13 Startling Truths About Getting Older

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When you reach your mid-20s, you’re finally an adult. You’re independent. You pull your weight. You read the news. You vote. You’re no longer an observer of society; you are society.

In short, you know the way the world works.

But do you really?

Things are going to happen to you as you get older, things that nobody told you to expect. As I got older (I’m now 67), I was surprised to discover the following facts. Now you won’t have to be.

Here are the things you’ll experience in the coming decades that you haven’t planned for.

You’ll be blamed for the world’s problems

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When I was a teenager in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I blamed older generations for 100% of the world’s problems.

They started nonstop wars. They didn’t care if they used the last drop of clean water, drew the last breath of clean air or sucked up the last drop of oil. If the planet died when they did, well, that was fine with them.

My generation was pissed. As a result, many of us protested, passed laws, enlightened society and made other moves to turn things around.

Imagine my surprise when I read how today’s youth is blaming my generation for ruining what was apparently a perfect planet before we screwed everything up.

Funny? See if you still think so when it happens to you. And it will.

Your parents will never stop giving you advice

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When I reached my mid-40s, I’d been a CPA and financial advisor for 20 years. I’d been married twice and seen much of the Western world.

I knew my way around the block. But that’s not something I ever convinced my parents of.

As you age, you’ll logically assume there will come a time when roles will reverse and you’ll be offering sage advice to your parents. This makes sense since they’ll be about to retire and you’ll be at the top of your game.

Here’s a surprise: That’s not going to happen. When you’re 75 and your parents are 105, you’re still going to be their child and they’re still going to be compelled to offer you guidance. Get used to the idea.

Your mind won’t age along with your body

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Between the ages of 5 and 25, your body changes a lot, and so does your mind.

Somewhere around your 30s and 40s, your mind reaches a kind of equilibrium. Your thoughts, opinions and personality are formed, relatively speaking, for the rest of your life.

Your body, on the other hand, will deteriorate, a process that accelerates as you enter your 60s.

I assumed that my mind would age along with my body, in the sense that I’d start acting like “an old person”: listening to symphony instead of rock, going to bed early and waking up early, yelling at the news, holding up traffic and moving into an age-restricted community.

This obviously happens to some people, but it hasn’t happened to me, and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen to you. True, you’re not going to retain your looks. But avoid mirrors and you might be surprised to learn that even though you qualify for Social Security benefits, you haven’t changed a bit.

(Like this article so far? You’ll probably like this one too: “The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire“)

You’ll miss ‘the good old days’

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The political slogan “Make America Great Again,” popularized by Donald Trump in 2016 but first used by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, describes a belief that attaches to every generation. Namely, that life used to be better. The world used to be more pleasant. Times used to be simpler. People were nicer. Things weren’t as dangerous.

You may not believe it now, but one day you too will be lamenting the loss of the “good old days.”

When that happens to you, ask yourself this question: The old days may be old, but are you sure they were good?

In my parents’ “good old days,” women’s job choices numbered exactly two: teacher or homemaker.

In my generation’s “good old days,” people of color were shut out of the housing market. Folks didn’t live nearly as long, and as a group, often weren’t very nice at all.

When I was a 30-year-old investment advisor back in the ’80s, my good friend and work mentor was a middle-aged man with a wife and a couple of kids. One day he woke up and decided to kill himself. Turned out he was secretly gay.

If that’s how you want to “make America great again,” allow me to respectfully disagree. Every generation has selective memory. Yours will, too.

(Like the way I write? Then listen to me talk. Check out Money Talks News: The Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts.)

You’ll think the world is out of control

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My father fought in a war that raged worldwide and killed 80 million people.

The world was unraveling. People were scared.

My memories of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination are fuzzy, but I clearly remember when Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot. I remember cities burning as race and anti-war riots raged. Four unarmed college students were shot and killed by their own National Guard. Well over 1 million people died in Vietnam.

The world was unraveling. People were scared.

Lately, I’ve met people who are convinced the world is flat, or only 5,000 years old. There’s a tidal wave of hate, fear and ignorance washing over the world. Some of our fellow citizens are openly calling for a second Civil War.

The world is unraveling. People are scared.

Here’s the thing: The world seems out of control because the world is out of our control. Sometimes it’s calm, but don’t expect smooth sailing “as soon as (fill in the blank) is fixed.”

You were probably led to believe, as I was, that fear, confusion, ignorance, violence and injustice are the exceptions. Turns out, they’re the rule. Get used to it.

Important: Sooner or later you’re going to be in a position to fight back against fear, confusion, ignorance, violence and injustice. When that happens, do so. If you instead offer excuses, trust me: There will come a day when you’ll regret it. If you want to look back with pride at your life, stand up for the marginalized.

You’ll think young people are lazy

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As a young adult, you’ve no doubt noticed that older adults refer to your generation as entitled, lazy and directionless.

Don’t take it personally. This is a puzzling tradition that’s been around for literally thousands of years. In the fifth century B.C., Socrates said youth “have bad manners, contempt for authority” and “show disrespect for elders.”

More recent examples:

  • In the 1920s, young people were called the “Lost Generation” by their elders who thought them aimless and lacking purpose.
  • In the 1950s, younger adults were called the “Silent Generation” and criticized as conformist and lazy by their elders.
  • In the 1960s, the baby boomer generation was frequently criticized as self-indulgent and radical by their parents’ generation.
  • In the 1990s, Generation X was called the “slacker generation” by older adults who saw them as lazy or unmotivated.
  • Today, millennials are often labeled as entitled or the “trophy generation” by older adults who think they want rewards without effort.

In short, people my age have always labeled people your age as entitled and lazy. There’s no reason to expect you won’t carry on this stupid tradition when you get older.

You’ll become invisible

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Every time I’m at a music festival, bar or other big gathering, waiting in line for a drink or the bathroom, some guy will say, “Dude! I can’t believe you can party like this! You’re my dad’s age. That’s so cool!” I never expected I’d become a hero simply by waking up every day.

Here’s another surprise: That’s the only kind of attention you’re likely to get.

When you’re over 50 and walk into a large gathering of much younger people, they’re going to look right through you. Why wouldn’t they? You’re too old to be a conquest, and too out of the loop to be interesting.

It’s a shock when you realize your defining physical characteristic is no longer your big biceps or blond hair. It’s your age.

Solution? Either hang around with people your own age as you get older, or begin now to develop a reservoir of self-confidence. Because if you don’t have it now, you’re sure as hell not going to develop it then.

You’ll realize material things aren’t that big a deal

Senior man with money
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It’s a cruel twist of fate: When you’re young, you’re starving for material possessions but can’t afford them. When you’re older and finally able to somewhat indulge yourself, your appetite for material things is waning.

I don’t mean to imply material things are immaterial. But the sheer joy and feeling of accomplishment that came with my first house, first Harley, first boat and first European vacation can’t be repeated.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Money can’t buy happiness.” That’s partially true. But here’s a better way of putting it: “Money can’t buy happiness. But if you’re already happy, money is awesome.”

By all means, make money. That’s the icing. Just be happy while you’re doing it. That’s the cake.

You’ll understand your parents weren’t so stupid after all

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Your parents are always on your side, and they’ve known you since you were a zygote. That makes them a unique source of sound advice.

Yet, when we’re young we often ignore their advice. Why? Because they’re not like us. They’re from a different era. They can’t begin to understand the world we’re living in. How could they?

As it turns out, the world you know isn’t really as different as you think it is. Most of the challenges and frustrations we encounter as we age haven’t changed a whit.

As you age, you’ll realize your parent’s advice, based on their extensive experience and offered solely for your benefit, was probably pretty solid after all.

Imagine how your parents felt when their honest advice fell on deaf ears. Oh, wait. You won’t have to wonder what that feels like, since your kids are about to do the same thing to you.

Time is going to speed up

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When I had my 60th birthday party, here’s something I got a lot: “Don’t worry, Stacy! Sixty is the new 40!”

It’s not that I mind getting older. It’s the getting-closer-to-death part that’s disconcerting.

Be aware that as the sand slips through the hourglass, it inexplicably speeds up.

Recently, I was at a birthday party for a woman turning 42. She said something like, “I look so old! You should have seen me when I was 30.”

My response: “First, don’t ever say something like that to someone 25 years older than you. More important; you’ll never be younger or better looking than you are right this second. Stop whining and start appreciating the life you have now. Which, by the way, is the only one you have left.”

Whether you’re 25, 45 or 65, savor the moments.

You’ll become an orphan

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If life works the way it’s supposed to, you’ll outlive your parents. Take a minute to understand what that actually means.

These are the only people in the world who will love you no matter what. Their love, support and belief in you are infinite.

When those two people are gone, in a very real way, you’ll be alone in the world. Sure, you’ve got siblings or maybe the perfect spouse. But parental love is special, as you know if you have kids of your own.

As soon as you’re old enough to appreciate who your parents are, and finally wrap your mind around the things they’ve done for you, thank them. And if you want to ask them questions about yourself, your family background or anything else that only they know, take the time to do it.

Because one day, maybe sooner than you think, that opportunity will be forever lost.

You’ll realize young people don’t know squat

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When you were 15, you thought you were an adult. When you turned 30, you realized how crazy that was. Fifteen-year-olds may think they’re adults, but they’re obviously not. They’re 15.

Of course, now that you’re 30, you realize what being a sophisticated adult really means.

Well, here’s something you may not have considered: When you’re 60, you’ll regard 30-year-olds the same way you looked at 15-year-olds when you were 30.

Most (although not all) young adults project sophistication but don’t deliver. This isn’t their fault. The more experiences you’ve lived through, and the more hardships you’ve overcome, the more interesting you’ll be. This takes time.

I’m not suggesting 30-year-olds are vacuous or otherwise not worth talking to. I’m just letting you know that as you age, you’re probably going to think younger people aren’t nearly as worldly as they seem to think they are.

I’m sure if I enter a room full of 87-year-olds today, they’ll think I’m a puppy. And they’ll be right.

Bottom line? If you’re 30 and going into a room of 50-year-olds, don’t pretend to be sophisticated and experienced. It’s plain to see you’re not, and it makes you look silly. Just be yourself.

Want to appear sophisticated, no matter your age? Do less talking and more listening. Works every single time.

What you lose in appearance you’ll (hopefully) gain in wisdom

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The world has a way of balancing things out.

As you age, yes, you’ll become less physically capable and likely less attractive. But the wisdom you’ve gained by living a full life will more than make up for it.

When I was your age, I thought of becoming older as a curse. I believed that as I gradually lost the things that made me physically attractive and “on top of my game,” life wouldn’t be worth living.

I am happy to report this is false. Because while you may not be as tall, have as much hair, or run as fast, you’re going to be wiser. You’re going to be more colorful and more interesting. Your perspective will be refined and your opinions grounded.

You’ll also realize the things you thought were important when you were younger, like looks or popularity, weren’t nearly as critical as you thought.

Let’s be honest: There are people my age, and yours, who are dumber than a sack of hair. But when you reach my age, you’ll be surprised to learn getting older isn’t a disaster. Not at all. It’s just a part of growing up.

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