In this article:
- Coined by a Canadian psychoanalyst, a midlife crisis is what happens when middle-aged people become filled with anxiety and regret about missed opportunities in life.
- To cope with those feelings, some make radical changes in their lives and vow to make the most of their remaining years on earth.
- Others don’t handle it so well. Instead of processing the feelings, they turn to reckless shopping to fill the void where their sense of fulfillment should be.
- If you’ve bought any of the big-ticket items on this list, you might be having a midlife crisis. And you might want to figure out some healthier (or at least less expensive) ways to work through it.
Getting old is an inevitability, but it can still be hard to come to grips with. Somewhere down the line, we all start to realize that the days of our youth are behind us and that we’re transitioning into the dusk of our lives.
The retirement home seems to be getting closer and closer. Our children are growing up. Our backs start to ache. Our younger years start to feel like a distant dream.
The term “midlife crisis” was originally coined by Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques in 1965. It refers to a transition of identity that happens to middle-aged people, usually between the ages of 45 and 65.
It can involve heightened anxiety, feelings of insufficiency and remorse, and deepened depression.
People in the midst of a midlife crisis often reflect on past events in their lives that they wish they could change, which often leads them to make radical changes in their present lives to try to correct the perceived flaws of their past.
One of the hallmarks of a midlife crisis is making spontaneous purchases in an attempt to feel more youthful. These errant purchases may be accompanied by other radical lifestyle changes like getting a divorce, quitting your job, or moving to a new place.
Regardless of what form a midlife crisis takes, all of these actions seem to be rooted in a desire to redirect the course of your life. As I said before, getting old is a difficult thing to come to grips with. But before you go and spend an entire year’s paycheck on a midlife crisis-inspired purchase, read this list of common impulse buys that people in the middle of a midlife crisis often make.
7 Recent Purchases That Might Be Warning Signs of a Midlife Crisis
A Sports Car
Perhaps the purchase most commonly associated with a midlife crisis is a bright red sports car. If you’re a 50-year-old man and you just came back from the dealership after looking into a new Ferrari or a Corvette, you might be having a midlife crisis.
Of course, there’s nothing that will make you feel young again quite like a V8 engine roaring down the street at 100 miles per hour.
But before you buy that new sports car, consider why exactly you want it so badly. Do you think you’re going to impress women with your bright red convertible? I wouldn’t be so sure. Are you trying to show off how much money you make at your job? That’s a little bit ostentatious.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy that sports car. If it makes you happy, you should absolutely go for it. However, if you’re just trying to show other people that you’ve “still got it,” I’d say you’d be better off accepting your age and getting a nice, safe Volvo station wagon.
A New Tattoo
Another common purchase for people during a midlife crisis is a new tattoo. Some people who have never gotten a tattoo in their life end up getting inked during a midlife crisis, only to regret it several years later.
They want to feel edgy and spontaneous, so they go out and get something like a flaming skull or a tribal pattern tattooed on their bicep.
By all means, express yourself through tattoos and whatever other kind of body art you’re interested in.
However, if you’re getting that grim reaper tattoo so that the kids will think you’re badass, you might want to think again. Not only are tattoos expensive, but they’re also permanent. So, think long and hard about the motivations behind your new idea for a tattoo, and consider whether or not you’ll still want it on your body in 10 years.
If you’re going through some sort of psychological transition that’s causing anxiety or depression, picking up an instrument and learning how to play can be a great way to apply yourself and take your mind off of things.
However, if you just bought a top-of-the-line electric guitar with the expectation of getting your other 50-year-old friends to start a punk band with you, you may be in the middle of a midlife crisis.
Again, people who are experiencing midlife crises are often obsessed with their image, even if they don’t want to admit it.
If you want to learn how to play guitar because you want to feel cool or convince other people that you’re still hip, I’d suggest you give it up. If you want to learn to play guitar because you think it will be a rewarding hobby that will bring you joy in your free time, go for it. Just start with something cheap.
Concert Tickets and a Van
No one is too old to go to a concert. However, some people are too old to become groupies for musicians that were popular 20 years ago.
If you’re considering leaving your job to go follow The Smashing Pumpkins around on their tour, you’re probably having a midlife crisis. Stay in your job, go to a concert every once and a while, and wait for the midlife crisis to pass.
Hearing our favorite musicians from our youth can bring us back to the glory days, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
By all means, if Bruce Springsteen is playing in your area, buy those tickets and act like you’re 20 years old again for a night. But don’t spend a bunch of money on a hippy van and start following your favorite musical act all over the country. Leave that to the young people.
A Gaming Console
If you’ve never played video games in your life before, it’s probably just going to be a passing fad if you try to pick them up at the age of 55.
You’ll buy one of these super expensive gaming consoles, try to figure out how to use it for a few weeks, and then get tired of it and never use it again. What do you have then? A thousand-dollar paperweight that’s collecting dust and taking up space in your living room.
If your kids are into video games, they don’t want to play those video games with their parents. Let the kids have their time alone. Instead of getting into video games, go play poker with some friends or go out for a glass of wine every once and a while.
Expensive Liquor That You’ve Never Cared About Before
A lot of people who are going through midlife crises suddenly start to develop an interest in expensive liquor.
Next thing you know, you’re spending thousands of dollars on a collection of the world’s finest scotches. But do you really even like the taste of scotch? Or are you just looking for a new hobby that will make you feel suave and sophisticated?
Getting into collecting is fine and totally understandable, but don’t spend all your money on a collection of expensive alcohol that you’re not even really interested in drinking.
Stick to the Miller Lite and Jameson Irish Whiskey. You’ll enjoy it just as much as the expensive stuff, and you won’t have to dip into your kid’s college fund to buy it.
A Vacation Home
Among the impulse purchases that people make when they’re having a midlife crisis, a new house is probably the most costly. Don’t take out a mortgage on that Malibu beach mansion.
You’re never going to have Jay Gatsby-esque parties there. Victoria’s Secret runway models aren’t just going to magically appear at your front door. You’re just going to have a bunch of debt that you’ll wish you never signed up for several years later.
Real estate can be a solid investment. However, if you’re buying a house on a whim, you probably didn’t do the necessary due diligence to make sure that your new house was the best financial move available.
Before you go making a decision as massive as buying a new house, make sure you’re thinking logically and not just trying to make yourself feel young and important.