WHEN I FIRST HEARD MEG JAY’S TED TALK “WHY 30 IS NOT THE NEW 20” – I FINALLY FELT VALIDATED.
I was in my early twenties and trying to balance the pressure of “not taking life too seriously” with my own internal expectations. I felt like I was back in high school when the cool thing to do was to not care about your life or direction. (Yes, I was a nerd.) But that was not sitting well with me. I couldn’t stand there and let my life pass me by when I knew I wanted to focus on something.
I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. There’s an inherent Millennial stereotype that we like to flit and flutter around the world without any responsibilities or a care in the world. But I don’t think that’s true. I firmly believe that for a lot of us, there’s a method to our madness. However – we do let some things slip through the cracks.
There are some major aspects of our lives that we let go on autopilot during our twenties that I desperately want to address. These tips aren’t sexy or glamorous, but they are critical to getting the most out of your twenty-something years.
HERE ARE FIVE THINGS TO FOCUS ON DURING YOUR TWENTIES:
I know having money, any money, is a blast. You get to go to Sephora and buy anything you want and then walk across the street and go to happy hour and then top off the night with a fancy salmon dish with friends celebrating some stranger’s birthday. It is ZE LIFE.
But not focusing on your finances at this age could cost you. Literally.
If you have a normal 9-5 job, then your retirement should be taken out of every paycheck. That is probably the case for lot of you. However, for those of you that are in school or are self employed (hi) or are 1099ers (also hi), saving for retirement is a liiiiiiiiittle more complicated. If you haven’t already, I recommend at this VERY instance to start a RothIRA and contribute the full amount ($5,500) per year. That’s roughly $450/mo. EEEEK. Yes that’s money that could go towards that new couch you spotted at Z Gallery but HUNNAY you ain’t gonna need that couch when you’re 65 and not working anymore because you won’t HAVE a house to PUT it in if you aren’t saving for your retirement NOW!
Ok I’ve calmed down. Let’s continue.
The fun part about saving is the longer you put money into a retirement account, the more exponential cash you shall have once you can finally withdraw it! (The money is not liquid, just an FYI. You actually get penalized for withdrawing it early. Which is great for those of you with impulse control issues.)
Let’s be clear: I am not going to hold myself as a financial expert. I’m just not. But if you don’t believe me, please read this Business Insider article so it can royally scare you into saving. There are *plenty* of ways to save for your retirement. If you want to go call a financial advisor and see what the jig is all about, go for it. Talk to experts about what to save and how. I know it’s scary to face this part of your life so head-on, but once you do, I promise it’s not scary anymore!
Ok…after you’ve gotten your retirement ducks in a row and you’ve started legitimately saving, we can focus on a few hacks for right now.
B) EMERGENCY FUND
Got one of those?
If you don’t, you’re not alone.
In 2016 it was revealed that over 65% of Americans do not have an emergency fund. Meaning, if something were to happen, the majority of us could not afford a $1,000 setback.
This means not only do we have to start saving for our future, we have to start saving for the present. But not to worry, I have two fun options for you!
Whenever you “save” money in your savings account, does it actually stay there? Probably not. Why? Because it’s right in front of you. If you see money sitting in the bank, chances are you are going to take it. Some of you might have the self control of a vegan and have zero problem putting money in a separate account and not touching it. I salute you. The rest of you need to trick yourself into pretending the money isn’t there.
Allow me to Introduce Digit and Acorns.
These are two of my favorite money apps that I use to save. The first app, Digit, connects to your checking account and takes out a small amount of money a few times a week so you barely even notice. The cash is completely liquid so you can withdraw it from your Digit account at anytime. But the brilliance of this concept is that you don’t see the money in your bank savings account. In fact, you could completely forget about Digit and check it a few months later to see you’ve saved over $1,000! You even get saving bonuses and can increase or decrease the amount that you save. The best part is, if you have an overdraft fee due to Digit’s withdrawal, they’ll cover that fee.
Acorns, on the other hand, works similarly to Digit, but instead of saving money for you, it invests money for you. You connect your Acorns account to a checking account and to your credit cards. First, you can choose to set a recurring transfer from your checking account to your Acorns account. Acorns will take that money and invest it into your stock portfolio. While this is great, I am way more stoked about the credit card feature. Acorns tracks your purchases and rounds each one up to the nearest dollar for investments. So if I spend $3.75 at the drug store, it will round up that purchase to $4.00 and invest that quarter into my portfolio. And, just like Digit, you can withdrawal your cash at any time. Pretty kewl.
I have both right now and depending on how much my money grows within each app, I’ll probably pick one over the other to consolidate my funds. But for right now, testing them out is pretty fun, and I’m saving lots of liquid cash. If you want to give it a whirl, the links above will give you AND myself $5! They are great and easy ways to save money for an emergency stash without even realizing it.
I mean it. If you have ANY debt whatsoever, you better be saving a boat load of cash per month to pay it off. Never EVER pay the minimum on any sort of a debt payment either – you will be swallowed up whole in interest and hardly make a dent in your loan year after year. If you have a credit card, that’s fabulous. You can accrue tons of points and travel the world for free (it’s amazing) – but make sure to pay off the balance monthly. Credit card interest rates are astronomically high and you don’t want to saddle yourself down with debt when you should be saving for retirement. So be smart with debt. If you have it, it should be your top financial priority. If you don’t, stay as far away from it as you possibly can.
If you’re interested in really getting your finance shiz together, this free class can help.
You need to be financially savvy NOW, not in five years. If you are in your twenties, then you are an adult. And adults have to think about this BS. I know it’s not fun, but you’ll be SO grateful for your responsible self years down the road!
2. CREATING HEALTHY PHYSICAL HABITS
At this point in your life, you are seriously flawless. Your metabolism is lit, your skin is young, your energy is high, and your health is impeccable. Unfortunately it does not stay that way.
I’m no old lady, but I can tell you that I’ve noticed some changes in my body over the past few years. And there are some habits that have truly transformed how I’ve transitioned – and there are some habits I wish I had started way, way earlier. So let’s go over some basics.
a. Drink more water. Water flushes out your system, it keeps your skin clear and moist, it hydrates your entire body, it helps you maintain your body weight – it’s basically magic. So get yourself one of those Swell bottles (or a cheaper knockoff I found on Amazon HAYYYYY SAYING MONAY) and drink up.
b. Exercise. If you aren’t super into fitness, that’s fine. Walk around the park for all I care. Exercise elevates your mood, fights off heart disease, increases your metabolism, and helps keep weight off. I know only some of those sound appealing to you right at this moment, but to be fair I’m not talking about short term effects right now anyway. I just want you to get in the *habit* of exercising so when the time comes that it really makes a difference, you’re already stuck in your ways.
c. Work on hygiene. Brush your dang teeth every night. Wash your face (not with those toilette crap things, you’re just shoving bacteria left and right). Moisturize. Take care of your body so it doesn’t fall apart when you are withdrawing all that bomb cash you saved for your retirement.
d. Eat better. Again, I’m sure a lot of you don’t have to *really* worry about your weight right now. Maybe you’d like to lose 5 pounds, but whatever. You’re good. However sometime in the future your metabolism isn’t going to be doing all the work for you anymore, and you’re going to need to know how to eat in order to maintain a figure and not have a heart attack. I’m no nutritionist, but I know that it’s best to follow the basics. Eat your veggies. Stay away from processed foods. Don’t over drink, and when you do, supplement with WATER. Don’t be afraid of protein. And watch your portion size. That’s all! It’s not too hard. I’m never going to be one to force a Whole 30 on you, but I do think incorporating the obvious healthy habits will always serve you well.
e. Get more sleep. I know I sound so BORING but sleep is going to carry you through the most stressful of times. Get in the habit of getting to bed at a decent hour. If you can’t fall asleep, that’s fine. Just read. Watch TV. Do whatever it is that you need to do in order to close your eyes and drift off. Not sleeping now is going to show up in your body and on your face years later. Plus if you can create a healthy relationship with sleep now, she won’t be such a bitch to you later on when you really need it.
3. GET RID OF SHITTY FRIENDSHIPS
I write a lot about the power of relationships, so forgive me if I am being superbly redundant. Right now in your life, you probably have some deadweight friends. The ones that don’t empower you, challenge you, or frankly even care for you. You’re just friends out of convenience or history or obligation. Whatever that reason may be, get in the habit of being selective with your friendships now.
The people in our life have more of an impact on our happiness than almost any other factor according to a Harvard research study.
Think about that for a second. Karen, that brat in your life who is always ragging on you and never builds you up – yeah – she has a greater impact on your happiness than your diet does. Damn if that isn’t powerful.
So I’m not kidding around – your twenties are the time to rise up and take a stand for your life. You do not have to hang out with bad friends. You don’t have to be around people you don’t like. And you do not have to waste your time letting things “roll of your back” for the sake of harmony. There will always be extenuating circumstances, but keep them to a minimum. Science has spoken and it has declared your relationships the key to a happier and healthier life. Fill your life with friendships that make you a better person. Your twenties are the time to establish maintain those types of relationships.
4. FOCUS ON YOUR LONGTERM CAREER PLANS
Find a career goal, set it, and work towards it. It’s that simple.
Your twenties are meant for exploration, yes. But they are also meant for creating a foundation. I’m all about you taking some time off to go explore the world. I think it’s fun and healthy and why the hell not? I’m also all about experimentation and trying things out. How else will you know if you like something? Go for it, girl!
But I’m not all for not caring. I’m not all for coasting. And I don’t want you thinking that your career doesn’t matter just because you’re not a “serious” adult yet. It does.
The road to success is not a straight line. There are detours and cul-de-sacs and roundabouts and just about any other annoying traffic metaphor I can come up with. It’s a mess. And it only gets tougher the later you start.
Think about what you want to be when you grow up. A doctor? A lawyer? A business owner? A blogger? A real estate agent? A music producer? A director?
Great goals! Love them! Now what are you doing RIGHT NOW in order to work towards it?
I want you to think of your career as tacks with strings. You know, like back in the day when you put a tack down on a map to show the cities you have visited? And then you string them together with yarn? No? Just me? Either way, the map looked like a crazy journey across the country with a million stops and hardly any direction. But when you look at the big picture, plenty of people started up in the west coast and landed in the east coast. They really were going somewhere the whole time.
Whether you realize it or not, the career decisions you are making today will affect the opportunities you have tomorrow.
Putting something off or ignoring your career altogether isn’t going to “work itself out” just because you age a little bit more. Instead, try to incorporate your end goal into everything that you do.
If your dream is to be a high end fashion photographer but you also want to travel the world, bring your camera with you and document the trip. Mix business with pleasure. If you want to go to medical school one day but you are so burned out with school that you can’t even fathom reading one more text book, volunteer at a hospital or a clinic. If you need to quit a dead end career now in order to have a shot at happiness later, do it. Always think of your end goal first and work your way there. For any big goal, break it down into enjoyable steps.
Remember, just like the more you invest financially into your retirement the bigger payout it’ll be be, the more thought you put into your end career goal, the more rewarding it will be.
5. WORK ON A BUCKET LIST
If you have taken the rest of this list seriously, there’s a chance you might be panicking. It’s a lot to take in, especially if this is a major paradigm shift for you. But don’t worry – this last tip is the fun one.
While I know it doesn’t *feel* this way, at this point in your life, you don’t have a crazy amount of responsibilities. (Note: if you have already had kids, this does not pertain to you!). You don’t have any dependents, you are making enough money to keep you afloat (fingers crossed), you’re saving, you’re trying to take care of yourself…yes, it’s a lot, but it’s doable. Which is why I am going to through one more ball for you to juggle.
Go have some fun.
Instead of thinking about all of the things you CAN’T do, think about the things you CAN do. It’s easy to get caught up in the I-have-to-save-EVERYTHING-mode or But-I-don’t-deserve-to-do-anything-cool-mentality…but try to fight back. As important as your twenties are, you also have to balance it out with some adventure.
What would you like your life to deliver? Are you a major music fan but concerts weren’t a part of your life growing up? Save up and get some awesome seats for your favorite artist. Haven’t traveled much? Track Google Flights to see if you can get a crazy good deal on a June flight to Paris. Always wanted to run a marathon? Perfect, you have lots of time to train for it. While focusing on longterm, beneficial goals is really good for you, focusing on short-term exciting goals are just as important. Life is meant to be enjoyed.
I am all too familiar with the stressors and anxiety that come with your twenty-something years. Not only do I experience it myself, but I also listen to everyone else’s struggles and fears on a daily basis. It’s real. But that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself up in your room until you turn 30.
My challenge for you is to work on a twenty-something Bucket List and try to get it accomplished before your 30th birthday. The only rule? Don’t have anything on there that will make you feel down on yourself if you simply can’t accomplish it.
None of this buying houses or getting married or becoming a CEO by the time you’re 30. Outlandish goals that have zero measurability or too many outside factors will only bring you down. Instead, focus on experiences that you can work towards. More “see the Grand Canyon” and less “Become a millionaire.”
BEFORE I END THIS LONG ASS ARTICLE, I WANT TO MAKE ONE NOTE.
Notice how there wasn’t *anything* on here about romantic relationships?
That’s because you deserve to navigate relationships are your own pace. If you want to get married in your twenties, cool. If you want to play the field and not even consider settling down until you are well past 30, also cool. Relationships are TOO PERSONAL to try to dictate when and where they should happen for any individual. Adding additional pressure onto yourself will only make you more susceptible to falling into a relationship out of convenience instead of desire. So as far as relationships go – you do you on your OWN timeline.