Over 40? Here Are 40 Things You Should Start Doing Immediately
"I'll get to it someday." Heads up: Someday is today.
Let's start with the good news: You're going to love being in your 40s. In many ways, it's the best decade to be alive. You've outgrown the insecurities of your 20s and 30s, and you've likely settled into a successful career at this point. But you're not officially old yet, so nothing is slowing you down—unless it's in your own head. You're in the prime of your life, comfortable in your own skin and with the confidence of somebody who's been around the block a few times.
But, with all that said, your 40s aren't a decade for just coasting through life. Being 40 brings new responsibilities and new priorities. Think of all the things you used to think, "Hey, I'll get around to that someday." Well, heads up: that someday is today. Here are 40 things that everybody over 40 should be doing immediately. It's no longer cool to let the important decisions slide anymore.
Figure out what a "cloud" is and how to use it.
The days of multiple floppy discs containing your entire digital existence are gone. Your iPod memory isn't as large as your taste in music, and thanks to selfies, your phone can't possibly contain all of your photographs. Many phone companies offer free clouds, and Google has a standard one, but investing in one space where your whole world can live will alleviate headaches in the future when, inevitably, you go swimming with your phone, or your 7-year-old crashes your computer with a bootleg version of Minecraft.
Apply for TSA pre-check.
Skating through security at the airport is heaven. There comes a time when you're willing to pay for some things to be a little bit easier. Work, family, and life in general can be time-consuming and stressful. If you can streamline any of it, why wouldn't you? Even if you only travel once or twice a year, TSA precheck is worth it.
Learn how to put on a duvet cover.
Trust us, it'll change your life.
Set up a solid emergency fund.
Yes, there are people in the world who are incredibly responsible and already have this in place. But according to a recent Go Banking Rates survey, they're in the minority; a whopping 58 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. That may've been fine in your 20s, when putting aside birthday money from your grandparents counted as savings. Now? It's time to take saving for your future seriously.
Thankfully, it can be as simple as making small changes in how you spend money. Go out to dinner one less time every month. Or don't buy that impulse item and put the money into your savings account instead.
Renew (or get) your passport.
Everything about renewing a passport is annoying. It's just another chore without an immediate payoff. But having a passport? Well, that's worth everything. Knowing you could travel anywhere in the world on a whim, it gives you the excitement of potential. It's also the freedom anyone in their 40s should have at their disposal. Don't be the 40-year-old who can only travel to the nearest border crossing. The world is your oyster.
Get an annual checkup.
Even if you're feeling great, that doesn't mean you shouldn't check in with your primary physician at least once this year, if only to check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and body weight. At 40, keeping tabs on your health stats is all about being proactive.
Get an accountant.
They're not as expensive as you think, and it's time your dad stopped doing your taxes. Even if you're the Turbo Tax master, unless you're up-to-date in the ever-changing tax codes, you might be missing some critical money or penalties.
As Dr. Muir Gray, author of Midlife: Look Younger, Live Longer, Feel Better, once said, "The adventurer Bear Grylls lives a very low-risk life compared to those who commute, sit at a desk and stare at a screen. All these cause stress and inflammation, which decrease the quality and length of our lives." Whatever you're doing right now that involves sitting, it can wait. Get off that chair and move your body!
Take a nap.
A quick power nap—for best results, just 10 to 20 minutes and only in the early afternoon, according to the Mayo Clinic—won't just help you get through a day when you're feeling underslept. Baylor University psychologist Michael Scullin said in an interview that "sleeping well in middle age predicted better mental functioning 28 years later." The more sleep you get today, the sharper your brain will be in another three decades.
Lift some weights.
When you reach 40, you start losing around 1 percent of your muscle mass every year—which means it's never been more important to hit the gym and pump some iron. You don't need to get ripped or become a person who describes their muscles as "the gun show." Just lift enough so that you're feeling healthy and strong.
Start taking vitamin D.
Thanks to the common practice of lathering up in sunscreen (to avoid sunburns and skin cancer), most people have some sort of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, however, is essential for cell turnover as well as calcium absorption. Your doctor can check your vitamin D levels and recommend a dosage, but be sure to take it on a full stomach. Vitamin D with a meal can enhance its absorption and increase blood levels more efficiently.
Get acquainted with your family medical history.
If you have a history of breast cancer, get yourself to a breast exam tout de suite. If you have a history of heart disease, now is the time to take that stress test. If your parents lost all their teeth by the age of 45 because of a rare gum disease, talk to someone about scheduling implants. Your genetic medical history is something to take seriously, and now is the time to consider how it might be a red flag for what to expect.
Build your village.
Do you have a list of go-to people you can call in an emergency? Every adult over 40 should have a mechanic, plumber, allergist, pharmacist, optometrist, proofreader, lawyer, and salon stylist on speed dial. If you haven't already, it's time to befriend the manager at your favorite restaurant. You don't think people are getting tables in overbooked restaurants just because they slipped the maître d' some cash, do you?
We're not going to lecture you on why you never should have started. But if you smoke, you have no excuses anymore for continuing this bad habit. You can still reverse the damage ravaged on your body by cigarettes. If you quit before the age of 40, it will decrease your risk of dying a premature death from smoking related diseases by 90 percent. If you quit by your mid-40s, you can still decrease your risk by up to 75 percent.
Do an insurance tune-up
At 40, it's a good idea to make sure all your insurance bases are covered. Do you have home owner's or renter's insurance? How about health, car, dental, vision, and life? All of these could be available through your bank or existing insurance agencies. When bundled together, they can end up saving your money in the long run. And they're all critical as you move into your next decade. Make sure you're covered for the things that matter. And make sure you're not paying for things you don't need. If you've moved to a city and now commute on a train to work, you can probably lower your car insurance by reporting less mileage.
Get some decent bedsheets.
A set of bedsheets that costs more than all of your sheets combined will serve you well in the long run. Plus: They'll help you get a better night's sleep—leading to boosted cognitive function, amped-up energy, and more—which is kind of the point of sheets in the first place.
And a new pillow, too!
Are you a side sleeper, a back sleeper, or a stomach sleeper? As you age, it matters where your head lies. The hand-me-down pillows that you've acquired over the years will end up doing damage to your neck. It can lead to headaches, increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, and just a plain ole literal pain in the neck. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should change your pillow every two years.
Get rid of those drug store readers.
As your eyes age, they weaken. The readers you can buy on the cheap from convenience stores are tempting, but if you habitually need them, it's probably time for some actual glasses. You can do more damage if you just keep increasing the strength of your $8 Foster Grants. If your readers only address the close-up, you could be damaging your far vision.
Toss out that new credit card offer you got in the mail.
They seem to show up in the mail every day, and if you're not careful, the intoxicating thought of "free money" might just get you. And while you're at it, be aware of your FICO and credit score—you can get this info for free at some sites—and investigate the multiple factors that either elevate or drag it down and fix the ones that don't work. There may be things you're unaware of, like an unpaid bill you didn't even know existed that's been in collection for twelve years.
This can't be the first time you've heard about the importance of flossing. So when was the last time you did it? Earlier today? Sometime this month? At least in the last year, right? Flossing prevents gum disease, which in turn protects the gums that hold your teeth in place. You want to keep your teeth, we assume. Okay then. Go floss your teeth. Right now. We'll wait.
Get frisky more often.
However much sex you're having right now, it's not enough. Have more sex. Sex is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. It's not like we're telling you to eat more kale (which you should probably also do). Sex lowers your blood pressure, reduces your stress levels, strengthens your immune system, lessens pain, and keeps your hormones in balance. Though a solo effort can be gratifying, it won't produce the same results beneficially.
Put down the processed foods.
The chips, the lunch meat, the hot dogs. If it has more than one ingredient, don't eat it or cook with it. The ingredients of chicken should be this: chicken. That's it. If there's something else in there, don't eat it. The body is unable to manage or process all the chemicals created to make a Pringle taste like ranch dressing.
Stop ignoring your moles.
Don't pick at the random bumps on your body that you think look kinda weird, but hey, whatever, it's probably no big deal. Have them looked at by a dermatologist. They can make a map of your moles so they can be monitored in the future. Bonus: they have access to a whole host of miracle anti-aging solutions.
Thank a hero.
There's somebody you've admired for years, the man or woman you always reference when asked who you look up to. Don't you think it's time you told them what they mean to you? They might be a teacher or a mentor or just somebody who was encouraging to you when you needed it the most. Or maybe it's a celebrity. That's okay too! Every human being on the planet will make time to be complimented, admired or acknowledged for their hard work. Write an email, go to a Con, tweet at them, let them know that they shifted your life in some way. Whether they're famous or your relative, they deserve to know the impact they've had on you.
…from the screens. Human interaction is helpful on multiple levels. As lovely as it is that you're back in connection with someone you used to know at summer camp, it's more important for your well being and state of mind to leave the house and go have coffee with that fellow 40-year-old friend from your current life that you've been avoiding. Make the date and turn off Facebook.
Talk to your parents.
Do your mom and dad have a financial plan in place for their senior years, or medical issues that they haven't been dealing with? This will all fall to you eventually and if you talk about it openly and honestly now, you'll all be prepared for the transitions that need to happen tomorrow.
Parlez vous Français.
There are well-documented studies about the benefits of children learning a second language. But learning a new language after 40 has even bigger benefits, from boosting your brain power to enhancing your ability to multitask. It keeps your mind sharper for longer and enhances decision-making.
Get a hobby.
We're not talking about SnapChat. Finding a hobby and being part of a community will do wonders for your longevity and your mental capacity. There are multiple studies that've shown how staying mentally active and engaged in hobbies can stave off dementia. If you've ever been mildly curious about home-brewing or grilling or chess or leather-working, now is the time to indulge those instincts.
Cut down on your sodium
Most prepackaged meals have two to three times the daily recommended allowance of sodium. Healthy sodium intake should be under the 2,300 mg range. That's every day, not every meal. Too much sodium can lead to hypertension, which is a one-way ticket to a heart attack or stroke. The point is: it's time to start paying closer attention to the fine print ingredients of what you're putting in your mouth.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the oil production in your skin starts to decrease in your 40s. The longer you go without moisturizing it, the more damage you're doing. Dry, craggy skin it's not a good look on anybody. Apply moisturizer a few times a day and your skin will stay young and healthy looking.
Install money-saving apps
There are dozens of apps on the market that make saving or investing money so much easier. They do everything from investing small amounts (in $5 increments) in stock portfolio options to making pre-scheduled deposits from your paycheck directly into a savings account. You could be saving money without even realizing it!
Anything and everything that interests you—read it. The way you did when you first learned the magic of reading. The benefits far outweigh the negatives when you're looking at maintaining cognitive function. When you read a book, you're using parts of your brain that never get utilized when you read a text. Research has found that reading makes you more empathic, improves brain function, and gives you an increased tolerance for uncertainty.
Book a plane ticket.
Having something to look forward to makes your daily world more efficient. It also reduces stress knowing that there is a pot of gold at the end of your work week rainbow. Traveling promotes heart health and relieves stress and boosts your mental health. The moment you return from your trip, book another one.
Make a will.
Even if you think you don't have anything of value, make a will. Between one-half and two-thirds of American adults don't have a will, and if they should die unexpectedly, a probate court makes all the financial decisions on their behalf. Don't be that person. Call a lawyer and get the wheels in motion.
Spend more time with your kids.
A new study found that most American parents spend an average of 37 minutes each day with their kids. That's because 60 percent of them describe their lives as "hectic." Hey, we get it. Our lives are hectic too. Everybody's life is hectic. But your kids are growing up, and life moves fast, and it all disappears eventually. If you haven't figured that out by 40, you never will. You can carve out more time to be with them.
Write something by hand.
It could be a letter or a grocery list—try doing it with pen and paper, rather than your smartphone or a computer. It's not just that writing by hand is more satisfying, and it will likely bring back fond memories of your childhood. There's evidence that writing by hand can have positive cognitive benefits.
Tell somebody you're sorry.
Nobody likes to say they're sorry, even when they're obviously in the wrong. But if you're in your 40s, you might want to reconsider. A 2014 study out of the University of Miami found that apologizing can vastly reduce reactive anger. Having less anger in your life means less stress, and we're sure you've already heard about the life-shortening effects of stress. Just say those two words, "I'm sorry," and set yourself free.
Get your feet measured by professionals.
You don't cut your own hair, do you? You'd never give yourself a medical checkup. So why are you trusting your feet to a lucky guess, or worse, one of those old school foot-measuring things that your great-grandparents used to measure their feet. Many shoe stores have technology that can map your feet and create sneakers that are unique to you.
Spending some time alone, just you and nobody else, is good for you. It's got so many health benefits. If you've got fear of missing out, you need to remind yourself that you're 40 and you haven't missed out on anything. What could possibly be happening at that party you haven't experienced before? And according to a 2017 Finnish study, even extroverts get exhausted by being surrounded by people all the time. It's okay, cancel your plans and just spend some time with you.
Stop calling yourself old.
You're not old. You're barely middle-aged. In one recent study, 42 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 75 considered themselves "middle-aged." If they're middle-aged, what does that make you? Whatever you want to be. Age really is a state of mind. And for more ways to live your best life in your best decade, Here Are 40 Things to Immediately Purge from Your Life After 40.
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