While we are in our twenties, we have an incredible opportunity to benefit our future self.
This isn’t just because we’re probably making big life decisions, like the degree we will study or the person we’ll marry. It’s because the choices we make now have the potential, over the next 50+ years, to have a massive benefit.
If you’ve ever read a personal finance book, you’ve probably come across the concept of “compounding interest.” The idea is that the sooner you start investing, the sooner you start earning interest on the money you invest.
As time goes on, you earn interest on the interest, and then interest on the interest of the interest. 30 years later, you’ve got a rather healthy investment account, the majority of which isn’t the money you invested, but the interest.
So, if you start investing in your twenties, even just a small amount each week, it can massively benefit your future self.
A similar principle can be applied to other areas of life. If you build a habit that saves you just a few seconds each day, or you do something that makes you a slightly better person, that benefit, multiplied across 50+ years, equals a massive benefit.
Here are 13 things you need to do in your twenties to massively benefit your future self:
1. BUILD GOOD FRIENDSHIPS
Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Investing in good friendships will not only make you happier in the short term, it will likely lead to you becoming a better person in the long term.
The older you get, the harder it gets to build new friendships. You’re further along with your career, maybe you’ve started a family, and everyone else is just as busy. When you reach this point, you’ll be incredibly grateful for the solid friendships you’ve already built.
2. LEARN TO TYPE PROPERLY
If you work an office job, you probably spend most of the day glued to your computer keyboard. If you don’t know how to type properly, you’re probably tapping out, at most, 50 words per minute. Those who can touch type can write upwards of 100 words per minute. Again, over a 40-year career, that’s A LOT of extra efficiency.
3. LEARN TO BUDGET
You don’t have to zealously record every purchase in a spreadsheet, but it’s important to learn how to manage your money. In short, this means allocating different portions of your income to different places (weekly expenses, savings, investment, spending, etc.).
Read a couple of personal finance books (like this one, or this one) and come up with a plan that doesn’t require much effort week-to-week, but will allow you to gradually make progress financially.
In case you missed those introductory paragraphs about compound interest, it’s so important to not just be in the habit of saving your money, but also investing it. You can find out one of the simplest ways to start investing here and definitely do your own research. Even if you’re just putting aside $50 a week, over the course of a lifetime, that’s a lot of compound interest.
5. GET A UNIVERSITY DEGREE
University isn’t going to be for everyone, but the research is clear. Someone with a university degree earns, on average, $32,000 more per year than someone who only finished high school. So, assuming you’re in your early 20s, even if it takes 3 years and costs $50,000 to get your degree, you’re potentially going to get $1,280,000 of value out of it over the course of your life (aka massive benefit).
6. LEARN HOW TO LEARN
We learn a lot of useless things in school. At no point in my day-to-day life have I ever differentiated an equation or called upon my knowledge of the chemical properties of beryllium. But the one crucial skill most of us aren’t taught is how to learn.
Take some time to learn about the evidence-based strategies for absorbing new content, revising it and ensuring maximum knowledge retention. There is a lot more to learning than just reading and re-reading your notes.
7. KEEP LEARNING
With the availability of podcasts, online learning platforms, and the simple ability to Google anything we want more information about, we can always be learning. Look for those opportunities to inject continuous learning into your daily life. Just by making the choice to listen to audio books rather than music on my drive to work, I’ve gained insights worth thousands of dollars.
8. BREAK AN UNHEALTHY HABIT
If you’re a smoker or you have a similarly unhealthy habit, quit. Easier said than done, I know. You’re probably going to go through hell for at least a few weeks. But if the result is 30+ years free of the habit, that is going to be an enormous win for your health.
9. WEAR SUNSCREEN
Unprotected exposure to UV light (aka, the sun) can cause premature ageing and skin cancer. It’s especially important to be mindful of this if you live in my corner of the world (Australia and New Zealand). We live below an area of ozone depletion, meaning more UV light gets through to us.
There’s a whole generation of leathery old people with bits cut out of them who can share with you first-hand the consequences of not wearing sunscreen. Don’t make the same mistake they did.
10. GET COUNSELLING/THERAPY
We all have crap in our life that we need to sort through. It might be childhood trauma, problems with our parents, hurts from past relationships, or all of the above. Leaving these issues unaddressed can mean that we carry a heavy emotional load through life, often without even realising. Addressing these issues while we’re young sets us up for an unburdened and more self-aware existence.
11. LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR TIME
Growing up, I thought I was a natural pro at time management. I was that kid who would study hard and nail every test, even when the grade didn’t count for anything.
I didn’t have clue.
If you think you’re great at time-management but you’ve never intentionally learnt about this skill or tried to improve at it, you’re wrong. To get started, I recommend checking out the videos of productivity YouTubers like Ali Abdaal and Thomas Frank.
12. LEARN HEALTHY CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Human beings are amazing creatures, each with our own perspective and unique characteristics. Occasionally, this can lead us to get irrationally mad at each other.
In life, conflict is inevitable. Learning how to resolve it in a healthy way will pay enormous dividends at work, with family, and in romantic relationships.