Mid-Life Transition, Not Crisis

A New Emergence of Mid-Life Course Corrections and What We Can Do to Facilitate Support and Awareness

spring path

We often discuss the challenges and opportunities people face during the transitional time period that accompanies retirement. Retirement is something that is marked by a specific event in our lives, so it seemingly has a beginning and we are equipped to work through this transition because, by definition, we know when it is going to take place. In contrast, there are other transitional periods in life that are not as clearly defined. I recently read an article from the Washington Post that discusses the transitional period that many people encounter during middle age (40 to 65) that is not given very much attention but, perhaps, should be identified and addressed both by members of our financial profession as well as by the people who are either approaching or currently living in this phase of their lives.|

“Over the past decade or so, evidence has emerged from economics, psychology, and neuroscience showing that humans tend to go through a kind of emotional reboot around midlife. It’s often experienced as a period of malaise and dissatisfaction, but normally it is not — contrary to stereotype — a crisis.”

What was often called the mid-life crisis could be stereotypically identified by a new sports car, a divorce, or a sharp divergence from one’s typical habits (like suddenly going to the gym every day, going out with friends or colleagues at night more often, or leaving a job for something entirely new). Starting Flourish four years ago may have fortunately been my mid-life crisis. Marc Freedman, CEO of the nonprofit Encore.org which offers resources and support for people in middle age and retirement, wrote a book in 2011 called The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. In his book, he identifies this period of life not as a crisis, but rather a chasm—a period of distinct transition that, like most other transitions, can be “confusing and chaotic, a mismatched mess of mixed signals, outdated norms, anachronistic institutions, and multiple misperceptions”.

Societal Norms and a Change in Life Stage Categorization

During this period of transition which, unlike many others, has no clearly identifiable beginning or catalyst, the feelings of confusion or dissatisfaction might stem from the manner in which we as a society traditionally break up life’s stages. We spend the first two and a half decades in school expecting the majority of our life’s education to be stamped into our brains in one lump sum, then we work for another three or four decades and then, still most often agile, alert and highly skilled, we are “herded into the idleness of retirement”. With long life expectancy that is growing every year, people must be looking at what they are doing when they are 45 or 50 years old compared to what they want to be doing and realizing that they practically have a whole other lifetime to accomplish it or try something new before they reach an age where they need to be idle. It is no wonder that the discomfort at this stage can lead to behaviors traditionally as sociated with transitions, but unfortunately, there is little guidance or support to foster a plan or a built a plan B strategy for those in mid-life.

So, are there alternatives or support systems emerging for this interesting stage in our lives? The answer is yes, they are emerging, but slowly. Finding solutions is as difficult to approach as the transition itself is to identify. The reality is that it is challenging to step out of your comfort zone after you have developed some deeply rooted habits by the time you are in your mid-forties. Beginning by asking what you want and picturing reinventing your life without abandoning your responsibilities can be quite overwhelming; and with no roadmap or menu of options, it can appear impossible to solve the problem. Changing the manner in which society, as a whole, views this period of life is likely the only thing that will encourage businesses, planners and individuals to follow suit. Having the permission of society to change gears at 40 years old and to inevitably make and learn from the mistakes that go along with that is paramount to developing institutions to foster su pport for this transition.

Solutions to Manifesting Change in Mid-Life Transitions

Freedman has some interesting ideas as to how to fund mid-life gaps. “He and others imagine innovations like Individual Purpose Accounts, which would help people save up for gap years and adult education, or reforms allowing people to use a year’s worth of Social Security benefits early, so they could go back to school or do an internship.”

A Proactive Planning Approach

What we could do as financial advisors is: be proactive about addressing this transition with our clients and be on the leading edge of providing solutions. My takeaway from the article was to encourage people to begin planning earlier than age 40. If we provide insight and resources the same way we do about retirement, identifying challenges people may face early and helping them to establish a set of objectives and a plan by which they might achieve them, then by the time they reach 40 or 45 they will have already addressed what they are going to do in the face of a need for change and they will have the resources, both financial and emotional, to find the fulfillment they seek.

As with any transition, an inherent feeling of change that is a sharp contrast to what your life felt like before is very common. It is this discomfort that leads us to want or need to take some type of action. The need for action can often feel so urgent that people make decisions without accounting for all of the implications of them. We strive to offer advanced planning for our clients so that the challenges and transitions they encounter in their lives are made simpler by the existence of a plan for where to go next. For assistance with your mid-life course correction or any other transition, feel free to contact us for an introductory meeting.



Freedman, Marc. The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. New, York, NY. Perseus Books Group, 2012.

Share This Post

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Our Mailing List

Stay up to date on all things Flourish!

Flourish is Ten Years Old!

A decade ago, we embarked on a journey to empower and serve you with values-based financial planning. In 2024, we celebrate our 10th anniversary with immense gratitude for your trust and support. Here’s to many more years of flourishing financially, together!

Skip to content