Going Through a Midlife Crisis? It’s Going to Cost You a Fortune

You might want to avoid some of these costly ways of coping.

The midlife crisis. You know the stereotype: a man who dyes his hair, buys a sports car and ditches his wife for a younger woman, or a woman who gets Botox and plastic surgery. But do those popularized images match the reality of what happens when you reach a certain age?

To find out, GOBankingRates surveyed 509 Americans to get their perceptions of and experiences with having a midlife crisis — including what sorts of things they did to cope. Then GOBankingRates calculated the estimated cost of those existential crisis-coping mechanisms using data from a variety of sources. Check out what real Americans think about having a midlife crisis and what it could cost them.

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A Quarter of Americans Have Gone Through a Midlife Crisis

The survey found that the midlife crisis is not a myth. Nearly 26% of respondents said they have gone through one in the past, and almost 12% said they are experiencing midlife crisis symptoms now. Another 13% of respondents said they expect to go through a midlife crisis at some point.

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The survey also found that the midlife crisis might happen at a younger age than expected. Respondents ages 35 to 44 were the most likely age group to say that they are currently experiencing a midlife crisis.

Survey Question: Have you experienced a midlife crisis?

Yes, I went through one in the pastYes, I’m going through one nowNo, I haven’t experienced one and don’t think I willNo, but I think I probably will at some point
Overall Responses25.9%11.6%49.1%13.4%
Male Responses23.7%9.2%53.9%13.2%
Female Responses27.8%13.5%45.2%13.5%
Ages 35-4414.5%16.4%40.0%29.1%
Ages 45-5425.5%10.8%38.2%25.5%
Ages 55-6425.5%14.0%51.5%9.0%
Ages 65 and over30.9%7.2%56.6%5.3%

Despite the belief that men are more likely to have a midlife crisis, the survey found that it’s more common for women to have one. About 41% of women compared with about 33% of men said they are currently experiencing a midlife crisis now or have gone through one in the past. And an equal percentage — 13% — expect to have a midlife crisis at some point.

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The Most ‘Appropriate’ Age for a Midlife Crisis Is 45-54

The survey found that there’s a disconnect between the most common age for Americans to have a midlife crisis and the age that’s considered most appropriate for having a crisis. Although respondents ages 35 to 44 were more likely than older respondents to be having a midlife crisis, the most common age that Americans expect a midlife crisis to happen is between 45 and 49. The second most common age range that respondents said was appropriate for a midlife crisis was 50 to 54 years old.

Survey Question: What do you think is the appropriate or most common age people go through a midlife crisis?

Age Percentage of Respondents Who Chose This Answer
60 years and older10.8%
55 to 59 years old10.4%
50 to 54 years old20.4%
45 to 49 years old24.4%
40 to 44 years old16.9%
35 to 39 years old9.8%
30 to 34 years old4.5%
25 to 29 years old0.8%
18 to 24 years old2%

Men were more likely than women to think that it was more common to have a midlife crisis between 45 and 49 years old. About 27% of men and 22% of women chose this age range. Another 22% of women said that 50 to 54 years old was the most common age range for a midlife crisis. Younger respondents were more likely to think that it’s more common to have a midlife crisis at a younger age. About 27% of respondents ages 35 to 44 said that the appropriate age to have a midlife crisis was between ages 35 and 39. On the other hand, 28% of respondents ages 45 to 54 said that it was most common to have a crisis between ages 50 and 54. Twenty-seven percent of respondents ages 55 to 64 said that 45 to 49 years old was the most common age for a midlife crisis.

Related: From Meaning to Money — What Each Generation Wants From Their Jobs 

Common Ways Americans Cope During a Midlife Crisis

The survey asked respondents what they think most people who’ve gone through a midlife crisis do to cope. They could choose more than one answer. The top response is not surprising: 36% said they’d buy a new car. “Seek therapy” was a close second, with nearly 35% choosing this response. Thirty-three percent said that adopting a new style was what people did to cope with a midlife crisis.

However, what Americans think people do to cope with a midlife crisis doesn’t align with what they actually do. Only 18% of respondents who’ve had a midlife crisis said they bought a car. Respondents were more likely to have adopted a new style or sought therapy — with 25% and 24%, respectively, saying they chose these coping mechanisms. Nearly 17% said they splurged on a trip. The least popular coping mechanism — with just 2% of respondents choosing it — was cosmetic surgery.

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The survey found that respondents who’ve had a midlife crisis were actually more likely to have used a different coping mechanism than any of the eight options provided. About 27% chose “other.” When elaborated on, these answers ranged from getting a divorce to praying to seeking self-improvement.

Considering the various coping mechanisms that people use, there’s one clear answer to the question, “What is a midlife crisis?” Expensive. It can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to use some of the more common midlife crisis-coping mechanisms.

For example, the average cost of a new car in 2019 is $36,773, according to Kelley Blue Book. Getting a divorce costs an average of $10,396, according to a GOBankingRates’ study of most and least expensive states to get a divorce. Just changing your style could cost $620, based on data on average apparel spending from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Survey Question: If you have gone through a midlife crisis, did you do any of the following to cope? Select all that apply.

Possible Answer ChoicesPercentage of RespondentsEstimated Cost
Adopt a new style25.1%$620
Seek therapy24.1%$65-$250 per hour
Buy a new car18.3%$36,773
Splurge on a trip or vacation16.8%$144 per day
Buy high-tech gadgets8.9%$1,999 (4K UHD TV)
Buy a new or second home4.7%$279,000
Hire a personal trainer3.1%$19.15 per hour
Pursue cosmetic surgery2.1%$6,530
Other27.2%N/A

Women were much more likely than men to seek therapy — 31% versus 13%. Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to adopt a new style or buy a car during a midlife crisis. The survey found that younger respondents ages 35 to 44 were most likely of any age group to use therapy, with 35% saying they used this coping mechanism. Adults ages 65 and older were most likely of any age group to adopt a new style, buy a new car or splurge on a vacation during a midlife crisis.

Click to See: How to Be Happier Without Spending a Lot of Money 

What Causes a Midlife Crisis?

 

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When asked what was the No. 1 cause of a midlife crisis, 44% of respondents said, “feeling like you lack a ‘purpose’ or direction in life.” Fears about life passing by too quickly were the other most common causes respondents selected. About 13% said seeing their children grow up too quickly was the No. 1 cause of a midlife crisis, and 12% said it was feeling anxious about reaching the end of their life.

Survey Question: What do you think is the No. 1 cause of “midlife” crisis?

Possible Answer ChoicesPercentage of Respondents Who Chose Each Answer
Feeling like you lack a “purpose” or direction in life44%
Seeing your children (and/or grandchildren) grow up quickly13.1%
Feeling anxious about dying or reaching the end of your life12.0%
Feeling bored in your relationship with significant other8.9%
Feeling stuck in your career or at a job7.3%
Being jealous of others’ success and achievements5.2%
Other9.4%

How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis — and Protect Your Finances

Feeling a lack of purpose, or having somewhat of an existential crisis, is believed to be the most common cause of a midlife crisis among all age groups surveyed. Surprisingly, respondents ages 45 to 54 were more likely than older adults to say that feeling anxious about dying was the top cause of a midlife crisis. However, adults ages 65 and older were the most likely of any age group to say that seeing children or grandchildren grow up quickly was the No. 1 reason for having a midlife crisis.

Although the survey found that 38% of respondents are currently having or have gone through a midlife crisis, a greater percentage of Americans — 48% — are satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. About 30% of respondents are neutral. However, about 22% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their lives.

It’s not uncommon to feel dissatisfied with life when a midlife crisis strikes. After all, the survey found that respondents said the top cause of a midlife crisis is feeling a lack of purpose. But responding to feelings of dissatisfaction about where you are in life with expensive purchases likely won’t improve your situation in the long run. In fact, it could create financial stress in your life.

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Rather than splurge, turn a midlife crisis into an opportunity to examine where you are and what you can do to improve your situation. With retirement likely on the horizon, now would be a good time to see if you’re on track to reach your savings goals. Use an online retirement calculator, take advantage of planning tools through your workplace retirement account or meet with a financial planner to see where you stand and what you need to do to ensure a comfortable retirement.

If you have debt, you should make a plan to pay off what you owe. Rather than buy a bigger home in response to a midlife crisis, reduce your mortgage and free up more money for retirement savings by downsizing to a smaller house.

If you feel like being stuck in an unsatisfying job is the cause of your midlife crisis, consider making a midlife career change. It’s not too late to pursue a path that might be more rewarding financially or emotionally.

Keep reading to find out about nontraditional jobs where people over 40 are thriving.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 509 Americans from across the country between March 12, 2019, and April 5, 2019, asking six different questions: (1) What do you think is the appropriate or most common age people go through a midlife crisis?; (2) What do you think most people who’ve gone through a midlife crisis do to cope?; (3) Have you experienced a midlife crisis?; (4) If you have gone through a midlife crisis, did you do any of the following to cope?; (5) All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days? (Out of 5); (6) What do you think is the No. 1 cause of “midlife” crisis? GOBankingRates used Survata’s survey platform to conduct the poll.