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10 things to do before you turn 50

You've sensed the black bunting and cruel gag gifts dead ahead, the cheerful semi-surprise party of well-meaning younger friends and commiserating older ones who, like you, have decidedly mixed feelings about hitting the big 5-0.

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The very least that can be said in favor of reaching the half-century mark is that it carries less angst than the big 3-0, less sting than the big 4-0, and certainly beats the alternative.

After all, you've accomplished far more at this point in your life than at those previous traumatic milestones. Chances are you've found love and married (perhaps more than once), you've raised a family (perhaps more than one), you've settled on what you're going to do when you grow up, and you've probably cobbled together enough assets to make retirement a real possibility.

Love, family, financial security -- what's not to like about turning 50?

Well, the downside is that one of these mornings you're going to wake up and actually be staring at a 50-year-old in the mirror.

The big 5-0, as everyone who has hit it will tell you, is the physical milestone. Somebody cranks up the gravity, makes all the print tiny and turns your favorite foods against you. Your doctor becomes a nag. Your clothes start shrinking. And you forget, but not selectively anymore.

Any day now, that AARP card will arrive in the mail and you'll be officially old. But that doesn't mean you have to go gently into that good night -- not by a long shot. After all, you're a baby boomer. You were born to be wild.

Here are the top 10 things you need to do before you greet the big 5-0:

1. Get lost
Looking for a personal mantra as you prepare to tee off down life's back nine? How about this one: Habits kill. By now, you may have seen more of other parts of the world than you've actually seen of your own hometown because you've been a good little Pythagorean and mastered the straight line between A and B and never got beyond point C.

But now is the time to get lost, at least metaphorically. Take that road you've never taken. Go to work by bus instead of train. Or get really radical, and walk somewhere. Mix it up. And be sure not to plan too much. It takes all the fun out of it.

2. Use the good china
Who doesn't know the frustrating feeling of watching our parents or older relatives deny themselves the pleasure of using fine china, linen, silver and other great things in life? Don't go there.

If you've got the good stuff swaddled in bubble wrap, locked away for safekeeping or displayed in fine glass cabinetry, pull it all out right now. Find the orneriest 3-year-old available and together build a ridiculous lunch of peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches with SpaghettiOs on grandma's finest. You'll be grinning for days.

3. Visit the wonder window
Been a couple decades since your kids were born? Need a double shot of wonder with that latte grande? One of the best free shows on earth is available at the maternity ward of your local hospital. Just drop in and stand at the window.

There's a wonderful charge from being in the presence of newborns, especially when we're feeling the tug of our own mortality. If you are a parent, it can put you in touch with all the reasons you brought your own kids into this world in the first place. That's a pretty nice place to revisit.

4. Lose the locks
Anthropologists are trying to isolate the gene that makes human beings cling against all reason to the hairstyles they had when they bought their first car. What's sadder than a 40-year-old man with a mullet? A 50-year-old with a comb-over or a ponytail, that's what.

At 50, it's time to lose the locks. Guys, give your boyhood barber a farewell tip, find a stylist half your age and get short and modern. Ladies, the '70s called and they want their long hair back. Go bobbed, go gelled, go asymmetrical, go crazy, but go short. You both will look 10 years younger.

 

 
 
-- Posted: Feb. 19, 2004
   

 

 
 

 

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