Making Your 20’s Count So Your 30’s Are Even Better

The following is a guest post by Suey.  Her bio follows.

I was in the dog park with my good friend Alice. It was our weekly Wednesday normal play date after work. Everything was normal, until I glanced over. Her face dropped as she disappointingly read the text message from her boyfriend.

She looked at me with tears. “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life or Mark. I’m 29 and have zero savings. I moved to the city to be with Mark. He’s in his 30’s and still can’t commit. We’ve been together on and off for 4-5 years. My job is just ok – it pays the bills. I’m 30 and have nothing to show for it.

Sound familiar to any of us?

A lot of us view our 20’s as a throwaway decade: we buy purses we don’t need, tops and shoes that are just “too cute”, and spend years of our life with that “bad boy” or guy who cannot commit because he is just too irresistible.

Problem is, if we spend our 20’s throwing away our time and our money, and not figuring out what matters to us, what happens to us once we hit our 30’s? Do we magically just figure  our lives out? Or do we end up like my friend Alice, who realized 30 was fast and approaching.

Your 20’s is a time to build a foundation for the rest of your life. So what can you do to not end up like my friend Alice?

Find a career where you can cultivate your interests and strengths

Here is the thing about passion. It needs to be cultivated. Very few of us know what it is at the get go. Similar to the chicken or the egg question, how do you know what your life’s passions are in your 20’s, when you haven’t experienced enough in your work life? Finding a career you love is both a science and an art. You need to find a career that pairs up your strengths and your interests. I’m a strong believer that if you do this, the money will follow.

Knowing what you want in your partner and not getting married for the sake of getting married

My friend Alice stayed with Mark because she didn’t think there was anyone better out there – which is always opposite of the case. She spent her entire 20’s with the same guy, who truthfully didn’t treat her well and was never going to change. What she should have been doing instead was shopping around on all sorts of dates to see the type of guy she truly wanted.

As young, educated women, we have to give ourselves options. We don’t have to get married in our 20’s. But we should spend our 20’s knowing the type of men we want to be with in our 30’s.


A Financial Safety Net for Yourself

I’ve always insisted that, even if you’re not making a lot of money in your 20’s, to still put aside a little bit of money to invest in a financial safety net for yourself in your 30’s. Even though we think our 20’s don’t matter, investments we make in ourselves will pay dividends in the future.

Here’s a simple, no-brainer way to save in your 20’s: put 5% into your 401K or ROTH IRA (can vary if you have an employer to match you for the 401K), 5% in your savings, and 10% into an investment account every month.

Why put 15% of your monthly paycheck into retirement and investment accounts? Because you’re in your 20’s, you want that money to grow by the time you hit your 30’s.  I practiced this approach in my early twenties when I was first out of college. Even when I had only a small salary. Within 3 years, I had over $15K in my retirement and investment accounts and will only continue to grow.

As smart, ambitious women, we need to focus in our 20’s so that we can spend our 30’s enjoying it. The last thing you want to do is waste years of your life not exploring your interests, personal life, and career to realize you have nothing to show for in your 30’s.

About The Author

suey guest columnist pic

Suey is a former Cornell engineer and consultant and now founder of her new blog site Smart Women Daily. Having lived in multiple countries (New Zealand and Malaysia to name a few) and having seen the many common struggles women face around the world, she aims to offer simple, real world advice to help women navigate their personal lives and careers.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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