The Big 40

Well, it had to happen someday. I’ve finally turned 40 on the old odometer. I am officially a mid-lifer. I’ve reached the peak, and it’s all downhill from here. Or so they say…

I have my own perspective on reaching mid-life. I’ve just spent the past 40 years climbing a difficult mountain. The road was often treacherous and mired with obstacles/mistakes, but I persevered and reached the top.

I’ll be spending the next 5 years setting up camp at the top of the mountain and preparing for the journey ahead. Assuming all goes well, the following 40+ years navigating my way down the hill/mountain should be much smoother.

Major Goals by the Age of 40

I’ve always liked setting goals, especially long term ones. After graduating from college, and getting married at the tender age of 25, I laid out some high level mostly financial goals for myself to reach by the age of 40.

Here are some of the major highlights:

Pay off all debt

My wife and I had ~$100k in student loans when we got married, which was almost twice our household income at the time. We also had some credit card debt and some car loans. In addition, we took on a home mortgage right after we got married. All that debt freaked me out. My goal was to eliminate it all by the age of 40, including the mortgage.

Within 5 years we had destroyed all the student loans. Over the following 3 years, we took care of all the credit card & auto loans. And over the past 7 years, we paid off our entire mortgage. It took us about 15 years to eliminate >$600K in total debt.

Mission Accomplished!

Get an MBA

Although I went to school for Engineering as my undergrad degree, I always knew I wanted to eventually get a graduate degree in business. I wanted to balance the technical with the managerial.

About 5 years after I started working, I lobbied my company to sponsor an advanced degree. I had just been promoted to my first management position and decided to pursue a part-time MBA focused on leadership. It took me 2 grueling years of long nights and weekends while working full-time to accomplish this goal, but looking back now I can say it was worth the effort.

Mission Accomplished!

Increase Income

I knew that I could drastically accelerate my debt payoff goal by increasing my income. I set a goal to break the $100k/Year mark by the age of 30, and then double that by 40. After multiple promotions and a couple of relocations with the same company, I was able to move my way up the organization.

All the promotions were a deliberate effort on my part to maximize my income potential. I took a very proactive role in taking on more responsibility and accountability throughout my career. This eventually paid off, after 20 years of invested time on my part.

I’m now a global director at a large corporation where I’m responsible for supporting a business segment worth $2B, with direct responsibility for >600 employees in my department. This, of course, sounds glamorous, but there’s a reason why I’m targeting early retirement. A high-income job carries high stress and major burn out. I reached my target income, but I’m not sure how sustainable it is.

Mission Accomplished! 

Break the Million Dollar Threshold

I wanted to reach a net worth of $1 Million before the age of 40. Looking back I’m not sure why that number was important. At the time it just seemed like a cool target to aim for. Now I know that a target number needs to mean something.

I ended up hitting the target a few years before my goal, but by then I had already realized that it wasn’t a high new worth that I was after, but true financial freedom.

Mission Accomplished!

Own a Porsche 911 Turbo

I’ve always had a soft spot for sports cars. I imagined that by the time I was 40, I would have a high paying job, a fancy title and a gleaming custom-ordered silver Porsche 911 Turbo sitting in the driveway.

Somehow over the course of my financial journey, I learned that simply knowing I could buy something, if I really wanted to, was enough gratification. I also learned to look at all material objects, especially the expensive variety, through the lens of financial freedom.

A decked-out $200K sports car, although I’m sure a thrill to drive, would cost me 10 years of Bronze Package Lifestyle and 3 Years of my desired Platinum Package Lifestyle. That’s 3-10 years of retiring earlier than normal. The sorry 25-year old self, no Porsche for you, at least until you can pay for it with pure passive income.

Mission Failed!

Notice that I didn’t have any early retirement goals back then. That concept didn’t hit my radar until recently.

Bonus Accomplishments

Of course, there were some other accomplishments that weren’t formally planned in my youth, which deserve equal acknowledgment:

A happy marriage – My wife and I have had our challenges like many other couples, and we’ve had to learn to work together and support each other over the years. We’re now much stronger as a couple, and happier for it.

A precious daughter – My now 7-year-old daughter has been a priceless addition to our family. She’s already proving to be one of my best accomplishments in life, and I can only hope she will continue to grow and develop into a wonderful woman someday.

Beyond 40

As I reflect on the past 15-20 years, I feel pretty good about where I landed at 40. It wasn’t all exactly as planned, but having a plan most certainly helped. I only wish I had discovered the early retirement community sooner than my early 30s, but I still have the next 40+ years to leverage all that knowledge (and contribute to it).

The next 5 years will be spent positioning my family for true financial freedom.

The 40 or so years beyond that (with any luck), will hopefully be full of wonderful experiences, memories, and personal growth funded by a well-cultivated financial nest egg.

In the meantime, I’m celebrating this latest birthday as I always do…

With a fantastic new dram of fine scotch!

PS:  If there are any scotch drinkers reading, you should check out the Michel Couvreur Overaged Malt Whisky. Really unique scotch from a now-deceased Belgian who imported a variety of whiskeys from Scotland and matured them in very fine sherry oak casks in his french cellar in Burgundy. Pretty awesome stuff!

Readers, did you or do you have any age-based goals? How are you doing against those goals? Has your perspective on money changed over time?

Max

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