My 20s were about the here and now. I didn’t keep a journal or blog (blogs didn’t exist…) and wasn’t much of a picture taker. So other than a few random notes, letters and postcards, I don’t have a great record of my youth.
Turning 30 did not really hit me. I did not feel older. I didn’t have kids. I still got to sleep in on saturday mornings. I still made travel plans.
My 30s were about bigger life changes. I took some classes for my career and made a major job change, for the better. I got more style savvy and comfortable in my own skin. I got married and had kids. I made a lot of New Year’s resolutions, bucket lists and goals. I did not gain fame and fortune and I was mostly okay with that.
Turning 40 has not really hit me. I am tired but can’t blame this entirely on the big 4-0. I haven’t had youthful energy for quite some time. I don’t worry too much (yet) about gray hairs and aging skin. I feel like it’s time to change styles again — not too old, not too young, and with more character yet classic (?) I am not too worried about hitting a mid-life crisis because I think I’ll be too busy dealing with dirty diapers. A lot has not turned out as planned but I’m working on accepting that.
Since the assumption is that you’re older and wiser after a certain age, I am sharing advice that I would have given my younger self (not that I would really have listened back then).
In Your 20s
1) Live as close to work as possible: I did that for the most part until my late 20s/early 30s. Now that I have a long commute, I really miss all that extra time.
2) Travel: You don’t have to go into debt to finance a 4-star stay at a pricey resort. Just save a few thousand, get your passport and get out of the country at least once in your life. Don’t wait until you’re too old to hike around.
3) Invest some time in your career: I did not do this and it shows in my career path. I can’t say I regret it too much but it wouldn’t have hurt to read a few career articles and invest a bit in my professional appearance.
4) Start investing in mutual funds but watch for high fees: I didn’t even consider fees when I first started picking mutual funds. Big mistake. I later sold several funds and switched to no-load index funds. In most cases, the returns are not high enough to justify the fees.
In Your 30s
1) Have kids by early 30s (if you want any): While your maternal or paternal instincts may not have kicked in, your body wants to know ASAP. Don’t wait too long (like I did) because your energy level also tends to lag as you get older.
2) Save more money than you think is possible: The longer your money sits in a ROTH, IRA or other savings account, the more interest/returns you’ll earn and the more you’ll have in your golden years. I did save but I wasn’t as aggressive in funding my accounts as I could have been, hence I’m trying to max out now.
3) Do good for the world: In your 30s, it’s common to get wrapped up with career, relationships and just life. While family and friends are always priority, I think it’s also important to look outside those relationships and support other causes (environmental, political, etc..). I have to follow my own advice on this one!
4) Be honest about working or staying at home: This advice is mainly for women. When you calcuate whether working is worth it or not, don’t just factor in your current wages versus the costs of daycare, drycleaning and gas. You need to factor in the lost opportunity – had you continued working, you would have probably earned more than your current salary through raises and/or promotions. You would have had more money to invest. Plus you’ll likely earn less when you do return to work.
After doing an honest calculation, you may still want to stay home but don’t go into it without knowing the real numbers. Daycare is short-term but life is long!
What advice would you give to those younger than you? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from someone older?
A good post about turning 40: