At What Age is it Hardest to Radically Change Your Life?
Some people have commented around the web lately that most of the lifestyle design resources out there tend to focus on the younger crowd. I would agree, most lifestyle design bloggers seem to be in the Gen-Y camp. Not all (I happen to be closer to Gen-X than Gen-Y), but most are under 30.
Why is that? Are most of the people pursuing lifestyle design really that young? It could be that the people talking about lifestyle design are younger, but in fact plenty of “older people” are also trying to radically change their lives too.
Or, it could be that pursuing an alternative lifestyle design just gets more difficult as you get older. Life’s pressures and responsibilities mount and radically changing your life becomes harder and harder.
Is that really true? At what age is it hardest to radically change your life?
From Gen-Y to Baby Boomers, let’s talk about each generation and what about each phase of life might help or hinder someone’s ability to radically change course. In addition to age, obviously your marital status, whether you have kids and your financial status are all important too.
I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.
Let’s start with the vocal majority.
Recent Post-College (or College Drop-Out) to Late 20s
Ah, youth. There are so many benefits to starting things young. Especially in lifestyle design. If you want to pursue your passions or live unconventionally, starting in your 20s makes a lot of sense.
When you’re first out of college (or even if you skip college), you’re already used to living on next-to-nothing. This is a great situation to be in, as it gives you the flexibility to take some time to earn a living from whatever you’ve chosen for yourself.
For example, if your goal is to earn a living working online, it’s much easier to support yourself as a 22 year old than it is to support yourself as a 45 year old who’s married and has two kids. The income requirements could vary by 5 to 10 thousand dollars a month.
There’s also something about the optimism of youth that can make things easier for you. When you expect something to be possible, you might spend more effort looking for a solution. Your positive attitude might also help you see opportunities that a jaded person might not.
On the other hand, there is a strong temptation when you’re fresh out of college to take that first seemingly high-salary job. It’s what all your friends are doing, and it seems like the easy way to a comfortable life, which it really can be.
It all depends on what you’re looking for, and at this age maybe you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for in life yet.
Late 20s to 40
Here’s the category I fit into, and I suspect many of you reading do too (but maybe you’ve been a little shy in participating in these conversations in the past). I think the younger generation is growing up with social media and blogs and they are more likely to contribute to online conversations, but I digress.
By the late-20s, most people will have taken a crack at some type of career. That career probably wasn’t chosen for all the right reasons, and you may have even just “fallen” into it. If you’re not in love with your career, at some point you might have second thoughts about your chosen path.
Having experienced a “typical” life path can be a great motivator to do something different. It can help you realize what you really value in life. That’s something that people who start on a more unconventional path right after college will lack.
On the other hand, societal/familial pressures to “not rock the boat” are probably stronger by the time you’re in your 30s. Your friends and family have already established themselves and may respond to your idea to try something different by telling you “not to throw your life away.”
Then, there are financial resources and requirements. In your late-20s and 30s, you may finally be building a modest financial cushion. That padding can allow you to live off of savings for some time while you switch careers or pursue entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately, the standard of living you’ve grown accustomed to has no doubt grown since you first entered the work force, and you now need to make more from whatever new thing you’ve chosen than you would have if you’d started at an earlier age.
You will also have a much greater fear factor to get over. When you’ve spent a decade or so doing something that’s at least comfortable, pursuing something completely unknown will probably scare you and cause stress like you’ve never experienced. Welcome to entrepreneurship. It’s an emotional roller coaster that only gets more difficult as you get older.
40 to Mid-50s
After 40, does pursuing a big life/career change get easier or harder? Let’s remove marriage and children from the equation here (see below for more details) and just focus on age.
Many of the trends that started in your mid-20s and continued up until this phase of your life have probably continued. This can be help or hinder your ability to make a big life change.
For example, your standard of living has probably grown even more, although probably not as rapidly as it did from 25 to 35. It may have even plateaued somewhat. That’s good, because it can mean that any financial cushion you have will last longer if you choose to use it for a mini retirement or sabbatical or to pursue a career change.
What about your mental state in this phase? Not speaking from experience, I can only postulate at what might be going through your mind. In some ways, you might say that someone in their 40s or 50s has more to lose career-wise. You are probably getting closer to a “traditional” retirement, and drastically changing careers at this point could jeopardize that.
At this phase, more than any other, your financial situation probably has the greatest impact on how easy it will be to pursue a new lifestyle design.
If life has been hard and you don’t have much saved, maybe you think “what do I have to lose?” If life has been grand and you’ve saved a lot, maybe you can afford to try something new without impacting your future retirement. It could be that the middle ground is most troublesome.
Special Considerations: Being Married
When you’re married (or heavily involved with a partner), you might have some convincing to do before you run off with your latest business idea, or set out to change the world. Hopefully your spouse will understand, but there’s a strong chance that you didn’t talk about some aspects of your new lifestyle goals before you became serious.
What happens when your spouse doesn’t agree with your idea of a better lifestyle? How can you best achieve what you both want?
Special Considerations: Having Kids
There is no doubt about it, kids can make lifestyle design a little trickier. Each decision you make will carry a little more weight and impact more people (your family). It’s understandable that the majority of people choose to remain in a stable/traditional job when they have children (or at least young children).
What about people who have kids but still want to create an unconventional lifestyle? What about travel, entrepreneurship or following your passions? How difficult are these things to accomplish with kids? Is it more difficult to pull off lifestyle design with children than any other life phase or situation?
For the full scoop, I’ll have to defer to you who have children. I don’t have any and don’t want to speak out of turn.
I have however, met many amazing families who are on extended trips with as many as four kids, ranging in ages from 2 to 17. The thing I love most about those adventurous families is how close they all are to one-another, relative to the “typical” Western family.
Financial status has a lot to do with what people might feel comfortable doing in life with kids. It doesn’t have to be a limiting factor, though. Many of the families we’ve met while traveling are of extremely modest means, but have somehow found ways to make alternative lifestyles possible.
What other situations are worth discussing here? What about lifestyle design after age 55? What about people with disabilities? What about when you have to care for family members?
At what age (or in what situation) do you think it’s hardest to radically change your life? At what age/situation is it easiest? Please share in the comments below!
photo by lyzadanger
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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: