If your age ends in a 9 — 19, 29, 39 and so on — be careful. You could die this year. Or run faster.

I’m 49 years old. According to NYU professor Adam Alter, that means I’m more likely to cheat on my wife than I was last year. Or kill myself.

Alter and a fellow professor from UCLA spent months conducting a series of clever studies that looked at the psychological impact of entering a new decade.

“When adults approach a new decade in age (i.e., at ages 29, 39, 49 or 59), they search for existential meaning and behave in ways that can be constructive or destructive,” Alter and UCLA’s Hal Hershfield wrote in brief but dense five-page academic paper.

Here’s what they discovered about these niners, and how they proved it…


What it all means

So if you believe Alter’s research – and I do – what’s this mean for you?

Adam Alter

Debt.com being a financial site, I asked Alter if he had any money advice for niners like me. He warned us to think twice about buying anti-aging books and products. Why?

Because “we have one unpublished study that shows that people prefer anti-aging books when they’re encouraged to think about entering a new decade of life. In other words, consumer may be prone to spending on anti-aging treatments as they enter new decades in age.”

While Alter and Hershfield’s research has so far been ignored by the mainstream media, you can be sure marketing companies will discover it eventually – and use it to manipulate niners into buying their products.

Besides that, simply being aware of your own self is good for body, soul, and spending.

“Several researchers have suggested that some people treat escaping  from or destroying their lives as the only way to truly avoid the specter of meaninglessness,” the study concludes.

That explains self-destructive spending like the mid-life crisis, when men and women buy high-priced items (cars, clothes) designed to make them feel younger. Interestingly, Alter can’t find proof that these crises are real.

“People believe in a midlife crisis, and many put the age of that crisis around 40 years,” he says, “but we didn’t see evidence for a stronger effect at that age than any others.”

So where does Alter and Herfield go from here?

“We aren’t sure at this stage,” Alter says. “We’d like to show, perhaps, more evidence for positive behaviors — that people donate more to charitable causes, do more to secure their legacies, and so on, as they enter new decades.”

I hope that’s true. I turn 50 this month. I’d like to think I have good times ahead. At least until I turn 59…


Meet the Author

Michael Koretzky

Michael Koretzky


Koretzky is a PFE-certified debt management professional and the editor of Debt.com.

Budgeting & Saving, Family

Baby Boomers, Gen X, infographic, millennials

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Article last modified on November 20, 2017 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Infographic: The Danger of Decades - AMP.