After 40, we start having less tolerance for an empty life. The routine starts to drag on us and we start thinking of what we should do with our life. This is a good thing. The most questioning starts with our work where we spend the most of our time. We admit our work no longer fits us but we feel trapped, trapped by our bills, society and even our loved ones, who feel threatened every time we discuss our unhappiness.
Not mutually exclusive
Having an authentic life AND paying the bills are both possible. This is hard work. However it will provide the greatest leverage in your life. What is an authentic life? It’s a life which is centered around your work. This is work which feels just right and enables your full natural gifts to emerge. This is work which brings joy, happiness and a sense of coherence to your life. It does not come easy. Initially you will learn to live with a lighter backpack.
How to pay the bills and still have an authentic life?
Meet Jill who lives on the east coast. Jill had been divorced almost 5 years and her alimony had just ended. She supported one teenage son at home. She worked in a big city and had a long commute to the bank. She made around $ 75,000 dollars a year. This was barely enough to pay her rent, her son’s activities, and all their bills. She pondered what to do. She was not happy with her life and work. She wanted to be married again and her dream was to work with disabled children. When she was young she had a learning disability and now feels a calling to help other children. Her work at the bank could not be farther from her heart. What should Jill do?
A new plan
After much thought and reflection, Jill had a plan. First, she decided to meet with the administrator of a local school, which provided support for kids with learning disabilities. She figured out that going back to school to get a certificate would be a good idea. And she got a student loan for this. Soon she started a small business as an advocate for parents. For a small fee, she worked out with parents how to help their kids. Even though her parents’ meetings and her school started to take up most of her evenings, she felt increased energy in her life. The first $ 100.00 dollars she made at her new business gave her more happiness than the whole money she ever made at the bank.
Jill decided she would stay at the bank 2 more years and then leave.
Fast forward in Jill’s life
12 months later something magical happened. Jill was already making around 1000 dollars a month on the side helping families while still working at the bank. She was half-way through an early childhood certificate program. Through great referrals and testimonials, Jill was offered a role in a local school district close to what she was doing on her own. The pay was around 40% less than what Jill was making at the bank.
Jill makes many life challenges, pays the bills, and lives an authentic life
Jill and her son moved 45 minutes away from the large city and found a place 50% cheaper.
She told her son he would need a student loan for a less expensive college. She continued her small business and raised her fees 30%. She decided to cash in her small 401K which had only around $ 85,000. Even after paying a penalty and taxes, she had a little buffer which would enable her to last another 1-2 years until she could build up more opportunities.
One year later
Jill has a new degree, a new publication for parents, and a bigger customer base. She works 9 months a year for two school districts. Her overall pay is around 80,000 more than she made at the bank.
Things are tight but she and her son are happy. A few months ago, Jill met a man, a teacher, who appreciates her work. She feels a serious connection and a new hope for the future.
What can we learn from Jill’s story?
When you envision what you want and build a plan with small steps, an authentic life is possible and the bills can be paid. It’s not easy. It takes sacrifice but it’s worth it.
What about you?
Is there a part of your life which needs to work better right now? Is it empty work? A lackluster marriage? Start with a vision of what an authentic life would look like for you. Start with a new purpose about your life. Start with a definition of what is most important to you.
It is possible for you
After 40, it is possible to live a life which feels authentic and pays your bills at the same time.
Be self-confident and take a few risks. Build a strong team around you. Take small steps. You can do this. You deserve this now!
I’ll be cheering you as you go!
Craig Nathanson is the author of “Don’t JUST retire and die: A new approach to your life and work after 40” and he is a coaching expert who works with people over forty.
Visit Craig’s online community at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig Nathanson’s books and CD’s, get some private coaching over the phone or in Craig’s office, or read other stories of mid-life change and renewal.
Craig lives and works in Petaluma, California. His office is located at 921 Transport Way, Suite 3, Petaluma Ca, 94954. You can reach him at or at firstname.lastname@example.org.