It can be the best decade of your life. (Until your 50s. And 60s.) Here's how.—By Grant Stoddard
Life, so they say, begins at 40. You may find that idea cold comfort as your hair grays or thins, your paunch fails to shrink after a few weeks of dietary austerity, and you wake up feeling creaky. In fact, these signs of wear and tear testify that you’ve been around long enough to have learned some stuff, done some things, accrued memories and assets and fostered and strengthened relationships while gaining perspective on this brief and crazy trip we call life. Now’s the time to take your past and use it to fuel the successes of all the life yet to come. So read on — and for even more inspiration, check out the report that's changed thousands of lives: 100 Ways to Live to 100!
1You’ve settled on a wardrobe
Your 20s were a time to experiment with personal style. Your 30s were a time to get comfortable with your look while making important life moves. Your 40s are time to take the results of that success and reinvest it in you. By the time we reach our fifth decade, most of us have decided that cling onto our youth by dressing younger is a bad move. “Dressing younger only serves to highlight your advancing years,” says Alex Wilcox, co-proprietor of New York men’s clothing store Lord Willy’s. “You end up looking like a old head on a young body. This in contrast to dressing classic — albeit with a few playful little touches — which tends to do the opposite.” For more on that, check out this essential list of 15 Things Every Man Should Have in His Closet.
2You’re better in bed
The 10,000-hour rule refers to the amount of time it takes to master something. By the time you’re in your 40’s, you’ve likely logged up some serious love hours and all that experience is paying off for you and your partners.
3You can see all your favorite bands live again
Terrible record deals signed in the '70s and '80s have an upside for you if you didn’t get to see your favorite bands the first time around. These guys have to hit the road to make some scratch. Plus, without so much sex and drugs, the rock and roll is sounding better than ever. Just don’t look at them too closely. Make a nostalgia trip one of these amazing 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s!
4You can make a difference
What do you stand for? Your 40s are time to put your money, time and/or effort where your mouth is. Instead of commenting on an issue that you’re passionate about from the sidelines, have the courage of your convictions and make the difference you want to see.
5You care less about more things
Confidence, experience, wisdom and knowing what you do care about converge in our 40s. That has the cumulative effect of making us devote far less time, effort or energy to that which we realize is banal, superficial or uninteresting — like a good amount of contemporary pop culture. To make the most of every day, start checking off these surefire 25 Ways to be Happier Now!
6Contemporary pop culture isn’t important anymore
A new album dropping, a celebrity feud, an intoxicated red-carpet appearance, a wardrobe malfunction... Incredibly, at some point all this stuff sort of mattered on some level, and maybe, occasionally something someone made, did or said will pique your interest, but in your 40s you realize there are other things worth devoting that time to.
7People think you’re an adult
You may feel much the same as you did when you were 15, but perception is reality, and with a few gray hairs and some laugh lines, you’re being perceived as a full-on grownup. You find that people call you "sir" with more sincerity, defer to you when a decision has to be made and think you know what the hell you’re talking about. Now make the most of your adulthood: Start doing these thrilling 50 Things to Do Before You Die!
8Your relationships are more mature
Stormy arguments, passive-aggressive standoffs, taking actions intended to screw with your partner’s head. By the time you’re in your 40s your tolerance for drama should have hit absolute zero and you’ll be much happier for it.
9You’ve carved out a career
You've done things, made things happen and had a discernable impact on the lives of your co-workers, bosses and the people who report to you. You’re now in a zone where the depth and breadth of your experience and the relationships you’ve forged makes you more valuable an employee than at any other time in your career. Now that you're on top, stay there with these 8 CEO-Proven Resilience Builders!
10People seek out your opinion
Whether it’s at work or in another area of your life, you notice that people actually care about what you have to say. Maybe they always did, but now they’re not shy about picking your brain. Just by virtue of living, you’ve become someone whose opinions are sought after.
11You realize that experiences are more valuable than things
Now that you own property, a car or two, even a boat or a second home, you come to the realization that although it’s nice to have things, their true value is really the enjoyment that you get out of them. Instead of another car, why not spend your money on these 25 Adventures Every Man Should Have?
12You’ve got an arsenal of anecdotes
You may not be the most interesting man among your peer group, but spend a moment among people a few years your junior, and you’ll start to realize just how much you’ve accomplished, what you’ve seen and where you’ve been, and you'll feel pretty good about it.
13Most things you yearned for in your 20s are within reach
Remember when you wanted that Gibson Les Paul, that vintage Vespa, that crazy weekend in Vegas, but could only dream of having the money? Those days are gone. Now that you have a healthy bank balance, revisit your old want list. Anything on there still look tasty? Snag it. For ideas, check out these 14 Sports Cars to Buy Now!
14Your rough edges have been smoothed out
Chances are, you were somewhat of a jerk in your younger years (or at least showed some jerky qualities). You’ve been busy accruing accolades, wealth, anecdotes and assets, but if you’ve been paying attention, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some humility along the way and have settled into being a kinder, more compassionate, more thoughtful you.
15Whiskey tastes good now
How many features have you seen on the news about octogenarians, or people who've crossed the century mark, who attribute their long life to good whiskey? It's no coincidence: Studies show that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don't, and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke than teetotalers. And it's better to develop a taste for whiskey than wine: The amber spirit contains no added sugar. To please a crowd at your next party, stock up on these 10 Best Small-Batch Bourbons!
16Your friendships are more stable
Now that you’ve let friendships that aren’t working fade away, you've recalibrated expectations of people who are as busy as you are, and you don’t have the drama of people in their 20s and 30s, you're left with friendships that are sound.
17You worry less about the future
Although there’s plenty of life to look forward to when we’re in our 40s, the fact is that a lot of big life decisions are already behind us. It’s highly likely that, in our fifth decade, we already have a career, a partner and have decided whether to start a family. You’re in the groove. With your newfound freedom, start doing these 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s!
18You will attract women who are younger and older than you are
If you’re single, your 40s are a time in which women who are 15 to 20 years on either side of your age may see you as a viable mate — or at least as a seasoned/virile fling.
19You speak up for what you want
With confidence and experience piling up and your dotage drawing ever closer, you realize that it’s time to get real about what you want out of life, and you're more likely to vocalize it. Tick-tock and all that. With your hard-earned confidence, learn How to Negotiate Anything and Win!
20You owe fewer people less money
Recent data shows that when we enter our 40s, the amount of credit card debt we carry falls off sharply. People aged 25-34 have, on average, $10,400 in credit card debt, but in the 35-44 age bracket, that number drops to $6,200.
21You move less often
Our 20s and 30s can be a transient time, as career opportunities and romantic entanglements push us all over the map. Now that you’re in your 40s and have established yourself in a career or started a family, the stress and expense of relocating is something we’re less likely to do. Now that you're settled, don't miss out on these incredible 50 Things to Do Before You Die!
22You stop trying to be anyone else
By our fifth decade, we’ve learned to view who we are from the story we tell ourselves and others about who we are. Although we’re proud of our strengths, we’re ever more accepting of our weaknesses and become kinder to ourselves about them. In short, we own who we are. By doing that, we stop striving to be someone who, deep down, we know we’re not.
23Loyalty takes on new meaning
You’ve seen enough people enter and leave your life to understand what being a true friend means. Even though the age of peak drama has come and gone, there may be times when you're called upon to have someone’s back, or occasions in which you need someone to bat for you. Loyalty becomes a quality that you revere in others and internalize. Having strong, genuine social connections is just one of these scientifically proven 100 Ways to Live to 100!
24Your retirement planning is starting to look sound
As time ticks on, you should move the allocations in your 401k or IRA from aggressive (stocks) toward the more conservative (bonds). Your 40s are the time to start. The golden rule: Subtract your age from 110 or 120; that's the percentage of your retirement fund that should be in stocks. To pin things down further, use this asset allocation calculator from Bankrate.com. And to set aside enough cash, use one of these 6 Great Personal Finance Apps!
25You’ve learned to splurge wisely...
Bedsheets, towels, wine. With experience, you realize that there are some things that should never be scrimped on, and what those things are is completely unique to you.
26...and spend less on others
By the same token, you realize that the difference between a $300 and a $3,000 mattress is negligible and that you can’t taste the difference between a $30 bottle of wine and one that costs ten times as much. Although your experience now drives you to spend more in some areas, your net outlay should stay more or less the same as you cut back elsewhere. But don't forget to have the fun you deserve. These are the 40 Best Ways to Spend Money in Retirement!
27You’ve settled on a haircut
You’ve been through several decades of men’s hair trends. By now, you’ve got a pretty good grasp of a style that fits who you are and best frames your face. From here on out, the only thing you need say to your barber is “the usual.”
28You’re ready, willing and able to forgive
At this stage in your life, feeling butt-hurt about something someone did to you is beneath you. Letting them know that you're over it is the ultimate big-balls move. In one fell swoop, you’ll free the bandwidth their infraction has been taking up in your brain ever since they drunkenly propositioned your ex-girlfriend, and reclaim the power they've had over you ever since. That's just one of the 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!
29You’ve learned to be happy for others’ success
You have faith in the idea that a rising tide raises all ships. In fact, there’s some scientific basis for that assertion. Studies have shown that as people in our networks become wealthier, fitter and happier, we stand to earn more too. It’s a matter of the people closest to us setting new norms.
30Your gut instinct is sharper than ever
In decades gone by, you’ve no doubt made a decision that was more about presented "facts" rather than how you felt about a person or an endeavor. You’ve been right and you’ve been wrong, but that process has been incredibly helpful in sharpening your spidey senses to a point where you feel that you can more readily trust them. Knowing when to trust your gut is just one of the 20 New Rules for Successful Entrepreneurs!
31You get rid of things that don’t work for you
The summer home you don’t use, the friendship that takes way more than it gives, the golf club membership you got in the hopes that you’d discover a love of the game. In your 40s, you’re quicker to jettison what’s not bringing value to your life.
32You realize that only a few people’s opinions matter
Your ratio of quantity of friends to quality of friends has likely shifted in favor of the latter. Along with the opinion of your partner and family, you realize that what anybody else thinks about you is of little consequence.
33Your weaknesses have become strengths
Richard Branson, the British business tycoon and founder of the Virgin Group, used his own weakness – dyslexia – to form one of his greatest strengths, the art of communication and delegation. In our 40s, we’re in a prime spot to reflect on how we overcame what bedeviled our progress in our 20s and 30s and think of it as a superpower that we acquired through adversity.
34Flirting is so much easier
A funny thing happens when you get to 40. You start to feel very comfortable in your own skin (especially if you adhere to the advice contained within this handy list). That ease is appreciated more than you'd think, especially by women a few years younger. As are your high-quality, well-fitting clothes, your experienced face, your fit physique, your depth of knowledge and your humility. Realize that you now have many qualities that are extremely appealing to women, even those you considered out of your league when you were younger. So give a compliment, make a joke, ask for a number (if you're single). Guys their age have yet to figure out what you have.
35People take you seriously
Another consequence of having been around: People believe that you’re not playing games, even when you’re literally playing games. They're more respectful of your time and are far less likely to take liberties.
36You don’t do things out of obligation
Ah, the power of a good, solid "no." In our 40s, we really realize the power of this word, and we aren’t so shy about using it when we’re asked to put time, money or effort into something that doesn’t light us up. Make that one of these 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s!
37You know how to have a great time
Although being set in your ways don’t always sound like a positive, one of the great things about having been around the sun a few dozen times is that you know what gets you going — and you've concluded that some activities are simply not for you.
38You’re young enough to make a big change...
If you’re in your 40s, you may have more working years ahead of you than behind. You can use that perspective to fuel a big life change. When you’re in your 50s, you’ll consider your 40s as you think of your 20s now. (For the longest possible life, start following these scientifically proven 100 Ways to Live to 100!)
39...but old enough to do it wisely
A wealth of experience means that if you do make that life change, you’ll navigate it in a way that doesn’t burn bridges or damage relationships.
40You can treat your parents
We're not talking about a dinner here or there. Send your folks on a trip somewhere they’ve always wanted to go while they're still able to fully enjoy it. You’ll never regret it. How about one of these 8 New Luxury Vacations?