The Boomer Survival Guide

What an absolutely amazing time to be a ‘Boomer! If you’re a person who likes a challenge, you’ll absolutely love 2009! There’s nothing quite like the fear of financial insecurity to stress every system in your life (your career, your relationships and your health) to within an inch of its breaking-point… or beyond. We’ve been told (whether or not we choose to take it seriously) that this year is going to be the toughest in recent history: tougher than last year, with next year shaping up to be not so tough. Meanwhile, wherever you go, there you are, and right now, wherever you go, you’re stuck right here in 2009 with all the challenges that entails.

Welcome to ‘Midlife Crisis Plus’: a life that’s taking the concept of ‘obstacles to success’ to new levels. Sadly enough, you may or may not realize that all you need to do to find yourself inextricably embroiled in this chaos and drama is to do nothing. That’s right: sitting back and hoping for the best – many a midlife guy’s favorite pastime – opens up a direct route to disappointment and discouragement (if not to disaster). There is a bottom line here, guys: move it or lose it. In other words, you’re risking everything when you decide that there’s nothing you need to do right now. The first chapter of your ‘Boomer’s Survival Guide’ should be entitled: “Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!”

Believe it or not, your job and your career are on the line. If you work for someone else, I sincerely hope you realize two Great Truths that ought to be carved in stone: 1) that there’s no such thing as job security anymore and 2) that ‘retirement’ is a a quaint but obsolete concept. If you’re in business for yourself, an entrepreneur, you have to be aware that you’re in fierce competition with every other entrepreneur in the world for an ever-shrinking supply of dollars. They day of the dilettante entrepreneur has passed. The name of the game today is: work hard, work long hours, and, if you’re paying the bills, you’re doing great (and if you’re not, you have a lot of good company). Do you see the conundrum gathering here, friends? Those of you in the “9-to-5” world are wondering whether you’d be better off right nos taking that ‘leap of faith’ you’ve always thought about and ‘leave the rat-race’ to strike out on your own. Meanwhile, those of you who are in business for yourselves are thinking that your best course may be to pack it up and get a ‘RJ’ (‘Real Job’). When the going gets tough, the tough start playing ‘musical chairs.’

Meanwhile, how are things going at home? Should we sense trouble in paradise? Chances are, when the fear of economic insecurity hits one or both partners in a relationship, that things tend to get more than a bit stormy. According to research done by The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, here are the primary reasons cited by couples as sources of their marital difficulties often leading to divorce:

* Poor communication

* Financial problems

* A lack of commitment to the marriage

* A dramatic change in priorities

* Infidelity

Did you see what appears as #2? Do you see any relationship between a severely depressed economy and the #4 reason (“A dramatic change in priorities”). Just out of curiosity, you may be interested to hear the secondary causes:

* Failed expectations or unmet needs

* Addictions and substance abuse

* Physical, sexual or emotional abuse

* Lack of conflict resolution skills

Evidently, when your career is on the line and the sources of your financial security are threatening to dry up (or are actually drying up), all of these relationship stress factors are very likely to come into play.

A similar study published these results:

A recent study by the Creighton University Center for Marriage and Family suggests that time, sex and money pose the three biggest obstacles to satisfaction in the lives of newly married couples. The study found that debt brought into marriage, the couples’ financial situation, balancing job and family, and frequency of sexual relations were of greatest concern to those ages 29 and under. Those age 30 and over shared with their younger cohorts the concerns of balancing job and family and frequency of sexual relations, but also added as problem areas constant bickering and expectations about household tasks. . . . The other top problematic issues the study showed were, in order, husband’s employment; overall financial situation; expectations about household tasks; constant bickering; communication with spouse; parents or in-laws; and time spent together with spouse.

Need I say more? When fears of financial insecurity are in play, all bets are off with regard to your most intimate relationships.

Certainly, that you should be able to rise above these stresses and still maintain your personal health, well-being, and serenity, shouldn’t you? That might be true if you’re Superman or Wonder Woman, maybe! If you’re flesh-and-blood human, however, there’s going to be a physical price to pay for the stress you’re experiencing. If any of what I’ve been talking about describes your current condition, I would expect that you were not sleeping enough or well enough, not exercising regularly, eating poorly, and haven’t had one of “those talks” with your doctor in a while. What’s more, if you have any addictive tendencies, they should be kicking into high gear about now: anything to make the (emotional) pain stop!

A lot of pain awaits you at times like these, especially if you’ve made the decision not to decide to do anything about what’s causing it. Inertia (if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting) exacts a terrible price in times of high stress and anxiety. What’s it costing you to do nothing?

If the first chapter of the ‘Boomer’s Survival Guide’ is, indeed, entitled “Don’t Just Sit There: Do Something!” the first question I’d expect you to ask would be, “What should I do?” I’m going to answer that question with a challenge. Perhaps you believe that you should naturally know, by virtue of being an adult human being, or by virtue of being a male (or female, for that matter) exactly what you should do. I want to challenge that assumption. I want to challenge you to go out there and start doing some research. Start asking questions of people whom you consider wise and successful. Start letting people whom you trust know how you feel, what your worries and concerns are honestly – no B.S., no cover-up, no bravado or machismo – just plain, simple, honest humility. That (and that alone) gives you a doorway into a life that’s honestly yours, that you can take responsibility for and that you can honestly be proud of.

So, that’s where the ‘Boomer’s Survival Guide should begin: networking with wise people and establishing a plan. Think about it. Whom do you really trust (who shows you the kinds of results that you’d like to have in your own life)? Reach out. Get vulnerable. Don’t worry about what other people might say. Don’t worry about how it looks or how it feels: letting a midlife crisis take you down would feel a whole lot worse. There’s my challenge. Are you up to it?