The first 50 years of someone’s life usually follows a pretty typical progression: It starts with parents who look after their children for the first 18 years or so, allowing the child to experience and learn new things. High school gives way to college and the journey of living independently and discovering a profession. After college come work, a career and maybe even a spouse with which to have children. But then comes the hard part for most parents, the time when their children get ready to leave the house and begin their own lives.
Empty nesters respond to this life change in a few different ways, many of which we see in our office first hand. Many parents, especially mothers, become depressed, sad or lonely. On the other hand, some parents welcome their new freedom with open arms. But most parents experience a bittersweet, middle ground between these two extremes. For many, this is the first “new beginning” they’ve experienced in a long time. So I encourage clients to find discover all the opportunity this new stage offers. If you’re a new empty nester or about to become one, here are some ideas to consider.
First, take the time to stop and reflect on what you have accomplished. You’ve prepared your children to go out into the world and make their own way. That’s an achievement worth being proud of. Don’t think it’s all about you; your children are excited to beginning their new journey as well. So as you and your children work through this transition, recognize the feelings of anxiety, sadness, loneliness and excitement are normal and will pass with time.
Next, remember that the 2nd half of your life does not have to be a continuation of the first. Turn off the autopilot and live the second half with a purpose. There are no do over’s in the 2nd half. Reassess your situation as if you are starting over. Develop a sense of what you would like the next 20 years to look like. How much longer do you wish to work? What are you going to do when you’re not working? What are your priorities? Seek a financial advisor and run the numbers. How much do you spend? Do you need to make any changes to how much you save? Talk to your advisor and put together a plan for your second half.
Lastly, get out there and live a little! I know 50 may be the new 30, but you’re probably not going to learn to ski at 80, so stop procrastinating and start living today. Give yourself the chance to explore, imagine and rediscover all the things you enjoyed prior to having children. And always take some time to relax, you’ve earned it.