Most of us are thrown into the second half of life. Something happens to change our perspective: It might be the death of a loved one, the sale of your business, a job change or loss, a health issue for you or someone close to you, or something else entirely. The event happens, and suddenly we see the world differently.

The first half of life is generally about accumulation. We seek to grow our money, our skills, our network, our family, and our professional expertise. In the first half, we often use money as our primary filter when making business and lifestyle choices. We choose the best financial option.

The second half of life, however, is often about being generous. We want to give back, to make a difference, and discover our personal purpose. The challenge: How do we want to make a difference? What are our passions and purpose? Where do we apply our time, talents, wisdom, experience and skills to make a meaningful difference?

For many of us, these are difficult questions to process and ones with no obvious answers. If you are in a similar situation, it’s important to take some time to pause, reflect and allow yourself to start the process of figuring out your own right answer. Consider the following:

1. Be centered and confident when you approach important life decisions.

It’s easy for the meaningless noise of the day to distract us from our inner wisdom about what matters most in life and what we really want. It requires us to have a regular regimen of keeping ourselves centered. Being centered requires us to be aware of our subconscious messages, often from childhood, around money, success and “winning.” Journaling, meditating, reading material that feeds the soul, or limiting exposure to the news and talking heads are examples of how to become more centered.

2. Engage your curiosity and creativity to explore your options.

In the second half of life, we accept that while we may not have all the money we want, we have all we need. We have the freedom to consider choices that are not money-centric, or at least less money-centric. We need the time and space to get in touch with our curiosity and creativity as we think about questions such as:

  1. How is my physical and emotional health? Would I like to do anything to improve my health?
  2. How are my relationships with my significant other, my children, friends, etc.?
  3. What has been my favorite part of my job? What parts of my job would I like to never do again?
  4. What am I passionate about? What do I love, and what drives me crazy?
  5. What am I really good at? What are my talents and honed skills?
  6. What am I ideally suited to do, based on everything I have learned and done over the past several decades?
  7. What does my ideal day look like?

As we think about these questions, our critical voice will often rear its ugly head, lamenting us for not doing better in these key areas of life (e.g. "I should have spent more time with my family"). When this happens, remember that self-attack is never a winning strategy. Cultivate a sense of self-compassion and talk to yourself as you would to a good friend going through this process.

Allow your creativity to blossom. Brainstorming rules apply when you consider these questions. There are no wrong answers; you are just trying to get in touch with what matters to you and what you might want to do going forward. As you work through this step, a few options will emerge that will lead you into step three.

3. Have the clarity and context to understand the pros and cons of the choices before you.

At this point, you probably have several options before you that each have a lot of appeal. Your challenge now is choosing a path forward. Remember, there is no choice without cost, and there is never a perfect answer. There is only the right answer for you.

Get as much clarity as you can about what matters most to you now and how you really want to spend your time. Focus on your top three life priorities. If you haven’t thought about life priorities for a long time, now is a great time to revisit them. Use our paradigm for a meaningful and joyful life to help you sort through your choices. When you are down to your top three, figure out the financial context around each choice (a financial advisor could provide a lot of help and guidance here):

  • How much capital will you need to support yourself if you choose this option?
  • How much capital will you have for new ventures or charitable endeavors?
  • How should you design your portfolio as you work toward giving yourself the best chance for success?
  • What tax-saving opportunities might be available to you that will increase the money you control as you build your new life?

Come up with a tentative choice—the one that feels right in the moment. Sit with it and see how it settles. Feel free to modify and adjust to mold it to your desires and the life you want to create. When you feel good about your choice, it’s on to step four.

4. Make decisions from a place of courage and commitment.

The challenge is that at this point, one of life’s great ironies becomes self-evident: What made us successful in the first half of life will not typically make us successful in the second half. The rewards of leaning into your new life are huge, but it’s scary to move beyond what you spent decades building. It’s not that you give up your wisdom, talents, skills and experience; you just need to use them in a new way with a new focus to create the life you now want.

The good news is that you can do it. Making this choice is in your control, but this process raises big questions: How do you leverage what you have spent a lifetime building to create a fulfilling, meaningful and joyful second half? Or, said differently, how do we best spend the time we have left in a way that nurtures us and feeds our soul?

As you make these choices, our Behavioral Wealth Management specialists will be here to support you and to remind you of the vast resources at your disposal, both financial and non-financial, to make your transition successful.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

David Geller

David Geller

Director, Behavioral Wealth Management

CFP® David joined Wealth Enhancement Group through the partnership with JOYN Advisors, where he acted as CEO and Co-Founder. He is the creator of the Behavioral Wealth Management™ model. A model that focuses on aligning wealth management with the integration of human emotions while taking into consideration an individual’s talents, wisdom, network and relationships. David has been featured in a number of prominent outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The...Read More