Making the Best of Their Not-Young-But-Not-Dead Phase

Midlife crisis isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A survey by AARP finds 45-55-year-olds largely upbeat, though some subgroups are less bubbly. On the broad question of how satisfied they are “with the way your life is going these days,” 53 percent declared themselves “very satisfied” and 35 percent “somewhat” so; 3 percent were “very dissatisfied” and 6 percent “somewhat” so. Respondents whose household income tops $100,000 were about twice as likely as those making under $30,000 to be very satisfied (71 percent vs. 36 percent). Still, just 21 percent of the lower-income cohort stood on the dissatisfied end of the spectrum(8 percent “very,” 13 percent “somewhat”). Health was a sharper point of division. The “very satisfied” tallies were high among those rating their health excellent (74 percent) or very good (60 percent) and low among those terming it fair (32 percent) or poor (20 percent). Looking to the next five years, 78 percent of midlifers feel they’re “headed for better times”;14 percent anticipate “more difficult times.” Even among those in poor health, “better” beat “more difficult” (50 percent vs. 33 percent). And while blacks lagged well behind whites when assessing their lives at present, there was little difference in the numbers foreseeing better days (75 percent of blacks, 79 percent of whites). Asked to cite their main worries about the next five years, respondents put health ahead of finances, 37 percent to 31 percent, though the vote was closer among men (33 percent health, 32 percent finances) than women (41 percent health, 31 percent finances). You might think of the 45-55 phase as a relatively stable stage of life, but respondents’ lives were full of incident in the past year: 28 percent had a death in the family, 16 percent had a major illness, 15 percent lost or changed jobs, 12 percent saw a child marry or divorce and 10 percent retired. One eye-opening gap: The incidence of “major illness” varied from 20 percent among those with a high school diploma or less to 10 percent among those who’ve done post-graduate work.