Are you in midlife?

Midlife.  It’s always been associated with crisis.  I am closing in on my 40th year, and wondering if that makes me ‘middle-aged’?

Tim Ferriss recently interviewed Chip Conley.  Chip has set up what he calls a ‘midlife wisdom school’.  It’s a retreat dedicated to lifelong learning, where you can ‘repurpose yourself and reframe your mindset about the aspirational aging ahead of you.’

During the interview, the question came – how does someone know they are in midlife?

“How you know you’re in midlife – whatever the age – is you feel the weight of the accumulation of what you have acquired in your life.  And I don’t mean just the physical things.  I mean the friends, the responsibilities, the identities.  Invisible name tags that define who you are in the world.  And you actually, frankly, are sort of feeling overwhelmed by all of that accumulation.”

The words ‘overwhelmed by all of that accumulation’ struck me because wealth building is about the accumulation of assets.  In my profession we use the word ‘accumulation’ to refer to the phase of life where we are building our wealth and ‘decumulation’ to refer to the phase of life where we are living off our accumulated wealth.

I know that Chip is referring to more than simply the accumulation of financial assets, but in my experience it is easy to become overwhelmed by financial assets.


Here’s how it can happen.

As you accumulate wealth, deals and opportunities become available to you that weren’t available to you before.  You have always understood that diversification is a good thing so you start putting a piece of your wealth here, and a piece of it there.  You accumulate real estate and venture capital and private equity and art and this and that.  Maybe you even end up with more than one advisor*.

A strategy that seemed like a good idea suddenly (somewhere in midlife) becomes an enormous headache.  Maybe you witness the death of someone close to you and see the impact on family members of dealing with, what ultimately is, a huge mess.

You then spend the next however many years unwinding this complex web that you have created for yourself.  You start simplifying. 

You realise that you may have misunderstood diversification. 

You start to educate yourself.  You start to understand the historical movement of markets.  You start to understand what you own.  You start to understand what a diversified portfolio looks like.  You start to understand why you diversify (hint: it’s because although we can have a reasonable idea of what will happen in the long-run, we have absolutely no idea what will happen next).

You find one trusted advisor, your life becomes simple again, you don’t feel overwhelmed anymore and your wealth benefits.

If you are in ‘midlife’ and feeling the weight of your accumulation, I can help.

* Nick Murray recently wrote, “You do not have surgery on your aorta performed by two cardiac surgeons who haven’t previously communicated. You do not have an estate attorney for half your estate and another for the other half. The management of wealth is no less important to your family than these functions, and it’s equally critical that it be carried out by one overall advisor.”