Your twenties are a strange and wonderful time.
You’re still young enough not to have too many responsibilities, you’re on your own for the first time, and you’re figuring out what you want for the rest of your life.
That also means, of course, there are plenty of pitfalls waiting to gobble you up – so if you’re in your twenties and are hoping to benefit from other people’s experience, here are mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
1. It really does make a difference.
Not getting enough sleep or not having a good sleep schedule.
If and when you can (because money and insurance), get a sleep study! I had terrible sleep patterns through my 20s, did all the tricks you see online. Got a sleep study in my 30s and found two undiagnosed sleep disorders.
It’s a whole new world. You’ll never be able to sort those things out on your own. Sleep makes ALL the difference.
2. Boring but important.
Savings, 401k whatever just invest for yourself.
I told my wife to sign up for when she started her first job since immigrating. It’s been 6 years and she’s got a nice little wad of money socked away.
She’s been telling her coworkers for the past 5 of those 6 years that they should sign up, because the employer match is free money. Plus it earns more by compounded growth. They all say they don’t want to.
She shrugs and says okay.
3. It really is a slippery slope.
Binge drinking. It’s a very easy spiral to go down if you aren’t careful.
I never thought I was an alcoholic, drank anywhere from 1 – 3 times a week. Then Covid hit, and between the stresses of that and the boredom, I started drinking most days. Started to get pains in my right side a few months after my 30th birthday.
Ultrasound showed early stage fatty liver which left untreated can turn to cirrhosis. F**king liver disease. Haven’t had a drop since I found out. Lost 50lbs, have much clearer mind, and money in the bank. Makes me kick myself a little for not starting this sooner.
4. Watch your ears!
Wrecking your ears with excessive noise exposure.
Even if you don’t care about losing your hearing, you don’t want catastrophic tinnitus.
It’s completely disabling. And nobody tells you that you can get it years or decades after the noise exposure. I just thought, “I’ll knock this off before it gets too bad.”
5. Just keep swimming.
Not making tiny changes and sticking to them! I know that I had an all or nothing attitude in my 20s.
If I tried my hand at painting and my first few attempts were c**p, I’d drop it. If I tried saving money and saw how little it was, I’d spend it.
You have to do little things everyday and just don’t stop. It’ll add up in your 30s and you’ll be so grateful even later.
The problem is – many 20 year olds think of 30 and above as not counting somehow. They can’t imagine not being a complete success in their 20s or not being in a perfect relationship in their 20s.
But life goes one. Your 30s are freeing and you’re in a whole different mental space from then on.
Don’t get desperate and stay with an awful person just vecause you’re so ‘old’ and unmarried at 29. Or make decisions that ignore the rest of your life.
Don’t quit studying or learning just cause you’re out of college. If you want a career change, don’t not do an onlieb course or start working towards it because you’ll see a result 5 years from now.
That 5 years will pass and you’ll wish you had done something.
Just keep doing small things.
6. Without fail.
Tanning without sunscreen. That catches up with you when you least expect it.
Not using sunscreen and being careless with my skin is one of my biggest regrets at 32. I smoked cigarettes, drank heavily, ate like s**t, and didn’t use sunscreen.
In your 20’s, you just bounce back with hardly any physical consequences and you feel like you’re going to be young forever. All of a sudden, I woke up one day with wrinkles and skin damage that I can’t reverse and is only going to get worse from here on out.
I am still having a hard time accepting it, and it causes a lot of depression and regret in my current life when I look at myself in the mirror.
7. And it’s that way on purpose.
Credit and debt, it’s too easy to buy things you can’t afford.
I wish I understood this in my 20s. I was very careless with money
As you get money you tend to take out credit to get nice things. A sudden change in your career can ruin your life for a while. Be careful about buying things you can’t pay for outright.
8. It’s your biggest organ.
I think mistreating your skin overall though. I think that emphasis on skin health should be a bigger topic of conversation. Everyone talks about exercise and brushing your teeth, but nobody talks about sunscreen use, hydrating and nourishing your skin, etc.
For a while I thought that getting a bunch of creams for my face was too feminine and wasn’t necessary, but with college and just overall stress I started to see my skin look more tired and worn out and dull. So I decided to try out a Korean skincare routine and I will never go back to not taking care of my face or skin in general!
9. You don’t get another.
Treating their body like it’s a rental. Look after it. You will be living in this body for many years to come.
Don’t burn out the clutch by 27 and live with the consequences for 60 more years.
10. You want to be able to retire.
Not saving enough money.
Pay yourself first. Don’t work the rest of your life.
“Don’t save what’s left after spending, spend what’s left after saving.”
11. There’s no prize for getting there first.
Life is not a race. It doesn’t matter who’s getting married who’s moved out from parents house who has a kid. You go at your pace. Don’t think you’re behind anyone else.
12. It’s never too late to start.
Not eating right and exercising. The heart attack you have at 50 doesn’t just magically show up. Cardiovascular disease is from years of buildup.
Until I was in my early 40’s I had never run more than 2k at a stretch, was desperately out of shape, overweight and just felt really prematurely old.
I started running and cycling and eating somewhat better when I was about 43. I honestly feel healthier, younger and am definitely way fitter than when I was in my twenties. I also lost that excess weight and just have lots more energy now. A couple of months ago I ran my first marathon, at age 56.
The funny thing is, I hate running. I’ve been doing it for over a decade now but I’ve never enjoyed it. Not for a single minute. But I know what it does to me, which keeps me going.
13. It’s tough to quit.
Don’t pick up smoking.
I am 41 and still smoke. I hate it and am terribly terribly addicted to cigarettes. Biggest mistake of my life was starting at 15.
14. It’s harder to get back in.
Getting out of shape. Developing unhealthy eating habits can dramatically hurt your quality of life.
And in most cultures, opportunities. Plenty of studies have shown that people who are out of shape are, on average, viewed and treated differently in the workplace.
Not to mention, and I’m saying this as someone who has been a wide range of body shapes in my life, it does affect dating and how friendly strangers are to you.
15. Don’t just put your head down and go.
Mistake: Getting comfortable in your current job, while also not making plans to increase your skills to qualify for the next role.
Unless you’ve joined a generous company, don’t assume your first job is going to really take care of you for years to come. This isn’t the 1950’s where corporate culture rewards loyalty. Year on year they will instead continue to dump greater responsibility on you but come compensation time, barely increase your pay more than the cost of living increase. Then they’ll justify it by saying you are at the -arbitrary- pay ceiling for your role. Don’t be like me and become obsolete, making life scary and job hunting depressing – It is daunting to recover from.
2 times a year, check online job postings and look for reasonable next-step roles for yourself.
Then identify any knowledge gaps for that role, and actively work on learning what you need in order to fill the gap. Even if that means learning it out of work hours.
Then apply for similar roles, you do not need to be 100% perfect fit; 80-90% fit is great.
Expect to not always win the job offers, competition nowadays is fierce; get comfortable in being knocked down but getting up again.
Rejoice when you land a new role, knowing you are doing well to avoid becoming stagnant.
Repeat steps 1-5 at least every 2 years.
Or not, and see how capitalism rewards a static employee.
16. Don’t assume you know everything.
Walking too confidently on the pavement of their own opinions and experience. You must do this in your twenties, as its all you’ve been taught and have to go on, but it’s the ‘too confidently’ that you don’t realize.
Approach every person and interaction as if they have something to teach you or that you could learn from them and their perspective.
Done with genuine openness you’ll be better and wiser for it, will become a better judge of people (to more quickly sort through the bs), and will have more opportunities because you are more interested in listening and understanding others than in telling everyone how you think they (and the world) should be.
17. It’s never too late.
Sticking to a career they hate because that’s what they chose to do when they were 16-18 years old.
It’s never too late to change your career path and if you’re not enjoying it now do you think that will change in another 20-30 years?
18. They’re hard to break.
Not adopting good habits, especially the first time they move out of their parents’ home.
Good, healthy habits are easy to adopt when you change environment, bad habits are hard to get rid of, especially about food.
19. Think about the future.
Not taking advantage of a 401k if offered because they ‘don’t make a lot of money so it wouldn’t be worth it anyway’. At least this is a mistake I made. I was working retail and opted out of the 401k because even the smallest amount of my meager income felt like too much.
It’s not about the money now, it’s about the money in 50 years. A small amount can grow tremendously in that amount of time. Also, if your company has a 401k match, you’re literally throwing the money away by not taking advantage of it. Even if they only match the first 3 or 4 percent, that’s literally free money! Take advantage of it!
20. Live in the now.
Focusing on the future where you’ll be content.
“When I can buy that house, things will be great.”
“When I can start a family…..”
“When I get that promotion…..”
All those things may be great, but right now always has its it’s great moments. Right now has its own joys. Work for what you want, but live right now.
21. Seriously. Just do it.
Not wearing a condom.
22. Take care of your teeth.
If you aren’t taking dental hygiene serious in your 20s… You are going to have a bad time later in life.
Edit:. For everyone asking my advice on what’s serious
Brush twice daily (after every meal is better) Wait a little since some foods can weaken enamel.
Floss twice daily (after every meal is better or AT LEAST once at night)
Electric toothbrush will change your life. Not necessary but they do a way better job than you probably do at brushing. Get the ones with a spinning head brush.
Visit your dentist every 6 months for regular checkups.
Don’t brush too hard or you will wear away your enamel.
When you floss get up into your gum line. You need to scrape away the plaque from up there not just remove food from between your teeth.
Did I mention flossing and brushing twice daily?
Edit 2:. After all the comments I went researching some more so additional info.
Ultrasonic toothbrush are recommended over rotating but it has to be the RIGHT toothbrush which after some research could cost you up to 200. As far as cheaper options the rotating brush is still recommended over vibrating. Emmi-dent is one brand that uses the proper frequency but the price tag is… Well a lot.
23. Don’t dismiss the possibilities.
Thinking this is the person they’ll be forever.
Thinking this is the person they will be WITH forever.
You are not who you were at 20 when you turn 40. No one ever is. Whether you succeed as a couple or even as an individual is keep recognising your growths, strengths and challenges.
24. You’ve gotta keep growing.
Thinking that they have finished maturing.
I think that applies to all age brackets.
25. It’s an important lesson to learn.
The value of delayed gratification in health, nutrition, retirement planning, driving a used car, etc.
I definitely made a few of these in my twenties. Oops!
What advice would you give to someone in their twenties? Share it in the comments!