40 things to do when you hit 40

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 5th Oct 2016

Now, clearly, if you are 40, you lead a busy life and therefore will not have time to do even 10 of these 40 things to do. But generally, turning 40 is a time to take stock, to do a few things you’ve always wanted to do, and plan a bit more than you had been doing for the future (you are right, there’s a lesson coming up in a minute, wait for it…)

Because according to the law of averages, you’ve still got roughly half your life to live. Maybe even more, if longevity keeps notching up at the current rate.

Don’t worry, not all of these “to dos” involve spending money or daredevil pursuits (not our cup of tea). Some involve looking after your money a bit better (warned you).

But above all, embrace your midlife moment!

  1. Have a little cry. You probably will anyway so best to plan for it and then not feel too bad about it when it happens.

2. “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires”, said William Blake, the romantic poet, in a cheery mood one day. There’s got to be one thing you’ve always wanted to do but have felt it to be unacceptable. Now’s the time (unless it’s illegal, of course).

3. Go on a weekend European City break with your best friends.

4. Go to Las Vegas (with an open mind)



5. Invite your best friends for a sleepover and watch Dirty Dancing and Top Gun in your sleeping bags.

6. Buy something designer-made. Chloe, preferably, as Stella MacCartney was just named the world’s most eco designer. You don’t have to get your clothes from Sainsbury’s for your whole life.

7. Read our guide to finances at 40.







8. Sign up to do some volunteer work, animal, homeless people, anything.It just makes you feel better about everything.

9. For one afternoon, just do exactly what your children (if you have them) want to do.

10. Check what’s in your pension pot now and how much you need to increase it by (or not, if you’re lucky) to have a nice retirement. There’s a section on pensions in the aforementioned guide.

11. Have a rule that you only drink alcohol when you are at a 40th birthday party. You’ll probably find your drinking every weekend of the year anyway.

12. Go on a luxury resort holiday, fully catered with a kids club, with your family.

13. Get one of those amazing domestic services firms, like Fantastic Services or Task Rabbit, in to do all the jobs you’ve been putting off for ages, like oven or carpet cleaning (I used fantastic services for a professional house clean and oven clean and the tension between my shoulder blades did ease.)


14. Get a dog or a cat, if it is something you’ve always wanted. But looking after anything, even a fish, is good for you.

15. Go on an adult education course (NB. My mum switched careers completely just after she turned 40, from being a designer to a massage therapist. It could be a new start).

16. Read a really popular book, like 50 Shades of Grey, or Bridget Jones’ Diary, or Girl On The Train, just to get it out of your system. If you still don’t like them, that’s fine (but you WILL like Girl On The Train).

17. Write a letter to your 70-year old self that lists everything that makes you happy about your life right now.

18. Congratulate yourself. You are half way (eek!)

19. Write a poem. Even if it is really poor and about the same as you could have managed when you were six. There’s something cathartic about it. Even just plonky basic rhyming ones. (Also, it’s National Poetry Day).

20. Write your will. Co-op legal services is a good place to start. It’s one step closer to that evasive “peace of mind” they all talk about.

21. Get caterers in to do a party for you and properly enjoy a party that you have hosted, for once.

22. Get some family pictures printed – you’ve been putting it off for ages.

23. Invest in something sustainable. Leave a positive environmental legacy for your children and their children in the way you invest. Try EQ Investors’ Positive Impact Portfolio, or just look for funds via Good With Money expert Julia Dreblow’s amazing Fund Eco Market service, then find them on the investment platform of your choice (Hargreaves Lansdown, Selftrade and Fidelity are among the big ones).

24. Do something nice for someone you don’t like. It can be anonymous. No better way to fix it (NB. taking own advice here).

25. Switch to a 100% renewable energy provider. See above for “positive environmental legacy”. Plus it just doesn’t cost much more – if anything more – these days.


26. Have a duvet day (we won’t tell) and actually JUST stay in bed. Do not have a wardrobe clear out. Do not paint the hallway. Do not pass GO or collect £200.

27. Find “Rhythm is a Dancer”. Turn it up loud. Dance like no one is watching.

28. If you usually buy cheap wine, buy an expensive bottle. If you usually buy an expensive bottle, get a cheap one. It will feel like a treat either way.

29. Write a letter to an old flame who broke your heart about all the amazing things you have achieved since they dumped you. (We didn’t say send it!!)

30. Don’t pay attention to silly lists that put even more stuff on your to-do list.

31. Listen to some classical music. Then listen to “Hits from the 80s”. Midlifers can do eclecticism.

32. Do some gardening. You will suddenly find it is no longer a chore.

33. Light a candle for everyone you’ve loved and lost.

34. Take a good look at your 40-year old body. You will think this was peak hotness in 40 years’ time.


35. Make yourself an ultimate birthday cake. This butterscotch sponge cake with cream cheese frosting happens to be my all time favourite.

36. Buy an expensive notebook. Smythson is awesome, but Moleskin still lovely.

37. Spend an afternoon going round second hand and charity shops. We promise you will find a bargain and love it.

38. Paint a picture.

39. Go and see some live music. Opera, jazz, grime…(I’d be straight off to see Dizzee Rascal, come with?) whatever it is, the liveness of music is a tonic.



40. Read some Shakespeare. Speaking of which, are we somewhere between soldier and justice now? 
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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