Have you read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay?
No? You should! I always thought that 30 was the new 20. My twenties were supposed to be about traveling, exploring and finding myself. Thought that too? Well, according to psychologist Meg Jay, that’s not exactly 100% true. The twenties are supposed to set you up for your thirties and forties and so forth.
There are some things I wish I knew in my twenties, and hopefully sharing helps in yours.
Start a savings account for literally anything. Start saving in your twenties for a house, for a vacation, for anything you think you might want in your thirties. Trying to save for those things, later on, is really hard! I have an emergency saving and a vacation. Just in case I want or need either of those things. Have a retirement plan and put in as much as you think you can 3% or higher if possible. I was not in a position in my early twenties to put a lot of money towards retirement. And it’s biting me in the butt now. I wish I had at least put in a small bit consistently so it saves you from putting in 10-15%, later on, to catch up. Also, check your credit score, it might not mean a lot when you are 21 but it will when you want that house, car or another big-ticket item.
What about love? Dating in your twenties may seem like it’s about just meeting a lot of people and going on dates. That might be true. But dating should be to look at what you would want in an ideal partner. The partner whose tardiness might be endearing at 25 might make your blood boil at 35. Getting married is not the switch that puts people into gear for change. That really happens in your twenties when your mind is in the best place to grow and change. It’s hard to be surprised about our love life at 30 if we were making poor dating situations in our twenties.
Work in a place that invests in your future. Working an office job at a company you believe in will create a network for you when you are looking for other jobs vs being a barista waiting for that dream job to appear. It’s called identity capital. Identity capital which is “the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships.” Instead of throwing our twenties away in jobs that don’t move us forward, find jobs that will help get you where you want to go. You don’t want to be starting your career at 30, you want to be taking steps that make your career at 30 thrive. Be intentional in your twenties.
4. Invest in your friendships
Quality over quantity. Really take the time to find the people who bring out the best in you. The ones who invest in your friendship as much as you do. This isn’t about having the most friends but finding the ones that are supportive and inspiring. They should be people who want you to be the best version of you but also accept you. It’s important to have a strong support network and building that in your twenties will help tremendously later on.
We all know we should be working out and eating better. The longer you take to work on this, the harder it will be later. Over time, our bodies will take more time to recover from an injury (and even hangovers). Things that used to be super easy like losing weight, become even harder as your metabolism slows down. Create healthy habits when you are younger and then you can maintain them as you get older. We need our bodies to last longer than ever before so there’s no time like the present to work on our health.
What we do in our 20s really outlines what the rest of our lives look like. The twenties should be about investing in yourself. In work, in love, in your friendships. Building these things in your twenties will help you create meaning in your thirties and beyond.
Avoid the quarter-life crisis, get the book here!
About the Author
Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!
This is a great list. Also, I don’t know if this was done on purpose but the numbers fit the correct order in my personal opinion. Generally, I would say health first but this is a post for 20 somethings. Health is often an afterthought. Finances should be first and foremost.