How to Cope with Change

Types of Changes You May Encounter

Change comes in many forms, often when you least expect it.

A car accident could cause paralysis and leave you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. Or you could win 50 million dollars playing the lottery and decide to move to a secluded Greek island.

Your boss may come into your office and announce that you've been transferred to the company's Indiana facility, and you'll be leaving New York City at the end of the month. Or your youngest child could show up at the door one day, wondering if her old room is still available for her use.

Let's take a quick look at some of the changes people in their 40s and 50s are likely to encounter.

Go Figure

The divorce rate in the United States was at around 50 percent in 1999, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's up from 43 percent in 1988. And the bureau estimates that if the divorce trend continues, the rate will climb to 60 percent before 2010.

Don't Go There

When bad stuff happens, some people have a tendency to withdraw from family and friends, preferring to “deal” with the changes on their own. If that's your tendency, try to avoid it. Experts say this is not a healthy reaction to change, and that it's much better to talk about and deal with your feelings than to isolate yourself.

  • Work changes. Be aware that changes in the workplace are common at any age, including middle age.

  • Financial changes. Financial changes could result directly from work changes or from other events such as inheriting money, selling a home, or cashing in some investments.

  • Physical changes. While most of us will not encounter serious health problems in our 40s and 50s, nearly everyone notices some changes in their physical condition. Blood pressure may begin creeping upward, or you notice a nagging pain in your back every time you play a couple of sets of tennis. You've had to trade in your glasses for bifocals or are considering LASIK surgery. Most women experience menopause during their 40s or 50s. You have a good measure of control over your physical condition by how well you choose to take care of yourself, but we'll all experience physical changes as a normal part of aging.

  • Domestic and relationship changes. Your spouse of 23 years comes home one day and tells you that she wants a divorce. Or, having been divorced for several years, you finally meet Mr. Right and decide to remarry. Your last child moves out and you begin suffering from a big-time case of empty-nest syndrome. Your first child moves back home—with her six-month-old baby—and you begin longing for the empty nest. These sorts of changes can continue through middle age. Your attitude toward change will help determine how you deal with it.

  • Spiritual changes. It's not uncommon for external changes—such as a divorce, illness, job loss, or death—to spur spiritual change. You may accommodate spiritual change through meditation or join a discussion or prayer group. Perhaps you'll begin attending religious services or attend more regularly than in the past. You may discover spirituality in music, art, sunrises and sunsets, gardening, fly-fishing, mountain climbing, or traveling to new places.

  • Living changes. You sell your home on the three-acre lot and move to a brand-new condo, where your outside work is limited to sweeping off your deck and watering the pots of geraniums. With all that extra weekend time on your hands, you and your spouse decide to take up mountain biking. The next thing you know, you've joined a biking club, installed a bike rack on the back of the car, and are traveling to spots you've never heard of to bike on steep and rocky trails. You make a lot of new friends, and you're both in better shape than you have been for years. Using change to your advantage can result in positive changes in your life, regardless of age. You can either respond positively or sit around your condo on weekends, wishing you hadn't moved from your home. Change is all about choices.

  • Personal change. Stuff happens. Your husband goes off to work one day as usual, and three hours later you get a call that he's been taken to an area hospital. By the time you get there, he's died from a massive heart attack. Or your best friend from the time you were in third grade moves to a city halfway across the country, leaving you with a huge void in your life. Your wife, a lawyer, is accused, and then convicted, of stealing money from clients. The story, along with photos, plays out for weeks in your local newspaper. Your daughter is going through a very difficult and ugly divorce, and you feel powerless to help her. These are no doubt the most difficult kinds of changes we face, and the events that really test strength of character.

It's difficult to predict how you'll handle these sorts of life changes. You might think that you'll always be strong when tragedy occurs, only to find when it does that you're completely devastated and feel totally helpless. Or you may absolutely dread any sort of change, only to end up thriving from it when it occurs.

Read Strategies for Handling Life Changes for some means of coping.

More on: Family Finances

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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