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Is it chasing a myth or life really begins at forty?

By JOHN KARIUKI | May 7th 2014 | 4 min read
By JOHN KARIUKI | May 7th 2014


Samba Mapangala’s evergreen song Vunja Mifupa extols people to get a little life when the going is good. Vunja mifupa kama meno bado iko, utakuja lia ukishapoteza muda wako (get a life while the opportunity abound as you may come to rue your wasted years)! This song implies living right by doing what appertains to each age set, like leisure, so that one does not do these things at the wrong time in old age. But an oft quoted saying has it that life begins at forty.

 A literal belief in this saying continues to lead some younger people into financial recklessness as they wait to turn forty and, magically, start organising their money goals.

And older people with modest means continue getting depressed, thinking that they have made terrible money mistakes that are beyond redemption now that their time is up. Letting go of all their money caution, some old people become desperate and squander any little wealth they have to fit in the groove of really living regardless of the consequences!

 But personal finance experts say that people can put their finances in order at any age; not necessarily after 40! In fact, like Samba Mapangala, they advise that “life” starts at any age, and does not end. One can always renew his or her waning spirits and host a party after reaping from his or her investments. The dream of a well-paying job at age 40 is just but an illusion unless one works for it. Without firm commitment and a financial plan, the age 40 does not guarantee one a good company car, a luxurious apartment and plenty of young women (and men) to pass time with!


 Doreen Katana, a 55 years old human resources practitioner, agrees that life begins at 40. She says that before 40, many people spend their time looking for meaning in their lives. But by 40, she adds, people get the idea that the only place to look for inspiration is within themselves.

“Many people stabilise in their careers, education and family in their late 30s and early 40s,” she says.

“ Their financial journeys are set and life falls into a pattern of less and less expenditures as their children start leaving the nest,” she adds.

According to Katana, the trick in enjoying life after fourty is to start raising a family and saving for retirement early.

“I had my two children by the age of 22 and by the time I and my husband were turning fourty, our last born was a first year student at university,” she says.

She adds: “An investment we had jointly begun while in our thirties began to bear fruits as the expenses of our children diminished,” adds Mrs Katana.

Mrs Katana reveals that she and her husband now have some cash to spare. They take vacations frequently and have begun a new hobby of photography.

“In fact people say that we look more youthful with time and to me this is the famous life that begins at 40,” she says.

But Geoffrey Kamatu, a teacher says that proponents of the idea that life starts at forty are simply chasing a myth. According to him, age 40 signals the starts of the donkey years for most working Kenyans.

“When I turned 40 my birthday present was a bank loan and children in both primary and secondary school,” he says.

 Kamatu says that unless one inherits property, it is difficult to start enjoying life at 40 under the current economic situation where parenting includes settling one’s graduate children in jobs and furnishing their houses! “This term of life beginning at 40 applied in the last century to the sons of some Kenyan coffee and tea barons who would inherit acres of the crops when they married and settled down presumably at this age”, says Kamatu.


 “ It is impossible to have met all of one’s financial obligations by age 40 and spend the rest of one’s days in the sun,” he adds.

Life is truly what you make it, at any time. Each stage is important and can be the best or the worst depending on your financial plans. A really happy and fulfilling life starts whenever you want it to. You need not be mean so that you can die rich as some people continue doing. Conversely, you need not wait to turn 40 and go on a romantic spree with mpango wa kando just to prove that you have arrived at life!

After 40, many people are still energetic. This, along with their money experience and mistakes, always helps. Indeed, scores of people routinely turn around their financial destiny even in retirement and become icons of business.

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