By Francis Omejevwe Ewherido
Middle age is usually between 45 and 65 years, but my attention today are men in their 50s. In the last two months, I know a handful of people in their 50s who have died as a result of stroke, cancer, heart failure and other health complications. I do not know whether my consciousness of these deaths is as a result of the fact that I am in my 50s, or more people in their 50s are dying these days. I do not fret over death because it is outside my control, but I believe that you should not tell death to hasten its steps to you with your lifestyle and choices.
Some people are also dying due to their difficulty or inability in dealing with the challenges our “VUCA” (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment throws at them. Last week a list of “THE POTENTIAL KILLER OF MAN” trended in the social media. The writer listed: children’s school fees, house rents, electricity bills, medical bills, generator fuel and repairs, car fuel and repairs, feeding of family, clothes for children, sallah or Christmas and New Year bills, furniture and house maintenance, in-laws wahala/demands, own aged parents expenses, siblings’ bills, wife’s demands, vigilante bills, erecting of building, religious demands, family social bills, electronics bills, recharge cards, extended family members’ bills and community demands. He added: “on top of the above, he also faces: wife’s stress, boss’ stress at work, police stress on the way, area boys’ stress, fear of kidnappers, friends’ stress, economic stress, fear of job loss, unemployment pains, armed robbery stress, children’s misbehaviour, neighbours’ stress, bank loan payment stress, enemies stress, demonic attack stress and sex stress.”
There are some of my contemporaries who worry about virtually every item on the list and even more. If you are one of such, know you are digging an early grave. In these trying times, learn to creatively manage challenges. One, schools just resumed, if you do not have the money to pay your children’s school fees, talk to the school authorities to give you time. That is if your challenge is cash flow. But if you have a challenge of reduced income, burgeoning expenses against stagnant income or loss of source of livelihood, withdraw your children and put them in less expensive schools. Someone I know just did and reduced his burden by N1.2m per annum.
Two, there should be nothing like “friends’ stress.” Define every relationship in terms of assets and liabilities. I am not talking about assets and liabilities in monetary or material terms. A friend you are supporting financially is not a liability as long as you are doing it willingly and he is not taking advantage of you. Anything that adds value to your life is an asset; anything that diminishes your humanity is a liability. Be very ruthless in cutting off people and things that that diminish you.
Three, there is a word everybody in his 50s should be familiar with. It is called “jettison.” In everyday usage, it means “to get rid of something or someone that is not wanted or needed.” But it means more than that in insurance: “The intentional throwing overboard of part of the cargo or some piece of the ship in order to save the ship or its cargo.” In insurance, jettison is a matter of life and death and every man in his 50s should understand and apply the word to his life in the insurance context. If you are in your 50s, you should be able to jettison 80 per cent of the items above and manage the remaining 20 per cent in a way that they do not suck the life out of you.
Four, when you are in your 50s, you have to learn to take good care of yourself. Enjoy your life. If God has blessed you and you can afford it, take annual vacations. Do not wait until you are physically too weak to explore the world before taking vacations. If you cannot afford vacations, catch up with friends as often as you can. A glass of wine or beer and a plate of pepper-soup once in a while will not dig holes in your pocket, nor endanger your health. Be serious and focused, but do not take life too serious
Five, I have always maintained that in your 50s, there are no physical muscles to be built anymore. Every exercise should be moderate, mainly to keep fit, ensure good circulation of blood around the body and blood flow to the heart, of course, not forgetting your relatively young wife who still needs you to be up and doing.
Six, in your 50s, you should know that food is not only meant to nourish the body, but also medicinal. By now you should know your state of health and the right food to take. When I started taking drugs to manage my blood pressure 20 years ago, my doctors added aspirin as a blood thinner. I cannot remember the last time I took aspirin as a blood thinner. Now onion is my blood thinner. Beyond being a blood thinner, onions also help to lower cholesterol and combat cancer. For every ailment you have or likely to have, there are natural remedies in the food and fruits we consume. They are either substitutes to conventional drugs or supplements. Everybody in his 50s has a responsibility to himself to be familiar with them.
Seven, everybody in his 50s should have put a plan in place for his retirement. Some people in their 50s started preparing for their retirement the moment they started working and are prepared for retirement. Some started later, but are very much on track. But many people in their 50s have no retirement plan. If you are in the last group, you must begin to prepare for retirement. I agree that na when you wake up be your morning, but at this stage there is very little room for errors and time is running out. If you still do not know what to do to prepare, then learn it very fast. We shall look at options available to people in their 50s subsequently.
I do not believe in retirement planning that is others-based, for instance, training your children and hoping that they will take care of you in your retirement/old age. I have done my little research and I found out that parents are often not the priorities of children. Parents belong to the past, children look forward to the future. There are many people who are taking very good care of their parents in old age, meeting all their needs, but I still put it to you that parents are usually not tops of their children’s priority list when they grow up. There is nothing wrong in your children taking care of you in old age. The bible even enjoins them to, but what if they do not or lack the financial capacity? Preparation for retirement should be self-based.
Eight, people in their 50s must remember that God created life simple. Human beings complicated it. One of the secrets to a happy and fulfilled life is simplicity. You have only one life, keep it simple.