40 Thoughts On Turning 40

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Turning 40

Happy Monday friends! As you can tell from the title of the post, I’ll be turning 40 very soon – next Tuesday in fact. Since Mrs. Frugal Rules and I will be in Vegas celebrating my birthday (thank you credit card rewards for the free trip) over that time I thought I’d share some thoughts on the supposedly momentous day today. I know Vegas may not be the most frugal of vacation destinations, but you have to have fun every once in a while, right?! 🙂

I can remember back to when I was turning 30 and thinking, oh my gosh, where on earth has time gone! Now as I look back a decade later, that day seems like it was just yesterday. Turning 40 is often considered being at or near midlife. I don’t know if that is necessarily the case, but what I do know is that each day is truly a gift. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow so I do my best to live each day to its fullest. With that, I’ve got some brief thoughts I’d like to share on turning 40, in no particular order:

1. Life is entirely too short to do something that makes you miserable.

2. College kids now look like pre-teens at best.

3. No matter how difficult the day, find something to be thankful for. You’d be amazed at how that can change your perspective.

4. Tell someone you love them at least once a day, trust me, it’s worth it.

5. No one ever told me that hair would start growing out of certain orifices at this point!

6. The laughter of children is contagious.

7. If you say that you’re going to start working on X tomorrow, start now! If you wait until “tomorrow” I can guarantee you that your chances of doing it go down exponentially.

8. Money is a tool, one that is great to have and have more of – but it’s not everything.

9. Stretch yourself at least once a year, if not more. Find a goal that is going to take you out of your comfort zone and throw all you can at it.

10. Change is inevitable, deal with it.

11. Like it or not, (and I don’t) regardless of how much you think you are, you’re NEVER always right.

12. Travel the world. Ok, I know this one is a little on the generic side, but you get the point. There is so much to see and do in this world and when you visit other countries not only do you get to see beauty you’ve never seen before, but you also see that our “history” is but a drop in the bucket.

13. My parents were right when they said not to wish your life away, it goes by too fast. 🙂

14. Do something selfless for someone at least once a day. Whether it be big or small, the point is to serve someone each day.

15. Don’t let haters keep you down, use the hate to make you stronger.

16. I can want something all I want, but without a solid plan it’s just not going to happen.

17. Debt, especially consumer debt, is toxic. The experience of paying it off though can be an incredibly eye-opening experience. Soak it up for all it’s worth.

18. No matter how much I want to tell that person who cut me off in traffic where they can stick it, it’s just not worth it. I’m still working on this one…  😉

19. I can still remember beta max tapes. Now, we’re watching television on the computer!

20. Even though our kids fight it kicking and screaming, I WISH I could take a nap each day.

21. I have a lot of friends, if you look at social media. I’m thankful for each one, especially those I’ve met and truly have gotten to know.

22. Embrace gray, and gasp…white, hair. With it comes wisdom and who doesn’t like a little salt with their pepper?! 🙂

23. Our six year old thinks I’m turning 93…

24. I love my wife more each day, and her beauty grows with each passing day. I know, cue the cheesy music. 😉

25. No matter how much you hate your job, find ways to grow in it – it will make you a stronger person.

26. You can learn the greatest lessons from kids. We discount them too much in our society, instead we should learn from them.

27. Routine is boring, try something new. You never know, you may just like it!

28. I thought I knew what I wanted when I was younger, it took getting older to figure it out.

29. The best friends are those you can not speak with in ages and pick up like it was just yesterday with them.

30. Embrace trials in your life. You learn A LOT about yourself in them.

31. Those wrinkles weren’t there yesterday…

32. Like it or not, you’re going to turn out, to a certain extent, like your parents. That doesn’t mean you’ll make the same mistakes though.

33. Teddy Roosevelt said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It took me 40 years to realize this. You don’t know what someone else is going through, be happy with what you have.

34. Do something silly every day.

35. There are few things that a nice glass (or two) of wine or a good beer can’t solve.

36. Honesty and transparency are overlooked, yet incredibly important traits to have.

37. Allow time for yourself. Find something that allows you to recharge and refresh. All work and no play can make life very monotonous if you’re not careful.

38. If the first 40 years is any indication, I can’t wait to see what the next 40 are like.

39. Age is but a number. You’re as old as you are in your heart – which means I’m going on three if you ask Mrs. Frugal Rules. 🙂

40. Appreciate each day. Time is truly a gift!

Phew! I didn’t think I could come up with 40, but I did. 🙂 I look at this list and see things I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to do. Some I’m still working on and others I do well. Thankfully, wisdom comes with age. As I said prior, I’ll be taking advantage of #37 next week as Mrs. Frugal Rules and I unplug and go on a trip of our own to recharge and celebrate – I may not even turn on my phone during that time. To be honest, I’m just a bit nervous as we’ve never been away from our business this long, but I trust all will take care of itself.


What is one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?


Photo courtesy of: Marc Van Der Chijs

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Matt Becker says:

    Oh my god, college kids look so young! Even a few years ago I remember standing at the subway with my wife (then girlfriend), seeing a bunch of kids, and saying to her that there must be a high school field trip or something. One of the girls looked back at me, gave me this huge scowl and said “we’re in COLLEGE” in the most attitudy tone I’ve ever heard. And I was like 25 at the time.

    And oh yeah, happy almost birthday!

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    Happy Birthday John! I totally agree that taking time each day to think of something that you are thankful for can totally change your frame of mind! Hope you have an awesome time in Vegas!

  • MMD @ My Money Design says:

    Happy Birthday John! Wow, 40! That is a big accomplishment. I’ve got to say that I’m jealous and impressed that you are spending it in style in Vegas – that’s how I’m going to want to do it!

    I can identify with just about everything you’ve got on this list. But for some reason #25 seems to stand out to me. No matter what you think of an employer or your work, your work is a reflection of YOU. So do it well.

    • John says:

      Thanks MMD! Yea, thankfully we won’t be doing much in terms of spending for it as the entire trip is paid for via credit card rewards. πŸ™‚

      I could not agree more on that. It took me some time to learn it, but it does say a lot about you and is something you need to manage.

  • Snarkfinance says:

    40 huh? I am not as young as I used to be, but 40 is a still a long way off. Congrads on making it that high… its a rougher road that people think if my trip into the late 20s is any indication.

  • Liz says:

    Love the advice John! The one thing I feel like I’ve learned {I will be turning 25 in a few weeks} is to relax a little bit! Stop stressing so much and enjoy the journey a bit more : )

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Happy Birthday! My favorite thing you put above was this -> “Even though our kids fight it kicking and screaming, I WISH I could take a nap each day.” My ideal day would include a nap each and every day. It might sound dumb but I would have told myself to start a blog (or two) a few years back if I could tell my younger self something. The older a site is the more valuable it is, plus I had the time with my on-campus job. Oh well, can’t go back in time haha.

    • John says:

      Lol, yea I think mine would as well but what can you do? πŸ˜‰ Yes, there are a few things I wish I could go back and do earlier – starting our business being chief among them.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Awesome post, John. πŸ™‚ The one thing I would go back and tell my younger self (besides to stay out of debt – duh!) is just not to worry so much about everything. It’s just not worth the time and energy, and rarely does it accomplish anything.

    • John says:

      Thanks Laurie! I could not agree more. Like I’ve heard before, worry is like a rocking chair…it gets you nowhere. πŸ™‚

  • travis@debtchronicles says:

    Great thoughts on turning 40, John. I didn’t think of it as a big deal, really…….I like who I am, and where I am in life at the age of 40 more than any other time in my life. If this is getting old, then sign me up!

    • John says:

      Thanks Travis! I agree, it really isn’t so much a big deal…I think society makes it bigger than it really is. I’m quite positive I’ll feel no different at 40 than I did at 39.

  • Raquel@Practical Cents says:

    Happy Birthday! Love the list especially the “find something to be grateful for”. I will be bookmarking it. I would say to my younger self to start saving. I wasted time spending in my younger years.

  • Mark Ross @moneysavingdude says:

    The one thing that I would like to tell my younger self now is that I should have been more open-minded back then, and seize the opportunities which I didn’t, but I know that I can’t do anything about those now. I just have to keep moving forward and wait for the next opportunity to come.
    Anyways, I hope you have a great time in Vegas! Happy Birthday John!

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    Great list John! I will reserve my birthday wishes to closer to your birthday, but I am surprised you came up with 40. If there was one thing I would tell my younger self, that would be to not be so stupid with money. Try to focus on things that will better myself and help my family.

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson! Yea, I was surprised as well and it took a few days, but glad I did it. I’m right there with you on the being stupid with money, but thankfully we’ve both learned. πŸ™‚

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I would tell my younger self not to stress out so much. It either works out or it doesn’t, regardless of whether you stress or not. I guess when I start to feel old, I can always say that I am five days younger than John! Happy Birthday.

  • Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says:

    Happy Birthday!! My friends and I joke about all of the new places on our bodies that hair is now growing from. The kicker is, I swear it grows super fast too! It’s like every other day I have new hairs!

  • Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life says:

    Great list and have fun on your vacation! I’m starting to appreciate #35 after a long hard day at work! And where are all those naps that I refused to take when I was a kid? If only we could get them back…

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    Really enjoyed the post! So many true statements. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I need to copy and paste that somewhere! And laughter is definitely contagious…especially with the little ones. My 6 month old brings so much laughter to the room when he’s laughing. Don’t worry, 40 is the new 30 right? Did you end up getting the tattoo??

    • John says:

      Thanks Andrew! I know, I need to do the same thing myself. That laughter of a little one really is something special, isn’t it? We like to tape them laughing and having them listen to it, it’s so funny to see their reaction. The tattoo…good question. I don’t know yet. If I get one, it would be in Vegas next week, though I’m leaning no.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor says:

    All the best for another 40 years, and good luck in Vegas!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Happy almost birthday!!! I love your list! I would tell my younger self LOTS of things, but the primary one is to not be afraid to take risks. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” So don’t be afraid to take them.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I like the one where you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone with new things. I find that as you get older, you get kind of set in your ways. I used to give my parents crap about that and now I totally get it. You get caught up in a routine and its hard to break out of it. The thing I wish I would have told my younger self is to stop worrying so much. Also to appreciate not having wrinkles and slightly sagging skin. Sigh… loll Happy Birthday! Welcome to the 40-ish club!

    • John says:

      I feel the same way Tonya. Thankfully we have the kids around to keep us being out of a routine, but it’s still very hard not to get set in.

  • Girl Meets Debt says:

    Happy Birthday John! You don’t look a day over 39! πŸ˜‰ I hope you and the Mrs. have a fun time in Vegas, and don’t even think of work! I agree with everything on your list except “Embrace gray, and gasp…white, hair. With it comes wisdom and who doesn’t like a little salt with their pepper?” Personally, GMD is not a fan of the gray. πŸ˜›

    • John says:

      Thanks GMD! I know, I wasn’t a fan of gray either, but I learned all too quickly that there was nothing I could do about it…unless I wanted fake color out of a box. πŸ˜‰ It’s just not me. πŸ™‚

  • Michelle says:

    Love this post! I know that I’m still a youngin, but the years are definitely flying by. My sister is about to turn 21 and I just can’t believe it.

  • Pauline says:

    I always thought my mum was old, and having me at 29 was pretty old compared to my other friends whose parents had them at 22-25. Now I try to imagine that I would have a 4 year old if I were my mum and I think she was pretty young to have kids! Funny how perspective changes. Hope you have a blast in Vegas!

    • John says:

      It is funny how perspective changes, though I wish we would’ve started earlier with kids. Thanks, I plan to. πŸ™‚

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    Happy early birthday, John! I remember turning 40 and it was both with joy and a bit of trepidation. 40 seemed like such a big number at one time. πŸ™‚ These are great rules/thoughts and I love the quote by Teddy Roosevelt. It’s unfortunate how much of our lives we waste comparing ourselves to others, instead of focusing our what we do have and the opportunities in front of us. My husband’s hair is completely salt and pepper and he looks great. Unfortunately, I feel the exact opposite about myself (not that I have any gray hairs! LOL) so I am remaining friends with my hair stylist. Have a great time in Vegas!

    • John says:

      Thanks Shannon! Yea, on one hand it is with a bit of trepidation, though it’s only a number when you really look at it. I love that qote by Roosevelt as well and we really do waste too much time comparing our situations with that of others. Lol, I think my wife would say the same thing – on me it’s fine, but it stops and ends there. πŸ™‚

  • C. the Romanian says:

    Happy Birthday! What a great list! Fortunately, much of it goes well as advice for when you’re turning 30 (which will happen to me this year) and I’ll try to put it to good use.

  • anna says:

    Love your list, John, especially about telling others how you love them and how even more beautiful your wife becomes every day. πŸ™‚ Enjoy Vegas!! So curious if you and the Mrs. are going to get that tat or not! πŸ™‚

  • E.M. says:

    Happy (early) Birthday! I hope you enjoy Vegas and take a chance and disconnect, at least for a bit. I am on board with telling myself not to stress as much. It’s still something I struggle with (especially while driving – I liked #18), but most things are not worth the worry.

    • John says:

      Thanks E.M.! That’s the plan, to disconnect for a few days. πŸ™‚ I know, I don’t think I’ll ever fully be able to master #18. πŸ˜‰

  • eemusings says:

    God, yeah. NZ is one of the youngest countries in the world, so travelling in 2013 was just stupefying.

    I like this: “No matter how difficult the day, find something to be thankful for. You’d be amazed at how that can change your perspective.”

    Same with #4. T and I always try to express our love for each other daily and we always kiss goodbye in the morning.

    • John says:

      I agree, #3 & #4 are so very important. They can be easy to overlook with the busy-ness of life but are very important to do in my opinion.

  • Debt BLAG says:

    Some great observations here. As I too am inching quickly toward that age, I can already tell that many of them seem more true than they would have just a few years ago. More importantly, happy birthday, buddy πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Thanks Mario! Isn’t it funny how some things really become true as you get older? At least we learn it now though. πŸ˜‰

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    Great thoughts John…you had me at #1! I’m with you…the older I get the more enjoyable life becomes. Welcome to the club and here’s to another 40 (at least).

  • Catherine says:

    I still have 10 years to go but I relate to SO much of this, great list my friend. Happy early birthday πŸ™‚

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’m an avid napper. I don’t know how I’m gonna get through raising children. I hope they like sleep as much as I do!

    • John says:

      Trust me, those early years they sleep all the time – at least 12-15 hours a day. It’s once they hit about four or so that they start dreading the naps.

  • Done by Forty says:

    Happy birthday, and great list. The one about hair growing out of unexpected orifices was awesome.

  • Marie @ 4HWD says:

    Happy birthday, John! I must try your number 34. Do something silly every day. I think this is very cool! Enjoy your day!

    • John says:

      Thanks Marie! Yea, I find it makes life more fun. Of course, it helps to have little kids running around, our kids sort of bring it out in me.

  • Kay says:

    This a great list and very positive. My husband turns 40 this year and is not looking forward to it (I’ll be right on his heels next year). We plan on taking a couple af great vacations to celebrate the occasions.

    • John says:

      Thanks Kay! That’s what I was going for. Many people dread it, but it’s really just a number and should cause us again to be thankful for all we have.

  • Dear Debt says:

    What a great list! I’m almost 30 and college students do look like pre-teens! Lol that your 6 yo think you are turning 93. I also think being silly and grateful everyday can really change things. I wish I would have saved more money early on, and stressed less about little stuff.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor says:

    23 and 24 aww! I’ve heard that if you enjoy your 30s your 40s are even better. I’m only 31, but so far my 30s have been much more enjoyable in a lot of ways than my 20s (more stability, more focus, more desire to do important “stuff”). Happy (early) birthday and enjoy that trip!

    • John says:

      I know. πŸ™‚ I think it is true. My 20’s were crazy and 30’s were much better. So, hopefully the 40’s are even better.

  • Lance @ Money Life and More says:

    Happy Birthday! Try the $20 trick while you’re there and see if you can get a baller room.

  • JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit says:

    Every time I see some college kids I always think they’re in high school and why are they in the bar? I really wish I had traveled more when I was younger, as in early/mid 20’s. I just recently hit 30 myself and time has been just flying by. I’ve learned so much more about life in the last 5 years than the previous 25 and I imagine your wealth of knowledge is even more so. Happy birthday and have fun in Vegas! Let me know how the $20 trick goes because I’ll be heading there in May.

    • John says:

      Lol, I think the same thing too. I’ve found the same thing as I get older, that I’ve learned a lot more and seen what really matters to me and how to live. Thanks, we’re looking forward to it and hopefully it does work. πŸ™‚

  • DEBt DEBs says:

    I like this list. It’s a great stop and think reflection. Congratulations and Happy Birthday.

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