When I first started working with my life coach in Fall 2016, I had some built up resentment towards my younger self that I needed to work through. I blamed my younger self for not speaking up in certain situations. I blamed my younger self for not taking more risks or simply knowing more about the world around me at that time. I was not only frustrated with my 20-something self for not having the wisdom and life experience of a 40-something (I know…unrealistic), but I was also frustrated that no one else spoke up, helped me or imparted their wisdom on me. I feel like I was left on my own to figure everything out.
This article is my way of paying it forward and doing what I wish someone had done for me when I was in my 20s and even my 30s – telling you stuff you probably won’t realize until later in life to hopefully help you out along the way.
So with that. A few things no one tells you in your 20s:
Your Salary Isn’t As Important As You Think It Is
Okay so here’s the deal with income in your 20s. It doesn’t matter that much. You’ll always have friends who make more than you so just let go of that comparison game right now. You’ll also make more than some of your friends. Buy their coffee from time to time. I want you to UNDERTHINK your income and OVERTHINK your actual job, experience, and opportunities. I didn’t make a big salary in my 20s. But I was afforded an opportunity to essentially run a company and manage every aspect of the business from financials to sales and hiring. You can’t buy that kind of experience. Guess what? Your friends who make more than you? They likely won’t end up that much further ahead of you financially in the long run. And who cares if they do? Run your own race. This is because the money they’re making right now, they’re spending on daily life. They’re likely not saving it to launch the next disruptive tech startup. They’ll spend it all on things like rent and food and clothes because your 20s is when you spend what you make. So maybe you make a little less. Spend a little less and learn as much as you possibly can. Do as much as you possibly can. When there’s an opportunity at work to do something that you’ve never done before and feel completely unqualified to do, be the first person to raise your hand and volunteer. Take the job that gives you the best experience and leverage that experience later to get the pay jumps you deserve because you’re a rock star who knows your stuff.
You’ll Never Be Hotter or Skinnier
Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement. I actually think I look better at 40 than I did at 20, but that’s because I finally figured out how to take care of myself in general. But here’s the deal: things change as you age. Like weird little stuff like new spots and lines and the shape of your body just kind of morphs and one day you sort of feel bad about your neck and it’s harder to get out of bed after a night of drinking and stuff like that. Unless you live in the gym or starve yourself (miserable if you ask me, but hey do you), your body WILL change. So wear the bikini, wear the crop top, wear the shorts (trust me on this one, your thighs are the first to go). Don’t spend your 20s hating on your body or calling yourself fat. You’ll spend the rest of your life wishing you had that body back again.
Credit Card Debt Is Worse Than…Everything Ever
If you want a good laugh, sit down with anyone in their 30s or 40s and ask them about credit card debt in their 20s. We ALL have a story about something ridiculous we did. Tough love time. I’m trying to save you here. Do you have credit card debt? Get real about it now and pay it off. While you’re paying it off treat it like a bill and stop using it. Only charge things on your debit card or pay with cash until your credit card debt is paid off. Use your savings to pay it off. Transfer your high-interest credit card debt to a 0% interest card, set up a payment schedule and pay it off in full before the 0% promotion expiration date. I’m serious here. Do a hard push: Babysit. Take a weekend job. Walk dogs. Don’t shop for new clothes for 6 months. You can do this. There is zero redeeming value in credit card debt and don’t give me some speech about your credit score unless you want to watch me roll my eyes hard. Credit card debt is zero good and all bad. Get out of it and never get into it again. If you can’t pay your credit cards in full each month, you lose the luxury of using them and move to just a debit card and cash. Period.
Take More and Bigger Risks
I spent my 20s thinking about leaving Jacksonville and looking for a job in Atlanta, Boston or Austin. But I was scared to pull the trigger. I thought moving to another city was a huge thing and that I needed a ton of money and resources to do it. I was wrong. What no one tells you is pretty much every risk you take will end up being an incredible life decision and you’ll thank yourself for taking that risk for years to come. Move to a new city (it takes less money than you think). Start a company or take a new job even if you don’t have any experience in the field. Invest in Bitcoin. Whatever. You can and should take big risks throughout your entire life (I took my biggest risk at 38), but there is no time in your life like your 20s where you have both the resources and the resiliency. You’re in the sweet spot. Take the biggest risks now.
Oh, and in case no one has told you yet today – you’re doing awesome and your future is even brighter than you can possibly imagine.