Fearing the Male Midlife Money Crisis

It was only a generation ago when money worries for men around the age of 50 began to drop off, and continue to drop as time passed by. The majority of working middle aged men, had by this time, got a pretty good idea of where they were heading financially.

Financially Strapped ManHow things used to be!

Whether the future looked rosy or posed tough times ahead, it seemed that the over 50’s had accepted their lot and were prepared to adjust to whatever retirement had in store for them.

The Middle Aged Men of 2012 – A Worried Generation?

The past 25 years have seen entire populations become addicted to cash. Many people began living well beyond their means and accumulated debts like there was no tomorrow.

Most western countries became nations of spenders and extreme shopaholics. As for ‘saving’, well, that almost became a dirty word!

On top of our overspending and consequent debt burden, there’s also been a continual rise in unemployment and a general sense of job insecurity within the working populations.

Why the Midlife Male is so Financially Insecure

In recent years, we’ve also witnessed the introduction of contract employment. This has resulted in less opportunity for company assisted pension schemes, generous fringe benefits, and permanent long-term job openings.

These losses combined all contribute greatly to a man’s financial worries in the 21st century.

The Wake Up Call of 2007

The 9th of August 2007, saw the arrival of that phenomenon known today as the credit crunch. Soon after it came the subsequent global economic crisis, which is still ongoing at the time of writing this piece.

Governments around the world have been introducing sever austerity measures ever since. Many of these are hitting the pockets of every Joe Average pretty hard, and will continue to do so for years to come, thus changing the way we manage our finances.

So all things considered, it’s little wonder today’s middle-aged man is uneasy with his future financial outlook when compared to the generation that went before him.

The Unrelenting Threat has its Victims

The constant menace of financial insecurity is rife amongst today’s over 50s. Studies from Europe and the US indicate money concerns play heavily on the minds of men in midlife transition.

The High Cost of Failed Relationships

If the picture above isn’t gloomy enough, western countries have seen divorce rates and legal separations spiral out of control. Splitting up with one’s partner has become almost as common as marriage itself.

Ask any man who’s experienced a failed relationship, especially where there are kids involved, and he’ll surely tell you that the crippling costs involved, both in the short and long term, are painful to say the least.

So just when did things start to go so wrong for today’s generation of middle aged men?

The Healthy Respect for Money was Lost

Bank NotesThere came a point in time where we seemed to lose that once healthy respect for money. Previous generations had a much healthier regard for their hard earned cash, but not so with us!

There was just too much of it available to worry about a shortage.

If we didn’t have it, we’d just borrow, and if we needed more, we’d simply phone someone at some bank, or other fast cash outlet, and get more – usually instantly! It really was that simple, hence the catch phrase ‘Easy Money’.

We Blame the Banks, but…

Yes, the banks have behaved incredibly irresponsibly over the years, but so have we. No one forces a drink down the throat of an alcoholic, just as no one makes a working man borrow money and live a life on credit. And for what? More often than not, it has been so that he and his family can satisfy their unappeasable desire for stuff.

Accumulated debts, lack of savings, no steady pension fund or long-term investments, have all materialised out of this insatiable appetite for ‘MORE’. Sadly, the current financial predicament of so many men in mid-life never needed to happen. Too many of us have arrived at this point purely by spending frivolously in the past.

We’ve been splashing out to satisfy our WANTS more so than to meet our NEEDS. It’s true, our yearning for the material, and a taste for high society, has seen many of us place our wants above our needs. Now if that’s not twisted thinking, then pray tell what is?

Managing Money the Right Way

There’s only so much we can do with money. To keep things simple, let’s categorise:

1. Earn it
2. Spend it
3. Save it
4. Invest it

Financial Habits of the Previous Generation(s)

Whenever possible they would spend less than they earn. This in turn would mean they could put a bit aside each month in savings. ‘Saving for a rainy day’, is what they called it.

From these savings, they might have invested a little into a pension fund or a life assurance policy of some description. Others would perhaps put some cash into a few stocks and shares as a long term investment.

It’s now understood that when compared to our forefathers, today’s generation of middle-aged men (and their partners), have fallen well short in the money-management department. Overseeing the household budget was something that women in particular were exceptionally good at.

So let’s now take a closer look at the financial ignorance associated with the current generation of mid-lifers.

The phenomenon of Spending

They developed the habit of spending more than they earned, achievable purely because of easy credit. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that it’s impossible to save if there’s nothing left over after all bills and shopping sprees have swallowed up the income.

As a consequence, there was nothing left to invest either. So when troubled times struck, the money dilemma really hit home. As a lot of middle-aged men and their families had been living well above their means, they were soon forced to take note of their situation.

Taking stock didn’t paint a very pretty picture for a lot of people. Not only were they broke, but in debt too. On reflection, a typical financial pattern may have looked something like this:

  • He spent more than he earned
  • He then borrowed to make ends meet
  • Increasingly more income went into replaying escalating debts
  • Borrowing continued to maintain the accustomed lifestyle

The end result of this unsustainable level of apparent affluence is that eventually all income goes back into replaying debt. And the inevitable outcome of this is that there’s ultimately nothing left over for anything else.

Taking Stock of the Situation

However, as devastating as financial arrears, fears and uncertainty can be, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that you are NOT your bank balance. You are NOT your house either, or your possessions; you are YOU, first and foremost.

There is a Solution, there’s always a Solution

For younger people money comes, and money goes, it’s all part of growing up and finding ones way in the world. Fortunately for them, they have time on their side, time to bounce back and start afresh, as so many of them do too.

Middle-aged folks have the opportunity to rebound from a crisis too, but it takes more effort, patience, and persistence, but recover they can, and recover lots of them do.

Despite the grim reality of this article, sometimes we middle-age men need a harsh reality check, or perhaps a swift kick up the backside is a more apt expression, in order to get back on track. You see, knowing something is one thing, but taking time out to read about it often helps to reinforce the message.

Uncontrollable debt, unemployment, and low income jobs in middle age, are more than just issues with finance. They can, if ignored, seep into all aspects of daily life affecting health, wealth, relationships, and lifestyles. Don’t despair, there is always hope.

To every problem there is a solution, even though it might not seem so at the time.

Help is at Hand The vast majority of western countries will have recognised non-profit organisations where financial experts offer their services for free or by donation. These volunteers are extremely good at helping those in crisis take back control of their financial situation.

If you need help, then please make sure you use these organisations.

If you know of, and would like to share with others the name(s) of, any such charitable concerns from your own country, then please contact me with the details and I will add them to the sticky post in our Midlife Financial Forum here.

Let us finish now on a very fitting quote from ~ Thomas Carlyle

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything”.

About Andy Aitch

Musician, writer, netentrepreneur and founder of 50ish.org, the site created for uniting middle-aged men the world over.

Motto: a man is not old until his dreams become his regrets

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