generations, and middle aged people have always been sandwiched. I’m not saying there are no differences, but the article seems overwrought.

    Reply Link
  • ktfran October 10, 2017, 1:54 pm

    Being born in 80 and on the edge, I’ve always felt more like I belonged inGen X than with Millennials. I think being an oldest child, looking up to and being grouped with my older cousins, coming from a small city that was always a couple years behind the current times contributes to that.

    Anyway, I’ve yet to hit a midlife crisis. I’d honestly group myself into Wendy’s group of friends who don’t talk endlessly about regret or anxiety. I have neither. And I’m certainly not affluent. My parents were working class, my dad a barber and my mom an HR mgr at a regional store. They didn’t have money for my two sisters and I for college, so I was saddled with student debt. At the same time, business was booming when I graduated college in 2002 and jobs were plentiful. I attribute my successes to hard work and a little bit of luck. But more me, I don’t dwell on the what ifs. I was ok not meeting the right person until I was 35 and getting married at 37. I was patient in my career and did the best I could and that’s FINALLY paying off too. So yeah, I guess I don’t stress about the things out of my control. Not sure where I learned that, but I’m glad that’s a trait I have.

    However, I do have friends that pictured a certain life and do freak out that it hasn’t happened the way they wanted or in the desired time frame. They’d fall more in line with the article.

    Reply Link
  • Lianne October 10, 2017, 2:24 pm

    I got through most of this, skimming here and there. Man. What a depressing, negatively skewed article. Sure, there are days I think, life is hard. But overall, like Wendy and her friends, I focus on the good and positive. If I were to read this and tended to the negative, I might be bawling right now. Sheesh.

    I also don’t fall in line with many of the statistics. Particularly, with regard to child rearing. My husband probably spends more time playing with and caring for our son than I do on an average day. I do daycare drop off, so I get him up, dressed and feed him breakfast and then we’re off to daycare. My husband picks him up, plays with him, sometimes gives him dinner. When I get home, I make us dinner while they play more and then my husband gives a bath and we both read books and put him to bed. On the flip side, I take on more of the “mental load” and that works for us.

    I just have a hard time with articles like this. I don’t know…it didn’t resonate, but it also worries me how other will receive it.

    Reply Link
  • Miss MJ October 10, 2017, 3:06 pm

    I don’t know about this article, either. I mean, the factual life events – divorces, childlessness, getting older, taking care of parents, money concerns, etc – resonate with me. But not the overwhelming despair the article projects.

    My friends don’t feel overwhelming regret or despair or like failures. Sure, they worry. Sure, some of them wanted to have kids and didn’t. Sure, the single ones would like to meet someone and not everyone’s marriage is ideal all the time. Sure, we all would like to have more money. And, sure, there are things about our jobs/owning our own businesses that we hate sometimes. (Or all the time.) But, no one that I know is living in the shadow of some fantasy life that they wish they had; actively hating the one that they have; and not doing a goddamned thing to change it.

    Maybe it’s like you said, Wendy, the difference is our ability to accept and adapt and willingness to move ahead and tackle what’s next instead of focusing on what you can’t change or don’t have or didn’t do or get. But, also, I think that a common thread among all of my friends we make time to just get together, celebrate, laugh and enjoy our lives and have fun. And, maybe that’s just a function of people who are positive, or at least not bitter about the world, tending to stick together? I don’t know. But, whatever it is, the unrelenting negativity and “what-iffing” in that article is not something that I really see among my friends.

    Reply Link
  • Kate October 10, 2017, 3:10 pm

    Sure, I relate to some of this. The part about losing wealth in the 2008 crash… I’d been contributing to a 401(k) for 8 years at that point, and I did lose money and it took time to come back. I also bought a condo in 2006, the market crashed, and it took until 2013 to be worth what I paid for it again. In the Boston market!!! And to make it worse, just 2 years after I sold, it was worth $100K more. But I had to sell because I couldn’t live there with my husband… one tiny bathroom, trucks with commercial plates not allowed to park on the property… so that sucked. By most calculators, I’m on track for retirement but barely. I’m annoyed that, with the money we make, we can’t afford the apartment we’d really want.

    And feeling stalled in my career, yeah, kinda. I was all gung ho to get through the levels and i got the promotions… and then after my VP promotion at 40, I got laid off. And that sucked. I’m a VP still, but like, I never wanted to get farther than this and I still don’t. So… do I just do exactly this the rest of my life, or what?

    And yeah, I was taught I could have it all, and women were equal and all that, and it was a big slap in the face to find out it wasn’t true. I’ve felt like utter shit since this time a year ago, and it keeps getting worse if you pay attention to current events.

    But a lot of it, no. I didn’t want kids or try to buy into having it all. And my husband is great, and carries his share of the load, mental and tactical. I am not going through Perimenopause that I know of. I’m not in debt and don’t wake up sweating about money. It could be a lot worse.

    But yeah, definitely, some of that.

    Reply Link
    • Kate October 10, 2017, 3:25 pm

      The other thing is, I don’t feel I’m doing as well as my parents. They have amazing real estate that’s all long paid off, they have a lot of money saved to get them well into their 100s if they live that long, and they’re still working 4 days a week at extremely low-stress, high-respect jobs just because they feel like it. They are all set, and I don’t feel like I could end up as well off as they are, so I relate to that part of the article too. They tell me I’m doing better than they were at my age, but I don’t see it. Also, the Lord literally spoke to my dad before the crash and told him to put a bunch of his money in cash, so they kept their wealth. I don’t know.

      Reply Link
  • Rangerchic October 10, 2017, 3:39 pm

    I didn’t read the article. Too long and not interesting enough. I guess though I try to look at life like what Wendy is saying. But about 3 months ago, in July, I witnessed a horrific truck vs. motorcycle accident.

    A man on a motorcycle left somewhere in my neighborhood. we both went the same direction and were going through a green light when he was t-boned by a truck (I was in a different lane slightly behind the motorcycle so I managed to not be in the accident). The motorcycle burst into flames and the impact dented the truck pretty badly. Anyway, basically, I watched this man die. Paramedics couldn’t save him. I had never seen anyone killed before (he was only 29).

    It hit me pretty hard. Ever since then, I try to always be positive (don’t always manage but I try) and do more of the things I want to do with the people I love. It was a real eye opener that life can end in a split second. (Abstractly I knew that of course but when it’s thrown in your face, it’s kind of hard to ignore).I don’t really have any anxiety about stuff out of my control and do the best with the stuff I can control. Seriously, enjoy life, the little things, the big things and everything in between.

    Reply Link
    • Skyblossom October 10, 2017, 3:46 pm

      That’s pretty horrific.

      Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy October 10, 2017, 4:55 pm

      That’s so terrible! But good that you were able to learn a positive lesson from it. I’m experiencing something similar. There’s a little girl in Jackson’s school who was supposed to be in his class this year but advanced brain cancer has kept her home since the school year started. She wasn’t in his class last year but she was at kindergarten graduation where she was so frail her parents had to carry her across the stage. Anyway, I found out yesterday that she died in her sleep Sunday night. She was a few weeks older than Jackson. I can’t even begin to imagine what her family is going through right now. It really puts things in perspective. Life can change on a dime. Enjoy what you have, especially the relationships and things that bring you joy and meaning, and try not to focus so much on what you don’t have…

      Reply Link
      • Rangerchic October 10, 2017, 5:13 pm

        I’m so sorry your going through that! And I can’t even imagine what her parents and family are going through either. I imagine it’s so much worse when it’s your child (and no matter what your child’s age either).

      • Dear Wendy October 10, 2017, 6:47 pm

        It is certainly every parent’s worst nightmare. On our class listserve right now, the teacher and parents are sharing articles and books about how to tell your young child that his or her friend died and how to help them cope with grief (a lot of jackson’s classmates were in the little girl’s class last year). It’s very sad. And definitely puts things in perspective!

  • Skyblossom October 10, 2017, 3:45 pm

    I’m a boomer and my generation doesn’t think the way the article is written. We were raised on the concept of the poem, “The Road not Taken.” We didn’t expect to have it all and we assumed that choices we made opened some doors and closed others. My friends who are in their 50s are in the cancer age and they still don’t have the type of anxiety and woe is me attitude of the author. One friend has both a sister and a dad with cancer. Another has lost two sisters to cancer. A friend had a husband die of cancer earlier this year. Another friend had a biopsy come back with cells not normal but not cancer and so she will receive a treatment and then see how things look. We are surrounded by cancer in our daily lives and yet we manage to deal with it and be happy. My age also has aging parents and kids in college. My mom appears to be developing dementia and my dad has had cancer during the past year. My dad is in his mid eighties. I think my generation is more matter-of-fact. We talk about what we are dealing with but don’t feel sorry for ourselves or complain that no one has ever had it harder than us. I don’t think that all or even most millennials are like the author. The author seems whiny and caught up in her woe is me attitude.

    My parent’s generation were children through the great depression and then teens during WWII. They grew up deprived so my generation felt pretty good about what we had even though we had less than kids growing up today. I think part of it is your ability to compare and contrast. The article was full of things like homes cost more now. It didn’t mention how you can afford more now because interests rates are so much lower. When we purchased our first house we paid three points to drop the interest rate on our loan to 10%. When my parent’s bought a property when I was a teen interest rates were running at 16%. Homes may cost more at this time but that doesn’t mean the buyer is paying more. They are paying more for the actual house and less in interest. We’ve been through the downturns. We’ve been through our house depreciating and it still isn’t worth as much as I would have expected at this point and yet that doesn’t make my life less happy or valuable.

    We were also raised on the concept of delayed gratification. We were willing to do without things to have more at a later date. We also didn’t expect to travel. We were expected to either be an adult as soon as we graduated from high school or to be a full adult as soon as we graduated from college. We were expected to be serious adults in our 20s. That meant not only working but saving for a house and getting married. The savings was good for us. The too young marriages led to a high divorce rate for my generation. My generation probably contributed to the 50% divorce rate that used to exist.

    I think the author is too focused on what she doesn’t have without seeing what she does have.

    Reply Link
    • Rangerchic October 10, 2017, 4:12 pm

      My dad’s a baby boomer-though at the younger end (60). I see a lot of these traits in him. And he did his best to instill those traits in us. No whining allowed for sure! And pretty much that’s how my friends and siblings are…we discuss stuff but don’t really whine (I’ll be 42 in December and my youngest sister is 31). Now sometimes it’s good to vent but I do think there is a line between whining and venting 🙂

      We were also expected to grow up rather quickly and learn from our mistakes (a good thing).

      Reply Link
      • Skyblossom October 10, 2017, 4:59 pm

        I keep going back to the author’s attitude that no generation has ever had it so hard.

        Then I think of the friend searching for recipes that are simple to make because she is making a triple batch, one for her parents, one for her sister’s family and one for her own family because of the dad and sister both having cancer. I think of the friend who was standing there today saying she’s scared about her biopsy and trying to figure out what it means for her and still managing to laugh and joke and to talk about her kids.

        I think about it and I wonder how the author has so much time to dwell on the negative. Being caught up in thinking about the negative all the time is depressing. I think it brings you down to the point you can’t be happy.

      • Dear Wendy October 10, 2017, 5:16 pm

        I’m with you – the “no generation has had it this hard” really rubbed me the wrong way too. I mean, I am smack dab in the middle of Gen X (born 1976) and I didn’t teally understand all the author’s whining. Yes, some of her concerns I related to but they sounded more like typical concerns of s 40-something than super specific to our generation.

  • Portia October 10, 2017, 4:24 pm

    I’m only 2 years out from what the author is designating “Gen X” (1986) and maybe it’s because I’m out of the range that I don’t see it? But the friends I have who are at the younger end of the range don’t seem to be having this midlife crisis, so maybe that’s it? Or maybe they are and I just don’t see it? I can see some anxiety in my sister in law, especially handling her working mother role, but even so has seemed to mellow out over the last few years on trying to do it all and seems much calmer.

    I don’t know, this seems like one is those things that might repeat itself every generation, like people hating on the youngest generation no matter what that generation… I know plenty of (younger) boomers who have or had some of these types of fears/anxiety (retirement, rejoining the workforce, etc).

    Reply Link
  • Moneypenny October 10, 2017, 5:44 pm

    I thought the article was pretty interesting, although it made me depressed if this is the way everyone in her generation thinks! And you all are proving that to not be true, so whew! Yikes, life seems pretty dire by the picture she’s painting…

    I’m an old millennial (born in ’84), so much of what she talks about isn’t on my radar yet. I was raised by pretty strict, comfortably middle class parents who didn’t indulge my whims like many of my peers. (But I did have a great upbringing- I realize that now!) When I was younger (in my late teens and 20’s), I cared about what other people had, or did, or how wonderful their lives seemed. I had FOMO and all that. I think what flipped the switch was realizing how superficial it all was and, partly, dating helped me get there. I live in a pretty wealthy city with lots of people my age making a *lot* of money. I could be jealous of them and their cash and their cars and views. But dating many of these guys really turned me off to that mentality. Skyblossom mentions above the idea of delayed gratification- in my case, it’s being surrounded by immediate gratification. Look at all of the things you can do and have, and here’s the credit card to help you get there! I think at some point it just seemed shallow. (Do we really need this many food delivery services??)

    As time has passed, I have seen many of my old classmates and friends go through various hardships- deaths of parents, job losses, miscarriages. It puts into perspective what is really important to me- my family and their health and happiness. My close friends who have been there for me when I need them and vice versa. Having a good job where my boss actually likes me. That sort of thing. I would rather focus on what I have that makes my cup full rather than what I don’t have.

    Reply Link
  • Dear Wendy October 10, 2017, 7:21 pm

    I’m glad to read these comments. I know that I don’t feel this relentless despair the author describes, and I know — or at least think — that most of my friends don’t either, but the amount of traction the article has gotten online made me wonder if my friends and I were outliers and that most of the other women our age are seriously up every night, sweating and freaking out about all the things out of their control.

    Reply Link
    • Kate October 10, 2017, 7:32 pm

      I think it’s a journalistic project that tries to cover a wide range of things Gen-X women deal with. I hope she’s not trying to say it’s common to be feeling the weight of ALL that stuff. Some of it does resonate though. I actually think it’s interesting that almost everyone on here is saying no, it doesn’t. Particularly with all the anxiety we see on here. I mean, no, I’m not consumed by anxiety and regret, not by a long shot, but she’s got some points.

      Reply Link
      • Dear Wendy October 10, 2017, 7:45 pm

        Definitely, she brings up good points, and some of the article resonated with me, but not the overall tone — not the despair. And a lot of the comments I’m seeing elsewhere are all, “Oh yes, checkmark on every point,” like people ARE feel the weight of ALL that stuff.

      • Kate October 10, 2017, 7:47 pm

        That’s unfortunate, but I guess I can see a relatively small but vocal subset of women feeling that way.

      • Lianne October 11, 2017, 10:04 am

        I agree, Wendy. I think the themes she discusses are relevant. However, her tone of despair just didn’t register. To me it seemed like some of the journalistic sensationalism that’s out there – a play to sell papers/have page hits.

      • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 10:14 am

        Or get a book deal.

  • TheLadyE October 10, 2017, 9:52 pm

    I was born at the very end of ’82 but I consider myself an older Millennial. I don’t identify with Gen X at all, and none of the things in the article resonate with me. Maybe it’s because I tend to hang out with Millennials, be it at my office, in dating, or the fact that my sister is 27 and our parents are extremely healthy and in their mid-60s. It also is probably because I haven’t gotten married or had children yet, but I feel like I’m in this micro-generation of not-quite-Millennial (my sister is definitely more stereotypical “Millennial” than I am) and not Gen-X either. I finished my Master’s in 2007 and entered into a HORRIBLE economy so I’m only now starting to (starting to!) find my footing career-wise and financially, so that’s probably a huge influence as to why I feel younger.

    All that to say…perimenopause scares the shit out of me. My mom started going through it at 43. Dear Lord. Then again, my grandmother (her mother) didn’t start until her early 50s, so who knows what will happen to me. Ugh.

    Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 7:20 am

      I wouldn’t waste energy being scared as shit over perimenopause. That’s one of those things that I’m talking that you don’t have much control over (there’s some control in terms of managing symptoms, but that’s about it). You’re in your mid-30s. Seriously, menopause does not need to be a think you worry about right now. I’m 41 — and I guess perimenopause could begin any time, and I don’t even think about it. What’s the point? When it starts, I’ll see what the symptoms are like, how they affects my life, and what I can do to manage them and make life more comfortable and bearable. I feel that way about aging in general. Am I thrilled that my looks are fading, that it’s harder to stay fit, that my joints ache when I wake up? No, it sucks. But I do what I can to counteract what I’m able to and let the rest go.

      Reply Link
      • Kate October 11, 2017, 8:19 am

        I’ve been on the pill nonstop for the past 5 years and that may be keeping me stabilized, but at 42 I’m not noticing anything. I do get overheated and sweaty pretty easily, but I don’t think these are the hot flashes you read about.

        This former co-worker of mine, though… Always pretty fit, a runner, tall, slim, one day last year I saw her for the first time in a while and thought, whoa, she’s put on some weight. Obviously didn’t say anything. But later at the happy hour thing, she cornered me and told me how awful menopause is and how she went (she said) from a size 6 to a 12 and can’t lose weight no matter how much she runs. She seemed very unhappy and desperate, and was talking about her new bag and her new BMW her husband got her for her birthday. She had just turned 50, and I definitely heard this kind of anxiety from her. Her daughter is a hot cheerleader too, and you can tell she’s got some feelings about that. And about her husband still being attracted to her. I’m not sure how “normal” this is, but… she was pretty vocal.

      • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 8:26 am

        Oh, I don’t doubt that menopause is pretty awful for a lot (most?) women. I just don’t see the point is starting to worry about it when you’re in your mid-30s (or… ever, really). Worrying about it isn’t going to stop it. I have a friend who’s a few years older than I am and she says she’s started perimenopause and that she’s put on a lot of weight because of it and can’t take it off. Like your former co-worker, she was thin, fit, trim to begin with — maybe a size 4 or 6. I don’t know what she is now – a couple sizes bigger maybe. I’m a size 10, so there won’t be the grief for me that women who have always been so thin and trim go through when they lose that. Then again, I’m the heaviest I want to be. I’d feel upset if I were suddenly 15-20 pounds heavier than the heaviest I want to be and I couldn’t take it off no matter what. But, again, I don’t see the point in worrying about that now.

      • TheLadyE October 12, 2017, 12:09 am

        I think it’s because I feel like the last 8 years have just FLOWN by and in another 8 years I’ll be 42 and a lot closer to perimenopause/menopause. I hope I take after my grandmother but I remember my mom becoming just really, really awful (and miserable) in her 40s. It was NOT a good time. And I’m also the heaviest I want to be and already find it difficult to lose weight, so I can’t imagine it getting harder.

        Mainly I think it’s that I’m not where I want to be by my mid-30s which is at the root of it. I just found more white hair in my red head tonight and that’s depressing.

      • Dear Wendy October 12, 2017, 5:41 am

        The white hairs are probably an anomaly. I had a couple in my mid-30s and haven’t seen any since. Redheads don’t typically go white or gray like other people until much older — their hair just fades through all the lighter shades of red (my hair is MUCH lighter at 41 than it was 20 years ago!). My grandfather and his sister still had red hair in their late 60s. In fact, my grandfather still had reddish hair in his early 80s.

        Anyway, I get the anxiety about aging, but, look time is going to pass at the same speed whether you freak out for the next 8 years (and 8 years is such an arbitrary number anyway — in 8 years you’ll be about the age I am now and… so what?) or if you just relax and enjoy yourself and don’t freak out. And, anyway, it’s all the worrying that contributes to signs of aging. You’re better off just chilling out about it if you can.

    • Kate October 11, 2017, 8:29 am

      Agree! It may suck but I’m not worried about it. My mom seemed fine and didn’t put on weight or lose her mind more than normal. I’ll deal with it when it happens.

      Reply Link
    • Copa October 11, 2017, 9:55 am

      I’m also a Millennial, and literally the only thing in this article that resonated with me was job/money anxiety. I relate to graduating into a terrible economy — graduated from college in ’08 in a particularly hard-hit state. I went to a “name brand” college, and the polite “go to hell” letters from employers rolled in constantly while I was a senior trying to line something up for post-grad. So I took the “safe” route of going for a higher degree immediately, but had to take out student loans for it. If I had graduated into a better economy, I wouldn’t have gotten that particular degree. Even though my higher degree helped me get this job (and the job that I moved to my city for several years ago), it felt like such a burden when I was new to the job market. It took me until the past couple years to finally feel like my career is getting off the ground, and like I’m actually making decent money. But I do worry because I’m not saving enough for retirement, due in large part to my student loans. All things considered, my debt isn’t bad and I’m almost (almost!) done repaying it. I know many people with debt loads that are crippling, and I’m thankful I’m not one of them. But I do worry about finances. I also worry about the future of my industry (legal) and how it might impact me. I try not to. But I worry. (I decided that I need to move to a less expensive neighborhood when my lease is up next year to help me save faster. I’m sure that’ll ease my anxiety.)

      Reply Link
    • Classic October 12, 2017, 9:31 am

      I just wanted to tell you that actual menopause is great! When I was young and middle-aged, I thought about perimenopause more as concepts, or phases, but for some reason I never thought about the simple fact that you just stop having your period! It is so great! Just being free from that again, like when you were a little kid, just not even thinking about it. No periods! No period panties, no PMS, no buying supplies. I love it, and I can’t believe I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

      Reply Link
      • Dear Wendy October 12, 2017, 9:37 am

        That’s how I think about it! No more periods, PMS, buying tampons, bleeding onto my white sheets at night? Bring it on!

  • AW October 10, 2017, 10:45 pm

    I tried to make it through the whole article, but I found it so depressing and annoying. I’m on the young side of GenX (born in 1981) so I’m mid-30s, not 40s. I hope to hell that isn’t a real description of what my 40s are going to make me feel!
    Everyone has difficulties and problems, sure, but the sense of underlying panic in this article was just way over the top. It was anxiety on a page. Sheesh. Unclench.

    Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 7:23 am

      Yep: anxiety on a page — that’s the perfect description.

      I’m 41, so not far into my 40s, but I can tell you that for me and for most of my friends, there’s anxiety, sure, but it’s not as all-encompassing as this article makes it seem. I don’t know how one would even function with the level of anxiety described in the article, let alone enjoy life at all.

      Reply Link
  • LisforLeslie October 11, 2017, 8:32 am

    Oy – I’ve skimmed through the comments and I’m glad that most of you are doing great. Perhaps my perspective is a little different.

    I fall smack into the middle of the Gen X. We had opportunities that Millennials don’t have. We also didn’t have all of the opportunities that Baby Boomers had. Like @Kate, I look at the wealth that my parents have been able to amass and I’m amazed. My mother was a school teacher but a strong state union keeps her with an amazing pension until she dies.

    I wonder every week (not every day, but it’s a regular concern), whether I will have enough to live on when I grow old. I don’t want to live very long, maybe 75/80. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a husband. I will be alone and I may not have an advocate to make sure my bed sores are being managed or my meds are at the right level. Still, I don’t know if i could retire at a reasonable age so that I do get a chance to enjoy some not-working time. I wonder if the many many thousands of dollars I’ve put into Social Security will be available to me because some asshole in the government decided it should be privatized or spent on limo rides for senators or something equally ridiculous. Every time I spend money I worry that I might lose everything and when I’m broke and eating cat food to survive, I’ll be reminded of the time I bought $100 shoes and regret it (I still buy the shoes).

    Most of my friends have been divorced. Most of those who divorced, their husbands cheated on them (about 75%) or simply didn’t contribute to the marriage. Of those who didn’t cheat: a few couldn’t keep a job but wouldn’t take care of the house/kids because “men”. A few worked but again didn’t feel it was there responsibility to clean, shop, manage the house hold and then wanted to add kids to the mix (with no expectation that they would parent). My friends struggle to manage the bills,. They deal with their relatively uninvolved exes (a few have moved far enough away from the kids that the kids see them only once or twice a year). They date occasionally, but aren’t jumping back into marriage. Almost all of their exes have gotten remarried.

    Reply Link
    • Kate October 11, 2017, 8:39 am

      Yeah I’m curious, since no one is saying they worry about retirement… is that because you know you’re on track for sure and you’re confident you’ll stay that way? Or is it because you’re so far off from being prepared that you just don’t even care and you figure what happens will happen / it will work out somehow? Or you’re still in your 30s and not even thinking about it yet?

      Reply Link
      • Lianne October 11, 2017, 10:13 am

        So I’m in the retirement business, as you know, and I stay very attuned to it; have been saving since I was 21, max out deferrals, have my account managed for me…and I feel like I will be on track. I worry more about college savings for my kids. But not in an overwhelming way. We will do what we can to help them out, but I don’t expect to 100% pay for their tuition.

        Wendy’s point about getting a financial planner is absolutely on my mind. Once we find a new house, that is one of my next goals on the checklist. That and making a will.

      • Skyblossom October 11, 2017, 10:21 am

        I’m not worried about retirement because we have a very healthy retirement account. We started saving years ago for retirement and at first you don’t see much but as time goes by it begins to grow. The thing about retirement accounts is that you need to start them as soon as you can and grow them through your entire life. If you wait until your mid 30s or later to start you won’t have the time for the necessary growth. Something that helped me a lot was seeing an explanation of retirement funds when I was in my early twenties. They showed how putting $1000 per year into a retirement fund during the 20s and then never putting any more money toward retirement would have you further ahead at retirement than putting $1000 toward retirement every year from 30 on for the rest of your life. The years needed for the account to grow are essential to a solid retirement. So we started young and put in the largest amount that would be matched and then lived on what was left. We lived pretty frugally.

        When we bought a house we bought a much cheaper house than we could afford because we needed to be able to travel to visit my husband’s parents.

    • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 9:20 am

      I have a couple of friends who are very vocal about being worried about retirement, and others whom I imagine might be worried but don’t discuss it (with me, at least).

      It is only recently that I have stopped worrying a lot about retirement. Mostly, that is because my FIL, who passed away two years ago at the age of 95, set up trusts for the kids’ college educations, which is an enormous burden lifted off us and which I am so grateful. And he left us half of his apartment on the upper west side of manhattan (the apartment drew grew up in) which we were able to sell and use the profit for a downpayment on the house we just signed a contract on. Before he died, we were pretty stressed about our living and financial situation. NYC is a really expensive place to live (especially if you want to stay in good school districts) but we couldn’t move too far away from Drew’s elderly father or drew’s job, so we felt very limited. We were lucky to find a decent 3-bedroom apartment in our neighborhood, next door to a decent public school, and the plan was to stay there as long as we needed to (the rent was/is affordable and we figured we’d just make the space work for us as long as possible). We thought that when Drew’s dad died, we would re-evaluate our situation and consider moving somewhere more affordable, like the midwest. That we were left with enough of a cushion to make staying here possible was not expected, but we’re very grateful. We immediately got a financial advisor and made a financial plan for the rest of lives, based on goals like: owning a home; sending the kids to college; creating a travel budget; and creating a retirement to get us through 30+ years of retirement. We know how much each of us has to earn each year and how much we can spend to realize these goals, and that relieves a lot of mental load (and also keeps us motivated to hustle, to check in with each other about our respective work loads and whether the expectations for each of us are reasonable, etc.). We also have life insurance policies in place for added security.

      Right now, our biggest financial stress is probably healthcare/ insurance. We pay out of pocket for ours and it’s incredibly expensive. We make it work, because what choice do we have? But it sure we be nice if we could halve the cost and put the rest of the money into savings…

      Reply Link
      • Kate October 11, 2017, 9:27 am

        Oh, I see, yeah. I do expect an inheritance, but my parents are young, and I’d rather have them around, so I don’t think about that. They just got a new financial planner because their old one moved up to a new sector, and I really need to meet with her. I’ve just been contributing the max to my 401(k) for years and saving a big chunk of cash because I have been on commissions since 2006 in addition to normal paycheck, but I know I could be managing this better and it would really be some peace of mind. My husband has a lot more catching up to do, so it’s like, how do we make this work for both of us? I had no student loans, but he STIlL does.

      • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 9:45 am

        Totally recommend seeing a financial planner. Ours helped us figure out so much, including how to invest in a way that best supports our longterm goals. I immediately felt, like, 110% better after having a trusted, well-regarded professional help us map out a financial plan for the rest of our lives. Of course, you can’t plan for everything, but we’ve accounted for a lot of the scary stuff in life that could potentially throw us off a financial track (job loss, illness, death, a stock market crash), and that gives us a lot of peace of mind. As I said – it’s a longterm (50+ -year) financial plan, and we know there will be years — maybe even decades — that come closer to meeting goals than others. I mean, that’s kind of how life is. Keep an eye on the big picture and maybe the bumps in the road aren’t as overwhelming? I don’t know. If you can tell yourself, yeah, this is rough year or a rough few years, but it’s not my reality for ever, I think that helps keep perspective and keep you from drowning in this panic and hysteria the article seems to describe.

    • LisforLeslie October 11, 2017, 10:18 am

      I make a nice salary and I have been putting money into 401K and other investments for a number of years. I have a nice nest egg building. I know I’m way ahead of my contemporaries. I also know that I’m generally on target (or ahead) of where I should be. That, combined with Social Security, should leave me in a good place. But if I want to NOT worry and live out my retirement years in fine style, I feel I need to put a lot more aside.

      My dad left me nothing when he died, it all went to my stepmother. Which was fine. She wrote me out of her will (or never included me to begin with) so if she left any assets – my step siblings got all of it. To be honest, I don’t think there was much.

      My mom and stepdad have planned out their finances very well. My mom can manage until she’s 101 according to her financial planner. Like Kate – I’d rather they live and live well than skimp to leave an inheritance.

      Reply Link
    • Moneypenny October 11, 2017, 12:02 pm

      +1 to your comment that you are amazed at the wealth your parents have been able to amass. My parents are 70, and my parents are amazed at how “easy” they have had it compared to people in the younger generations. Just with the cost of housing, college tuition, and job market alone- it’s huge how different and how much more of a struggle it can be for people.

      Personally, I am saving for retirement and put away as much as I can for my 401k (only 8% though for now) – but I secretly am a little relieved that what I will someday inherit will create an extra cushion just in case. That and, I don’t expect to ever really retire!

      Reply Link
  • ktfran October 11, 2017, 9:42 am

    I’ve always been in the camp “things will work out.” So, that likely relieves some of my internal stresses. Plus, the husband is great with money. He even advises his parents and uncle and has them set up for retirement.

    Wendy… speaking of college funds, because of this posting, I asked the husband last night if we should set up both a living will and a will. He’s an only child and I have two other siblings and nieces and a nephew. Since we’re not having children, we’ll likely leave anything we have to the nieces and nephew(s) or their children. But there would have to be caveats, such as a college trust, or down payment on a house, or something… as long as it’s not blown. Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to help family ease some of their financial burdens as your FIL did.

    We’ve talked about this stuff, but don’t have anything formalized. I think we should probably do that to make things easier if something unexpected happens.

    Reply Link
    • ktfran October 11, 2017, 9:42 am

      That was a reply to Wendy’s/Kate post up above.

      Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 9:52 am

      Good idea! (Even if you don’t have kids, but especially if you do). We took care of our wills earlier this year — appointing guardians for our kids and all that. If we should die while the kids are underage (god forbid), we even money allocated to facilitate visits between them and my parents in the midwest, so no one has to worry about that. Honestly, not having all of this hanging over our heads anymore has relieved a lot of anxiety. Knowing my children will be ok — as ok as they can be — should something happen to me and/or Drew is such a big relief.

      Now… who wants to take our cats if they outlive us? That’s the one thing I don’t have figured out…

      Reply Link
      • Dear Wendy October 11, 2017, 9:56 am

        Oh! And we also have caveats listed in our will, like you’re talking about ktfran, so any money left to the kids can’t be blown. They have their college trusts set up by their grandfather to be used for college/ living expenses while in college, and whatever else is left on top of that will be dispersed in increments and at certain ages (I can’t remember exactly, but I think it’s three different ages between 25-40).

      • ktfran October 11, 2017, 10:16 am

        My sister and her husband set up their wills as soon as they had their son. I’m guardian should anything happen, hopefully not. In order to be so, I had to promise to continue raising their son Jewish, which I would. And I’m fairly certain they also have things in place so he could visit my BIL’s family, which I would also support. My BIL is a big planner and saver.

        I’ll pass on the cats 🙂 We’re actually both allergic, and he’s allergic to dogs too. The husband has troubles with allergies at my parents house when we visit, and that’s one dog who is outside most of the time.

      • LisforLeslie October 11, 2017, 11:26 am

        @kt – as long as you’re not allergic to the kid – should be good. Raising a Jewish kid isn’t terribly difficult, holidays are a little tricky. You gotta know how to roast a chicken and you gotta up your chicken soup game. Know that the best matzoh balls come from the manischewitz box. Seriously.

  • Sharyn Greenaway May 10, 2018, 5:01 pm

    Ok, reading a lot ofcomments on this thread reinforce to me why this conversation is so important. For the women who don’t relate, fantastic that you don’t. Seeing the article as ‘negative’ is missing the point and pushing the old ‘positive thinking newage bypass’ wheelbarrow squarely up the back ends of the women who are getting real about the pressures and fears they are feeling specific to the social and economic conditions of our times. It is precisely this resistance which creates an environment where we who do relate feel unentitled to share what we are going through, and thereby feel alone in our experience. A conversation about these realities (whom they are realitues for) is exactly the remedy needed in order for us to move through the challenges with the acknowledgement and support of others, to create solutions that connect rather than divide us.

    Reply Link
    • Kate May 10, 2018, 5:41 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. I was very surprised at all these, “everything’s peachy with me!” comments when this was published originally. I think part of it was a lot of the commenters aren’t into their 40s yet.

      Reply Link
      • Kate May 10, 2018, 5:50 pm

        Though going back and reading what I wrote, we did go see the Financial Planner my parents work with, late last year, consolidated our retirement savings in managed accounts, and the calculator tool says we’re on track to maintain today’s lifestyle. So that’s something. But yeah, it would be nice to keep it real about the feelings and challenges of getting older.

  • ron May 10, 2018, 8:00 pm

    Since the dawn of history, every generation has felt the need for their generation’s experience and problems to be importantly unique. Every generation has problems. Most of my boomer cohort are retiring with inadequate funds and no plan. Those from 23-32 had their careers severely curtailed by the 2008 crash. My parents’ generation grew up in the Depression and served in WW II. Problems in every generation. Mid-life crises happen in every generation. You enter adulthood, about senior year H.S. on, with a world of choices. Life is like a giant funnel: every major choice you make narrows the possible futures. By your 40s you know you won’t be among the wealthy elite, win a Nobel prize, or otherwise have well-earned super-fame — at least that is the case for 99+% of us. From the mid-40s vantage-point, our ceiling is lower than it seemed when we entered adulthood. Most of us will still be doing quite well, but our wildest future dreams have been replaced by reality. Still, most of us are and will be happy. All of us will have important things we think we missed, poor choices we think we made, self-expectations which won’t be fulfilled. Still, for most the good outweighs the bad. And… at 40-45 you can still make significant changes to the last 35-40 years of your life. Your status is not frozen.

    Reply Link
  • Karen February 22, 2020, 2:09 pm

    I did everything I had wanted to do in life and then bam, at 40 my life just went down the toilet. Repeated homelessness, job loss (I have been fired 3x this last year within a month, each time by Millennial bitches who think they are all that, and with very little help from anybody, especially family). Added to which I have drenching hot flushes all day and all night, as well as have had massive fibroids, and massive debts.

    My parents (divorced – acrimonious marriage, I had an abusive childhood) – both had ample place to house me when things got rough, and were financially comfortable, but refused to help. Now my mother is dead (nobody told me and I found out 6 months afterwards) I have to fight the rest of my family over her will (I am the only child). She had 14 bank accounts, whilst was chasing my father for maintenance for nearly 20 years. Rest of family are all very financially stable, always had cushy jobs (Boomers) and do not need the money.

    I graduated in the mid 90s, say no more! No jobs, still can’t retain employment even now, and was almost perpetually broke.

    If it were not for a good friend on whose couch I am surfing, I would be dead by now.

    Reply Link
  • Bittergaymark February 23, 2020, 12:21 pm

    My midlife crisis is so bad — let’s just say I hope i am long well past midlife.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment