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50 Things Everyone Should Do Before They’re 50

When is the perfect time to learn new skills, have fun, and take care of the serious adult stuff you've been putting off? Now, of course!

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Use your passport

Many of us have a passport “just in case,” but instead of waiting to win the lottery or for a lonely millionaire with a yacht to show up on your doorstep, take control of your vacations and book a trip out of the country. And yes, Canada and Mexico count, and will definitely stamp your passport. Or consider going to the place you always dreamed of as a child or the country of your ancestors.

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Cry through a movie

Embarrassed to blubber in public? You’re missing out on some serious bonding and catharsis. Nothing brings people together more than shedding a few appropriate tears over the latest drama. And don’t worry about looking silly or weak—if Oprah can weep openly in public, we all can. The 21 nicest small-towns everyone should visit before they’re 50

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Write a will

No one wants to think about death but newsflash: It’s gonna happen. Probably not today and hopefully not soon but death comes for everyone eventually. And when it does, do you want your kids’ most poignant memory of that time to be the gigantic fight over your collection of rare pickle jars? So sit down, write up a will allocating the important stuff, sign it (preferably in the presence of a notary) and then tell everyone you care about where it is. 

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Get therapy

If your immediate question is “Why would I need therapy?” perhaps you should really ask “Why wouldn’t you need therapy?” Even if your life is going great at the moment, everyone has their ups and downs, and a professional can help you strengthen your inner reserves and develop better coping skills. Plus, when else are you not only allowed but expected to talk about nothing but yourself for an hour? These 10 crucial health tweaks you need to make before you’re 50s

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Make a retirement plan

One in three Americans don’t have a plan for their retirement, according to a study done by the Federal Reserve, and even more have some savings but not an amount considered adequate to get them through their golden years. Don’t be one of those people. First, cat food is gross. Second, it doesn’t have to be super complicated. It may mean opting into your employer’s plan, meeting with a financial planner and setting up a system, or it can be as simple as literally socking away a chunk of money (in your sock drawer) every month. The important part, though, is to start. Now. 

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Fall in love

It’s the ultimate risk. But like all risks, falling in love can provide huge rewards. Even if it isn’t the love of a lifetime, learning to open your heart and be vulnerable can only help you grow as a person. And who knows? Maybe you will find that special someone. 

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Write a journal

You don’t have to be an award-winning author to record your thoughts. Putting pen to paper is a great way to let off steam, count your blessings, and remember all the funny, crazy, interesting things that happen to you. And while you may not think your life is that exciting, we guarantee that your children and grandchildren will love to have this keepsake.

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Get a pet

Are you a cat or a dog person? Trick question—it doesn’t matter! When it comes to the joy of loving and be loved by a pet, a guinea pig can be just as good as a Great Dane. Having a furry friend has innumerable health benefits, both mentally and physically. And owning a pet may even help you live longer, according to research done by Harvard. These are the 11 U.S. cities you should add to your bucket list

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Pay off your credit cards

Over half of Americans report “substantial” worries about money, according to a recent Gallup poll. And one of the biggest causes of money woes is debt, particularly credit card debt. Thanks to their ease of use (swiping a card almost doesn’t feel like spending money at all!) and low interest rates, it’s easy to quickly rack up more debt than you know how to do with. Overwhelmed by debt? Try debt guru Dave Ramsey’s “snowball method”—it’s a simple way to get started, one credit card at a time.

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Look up an ex

Okay, hear us out on this one: We’re not saying you should actually make contact with this person, but looking up an old flame—start with Facebook— can either help you remember the fun times or make you realize how much better off you are now.

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Volunteer at a homeless shelter

Once you’ve been established with a home and a job for a long time it can be easy to forget how close we all really are to the edge. Share what you’ve been given with those less fortunate for an instant priority check and to do a little good in the world. 

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Go to the library

When’s the last time you held a real, actual book in your hands? If you can’t remember, it might be time to put down your tablet and high-tail it to the library. There’s something so satisfying about holding a story in your hands. And, for the more practically minded, it’s way cheaper than the Kindle store. (Just watch the late fees!) These are the 20 books you should have read by now

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Visit a national park

Hike? Bike? Camp? Bird (or people) watch? There are 84 million acres of gorgeous, pristine national parkland in the United States just waiting to be explored. There are national parks in every state and they’re open to the public for free or for a small fee. Or you can buy a National Parks Annual Pass for $80 at any national park to get into as many parks as you can visit. 

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Take a class

Never. Stop. Learning. The beautiful thing about being a card-carrying grown-up is you can now take any class you like (and you don’t have to take anything you don’t like). Sign up at a community college to further your education or work goals. Or just sign up for tap-dancing at the community center. Here are 17 myths you shouldn’t believe about fitness after 50

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Be an election judge

Want an insider look at how our election process works on the ground level? Sign up to work as an election judge. Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve any actual “judging,” but rather making sure the voting process runs in an orderly and proper manner. You get to see all the ins and outs while still providing a vital service to your community. To sign up, Google “election judge” and enter your state for instructions.

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Forgive someone

Pick someone from your past who you feel deserves to be forgiven for a previous wrong. Or, better yet, pick someone who doesn’t deserve it and forgive them anyhow. Even if it means nothing to them, it will make you feel so much lighter. 

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Plant a garden

You learn about the plant life cycle as a child but you can’t fully appreciate the magic of it until you’re an adult and have nurtured a plant from seed to maturity. Gardening—or as we like to call it, playing in the dirt—is one of the oldest hobbies for a reason. It’s good for your mind, body, and soul, especially if you reap what you sow. 

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Climb the tallest mountain in your state

Why climb a mountain? Because, per the famous Edmund Hillary quote (which was actually said by climber George Mallory), it’s there. You don’t have to scale Mt. Everest to get some fresh mountain air and the thrill of high vistas—just climb whatever hill or mountain is close. Plus the survival rate is likely a lot better than Everest. Don’t miss these 15 signs you could live to be 100

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Be alone

Learning to be happy in your own company isn’t as easy as it sounds. But being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. The best way to figure out how to be content being alone is to practice it. Silence all the noise, find a place for private time, and the enjoy the music of your own thoughts. It’s nice, right?

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Play an instrument

Too many people think of playing a musical instrument as an all-or-nothing proposition—either you’re the amazing pianist who plays Billy Joel tunes on command at the work party or you haven’t touched a keyboard since sixth grade. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Indulging your musical side can help you be more creative, relax, think through problems and find your state of flow—all without stepping a foot in Carnegie hall. Never learned? It’s not to late to start lessons!

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Eat something you hate

Or, rather, eat something you’ve always thought you hated but haven’t actually tried in a while. For instance, Brussels sprouts are the most maligned food by children, but many of us have discovered the subtle and delicious flavors of the vegetables as we’ve grown older (and wiser). Just because you’ve always avoided spicy foods or mushrooms or fruit cake doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them now. These 49 anti-aging foods might add years to your life

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Get an adrenaline rush

Skydiving is the quintessential bucket list cliché, but it’s on everyone’s list for a reason: Nothing makes you so aware of being alive like a (controlled) brush with death. But if jumping out of a plane feels too terrifying, you can always try indoor skydiving, bungee jumping, a giant swing, or just a really tall roller coaster.

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Write a poem

Poetry is a highly underrated skill these days but putting words together in a way that has meaning, structure, and tickles the tongue is a serious accomplishment. Even if you’re the only one who reads your work, it’s a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out in a more creative way than texting your best friend. 

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Make a huge mistake

Fail. Fail big. Obviously this isn’t something you’d likely choose to do on your own but failure is an integral part of living. When it happens you have two options: Try and cover it up and pretend it never happened, or embrace the mistake and learn from it. Always choose the latter. 

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Go on a ride-along with a police officer

Ever wanted to know what it’s like being an officer of the law? Many communities offer ride-along programs designed to bridge the knowledge gap between cops and those of us who just watch them on TV. A ride-along will give you a better perspective of what being a police officer entails and will foster greater respect for the hard-working men and women in blue. At the very worst, it should be a good deterrent to not commit whatever petty crime you occasionally imagine doing.

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Write a love letter

A hand-written note expressing your love and devotion is a keepsake that will bring happiness and fond memories for years—something even the best written emoji-laden text or email can’t do. Here are 7 common myths about sex after 50

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Go to an estate sale

Estate sales can be a gold mine of antique treasures. Or they’re a cautionary tale of what happens to hoarders when they die (i.e. strangers parade through your house mocking your belongings). Either way it’s great inspiration to do some thoughtful curating of your own possessions, while you’re still around to appreciate them.

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Check your credit report

As technology gets smarter, so do the criminals looking to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name. The best way to stop an identity thief? Keep a sharp eye on your credit report. You’re allowed one free report each year or you can sign up for a monitoring service, like LifeLock, to be even more vigilant. 

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Organize your closet

It’s true that no one sees the inside of your closet but you. However, doing a regular and thorough de-junking is as good for your soul as it is for your space. Have a hard time saying good-bye to things? Check out the KonMari method as detailed in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It feels a little silly at first thanking your socks for their faithful service before chucking them in the trash, but it really does help you let go of things that served their purpose. Here are 50 everyday habits that can make you look younger

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Make a budget

The first step to financial freedom is making a good budget and then sticking to it. You’d think the second part would be the hardest but for most people, just getting started making a budget is the biggest hurdle. Make the process as painless as possible by using an app like You Need a Budget, to help you get on track and stay there.

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Learn how to make a meal using whatever’s in the fridge

Being able to cook up a meal using ingredients from the grocery store is a good skill to have. But it takes even more creativity and ingenuity to be able to whip up something delicious from whatever you have left in your refrigerator and pantry. Hint: Homemade soup is a great meal to make from sundry leftovers. This is the best diet for every decade

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Go to a State Fair

State fairs are a wonderful mix of old-timey history, state pride, and adrenaline. Oh, and don’t forget the horrifying but delicious fair food: deep-fried candy bars, turkey legs, and funnel cakes! Attending your state fair is a great way to connect with your community while having a blast (and taking plenty of Facebook-worthy pictures). Take a child to up the wonderment factor.

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See a show on Broadway

The Great White Way is a cultural icon, with some of America’s biggest stars performing on stage nightly. Seeing a Broadway show doesn’t just support the arts, it gives you memories that last a lifetime (and bragging rights if you somehow managed to get into Hamilton!). These are the 22 ways your house can make you look older than you are

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Do community theater

Watching someone else perform is fun but nothing beats belting out a tune and kicking up your own heels on stage. Even if your audience is just a few friends and neighbors, you’ll sharpen your skills and have fun. Never thought of yourself as a performer? Try out a local improv, acting or singing class—you’ll be amazed at how often those skills come in handy.

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Take your kid on a date

You may see your kids every day but do you really see your kids? Connecting on a meaningful level with those we love best has become a lot trickier in our tech-saturated world. So put away the phones, set a date, and take your little (or not-so-little) one out for some special one-on-one time. They’ll treasure it no matter what their age! Just hanging out together counts too. 

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Interview an elderly person

Don’t forget your loved ones on the other end of the age spectrum. Now is the perfect time to “interview” an aging parent or grandparent about what their life was like, what world events they witnessed, and their favorite memories of other relatives. Just make sure you bring your phone and set it to record so you can keep their memories forever.

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Get certified in CPR

CPR, along with the Heimlich maneuver and your photographic memory of Pokemon cards, is one of those skills that you hope you’ll never have to use but are infinitely grateful you have if you do need them. If you’ve been putting off learning life-saving first-aid skills, or if you just need a refresher course, there’s no time like the present to fix that. Find a course through the Red Cross near you

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Master the art of apologizing

Anyone can say “sorry,” but offering a heart-felt apology that makes both people feel better about a difficult situation is a talent. The best way to get better is to practice, so swallow your pride and make amends immediately after you’ve hurt someone. Next level is to apologize to someone you’ve hurt in the past. 

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Become a Google ninja

Technology is amazing! You can find anything you’ve ever wanted to know on the Internet… if you know where to look. The problem with having all the world’s information at your fingertips is, well, you have to sift through all the world’s information to find what you’re looking for. Check out these 50 everyday habits you can do to reduce dementia

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Power nap on the regular

Napping isn’t just for toddlers and octogenarians. A quick 20-minute power nap during the day can help improve your creativity, alertness, energy, and even boost your immune system. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to nap during the day time. 

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Never forget someone’s name again

Remembering someone’s name, whether it’s a family member or a work acquaintance, is one of the most powerful and simplest ways to make a personal connection. But, let’s face it, our memories aren’t getting any better and the number of people we meet is only getting larger. Science to the rescue! 

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Learn to recognize poisonous plants

As anyone who’s ever had a run-in with poison oak can tell you, there is plenty of menacing vegetation beyond poison ivy. Learn to recognize the telltale characteristics and you’ll never fear hiking in the brush or gardening again. 

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Learn a new language

Thought that only children could realistically learn a second language? Think again. (Or should we say “piensa otra vez”?) While it’s true that the easiest time to learn a new language is when you’re younger, many adults can and do master another tongue. And even if you don’t become fluent, just the act of practicing it can help you improve your brain and cognitive health. Plus it’s an instant way to make new friends.

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Try a different job

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do a job radically different from the one you do day in and day out? Try shadowing a friend for a day on their job and find out! Job fairs and mentor programs aren’t just for college students. No one is saying you have to do a mid-life career change (although that’s cool too), but you might discover a way to grow in your current field or make contacts that could help down the road.

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Go scuba diving

Over 70 percent of the earth is water and yet we humans spend the majority of our time exploring the dry parts. (Understandable, as we are oxygen-breathing creatures and all.) But you don’t have to dream of going to Mars to see an alien landscape. Try snorkeling or scuba diving to see views you never even imagined existed. Here are 11 people who got into the best shape of their lives after 50

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Join a sports league

A community basketball, softball, ultimate frisbee, or kickball league is the perfect place to make friends, have fun, and get some great exercise. Never were the ‘athletic type”? Don’t worry about it—rec leagues are full of beginners and are oriented toward having fun, not winning trophies. 

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Get to a healthy weight

Shedding pounds is hard, it’s true, but it’s never going to get easier than it will be if you start today. Maintaining a healthy weight has all kinds of health benefits, not to mention the confidence boost you’ll get from achieving a difficult goal. 

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Go apple picking

Visit a local pick-your-own farm. You’ll get a glorious walk in the sunshine and an inside peek at how farms work, plus you’ll get to pick the freshest, tastiest produce. Berries, apples, pumpkins—go for whatever is in season.

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Go fishing

Learning how to catch your own food is a vital skill that many humans don’t have any more. Thankfully, catching a fish is a pretty easy way to try your hand at hunting without having to shoot Bambi’s mom.

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Attend a music festival

You don’t have to wear a flower crown or be a b-list celebrity to enjoy an outdoor music festival. Great bands play all around the country during the warmer months. If you’re a die-hard music lover (and have the extra cash), check out renowned festivals SXSW (pronounced South By Southwest) or Coachella. If you’d just like the experience, look for something low-key and local. Come prepared to get your groove on! Next, check out the 50 things that are making you look older.