People Reveal The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make In Your 20s

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Being young has its advantages: You have fewer responsibilities, you can easily start over, and you can recover quickly from the inevitable mistakes you’ll make while you figure out how to be an adult. Your 20s are your best years to fail, misstep, and bounce back—but sometimes, a poor life choice or two can have lasting effects.

From not brushing your teeth to thinking you’re invincible, these mistakes can have a big impact on your life. But they can also be easily avoided. Here are some of the biggest blunders you can make in your 20s. You’ll be happy to know that watching funny cat videos is not one of them.

#1 Spending Money You Don’t Have

Living a lifestyle you can’t afford.

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#2 Dwelling

Don’t waste time being self-conscious and don’t waste time on negative people, relationships, and interpersonal dramas. Use this time for personal development. Get good at things you enjoy. Be friends with people who make you happy. Do interesting things. Literally no one ever has looked back and been pleased that they spent six months embroiled in roommate drama. You’re not going to (hopefully) be regaling the bar with how that girl Cheryl bleached your towels in six years. It doesn’t matter.

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#3 Coasting Through Life

Just coasting through life waiting for something to happen. Nobody is going to walk up to you and hand you the meaning to your life or a fulfilling career.

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#4 Not Taking Advantage of Time

Not taking advantage of your greatest asset: time. When I was talking with an older friend who was very well off—a millionaire, in fact—I jokingly said, “I’ll trade you my age for your money.” And his reply has always stuck with me. He said, “I can do more with your time than you can do with my money.” I didn’t take it as an insult but as motivation to make the most of my time and not waste it.

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#5 Not Having a Healthy Lifestyle

Not getting a routine of a healthy lifestyle. When older people say, “It gets a lot harder when you’re older,” they mean it.

#6 Taking Too Many Responsibilities On

Not taking advantage of the freedoms you have now. Most people in their 20s aren’t married or have kids. Enjoy it. Travel. Volunteer. Figure out who you are and what kind of person you want to be as you finish growing up. Don’t saddle yourself down with a ton of responsibilities now because you will never be this young, this free, this full of energy, and have this many opportunities to enjoy life and yourself again.

#7 Having Children When You’re Not Ready

Having children before you’re ready—emotionally, mentally, and financially.

#8 Procrastination

Coasting on their potential. It’s easy to put off actually doing anything while you’re still basking in the glory of being the smart kid at school or university, but then all of a sudden you’re 29 and there are celebrities younger than you and you find yourself wondering where to even get started. If you want something, the time to start working towards it is while you’re young and hungry.

#9 Not Exercising

Not Exercising! Never stop. Keep an active lifestyle if you can. It only gets harder and harder to get back into it.

#10 Nitpicking Yourself

No one has ever been super jazzed that they nitpicked their own appearance for seven years and consequently couldn’t enjoy themselves because they were pulling at their clothing. I’m not talking about self-improvement, I’m talking about being really unhappy with yourself for the sake of being really unhappy with yourself. Stop doing that, you’re fine.

#11 Brush, Brush, Brush

TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH!

#12 Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself. Your habits now will follow you for a long time. I’m 27 and I’m starting to realize this, so I’m trying to turn things around. Less drinking, more salads, less carbs, etc. Also, don’t waste money on stupid things. If you’re about to buy something stupid, just think, “Will I get annoyed at having this in two years?”

#13 Drive Safe

Don’t get a DUI/DWI in your 20s.

#14 Not Being Interesting

Not being interesting. Really. It takes time to be interesting. It takes time to grow a personality and an identity that isn’t based on the things you like (or worse, the things you hate) or some preconceived labels. People say go out, live life, have an adventure! And yeah, that’s a way to be interesting. But reading books, writing, painting, cultivating a knowledge base either very specific or very broad—those are also ways to be interesting.

And what’s so important about being interesting? Well, the obvious way is that its a way to meet people, and make them stay. And while you may not need people, it’s still nice to have them. So you know. Do something unique. Dare to disagree. Explore an inclination, scratch an itch. Because in this cynical world, it’s dangerous to just be a collection of likes and dislikes, easily moved and swayed.

#15 Buying Cars You Can’t Afford

Buying vehicles they can barely afford. Not realizing that the really nice cars also usually have really high insurance rates. I saw this happen to some friends in my late teens and early 20s.

#16 Getting Married Too Early

Getting married. Late 20s maybe. Early 20s I’d strongly urge against it. Even if you’ve been dating since freshman year, you’re both at the point where you’re going to do the most changing as people. There’s no guarantee you will change in the same way and go the same direction. Plus, you’re less likely to know what to look for in a long-term relationship in the first place.

#17 Not Calling Your Parents

Forgetting about calling and visiting your parents. Seriously. It may sound weird but when I was in my 20s I was so happy to be out of the house that I made the mistake of disconnecting with my mom and dad. I wish I would have done more.

 

#18 Being Too Afraid to Take Chances

Taking your loved ones and your health for granted; spending too much (it’s important to start getting into the habit of saving now); being too afraid to take chances; not thinking about what truly matters to you (temporary/instant gratification versus long-term gratification.

#19 Be Careful With Relationships

Your 20s are a minefield. Everything you do determines a large chunk of your future. I’d say be the most careful with illegal substances and relationships. In my 33 years, those two things have been the most damaging.

#20 Handle it With Grace

If your relationship involves screaming, the silent treatment, weird subterfuge, or general nastiness, (and I could make an endless list of bad behavior) leave that relationship. You are going to outgrow friendships. Other people are going to outgrow your friendship. This is normal. It’s not an indictment of you as a person. It can be painful, handle it with grace. And always, think before you react. Always be your own devil’s advocate. Think about others, think about how you sound when dealing with conflict. Being a stable person is partially an acquired skill. Learn it.

#21 Not Exercising Regularly

Falling out of the habit of exercising regularly. It’s such an easier habit to maintain than it is to adopt in one’s 30s.

#22 Maxing Out Credit Cards

Maxing out credit cards. Kids witness their parents opening up credit cards at major retail stores, not understanding what it means. Since most teens are inadequately prepared for handling finances fresh out of high school, opening credit cards is just what mom and dad always did!

#23 Bad Relationships

Staying in a “meh” relationship because they think that’s as good as relationships get.

#24 Wear Korean Sunscreen

Not wearing sunscreen. Seriously people wear sunscreen. Getting sunburned just once can triple your risk of melanoma later in life. I work with a lot of older hippies, construction workers, landscapers, and arborists and a lot of them have skin cancer and they all really wish they had worn sunscreen.

Listen to Baz Luhrmann and wear sunscreen. If you’re concerned about certain chemicals in sunscreen there are always alternatives. Also, look into Korean sunscreens. They have amazing sunscreens that go on smooth just like lotion and don’t leave you sticky or contain some of the harsh chemicals in American sunscreens. Make it a part of your daily routine and you’ll appreciate it later in life.

#25 Going to College Just Because

Going to college without a plan or moving towards an actually marketable degree, just because it’s what you think you should be doing because it’s what everyone else is doing.

#26 Learn Don’t Earn

Sacrifice learning for earning. I’m not saying you have to go to college, but you need to learn a marketable skill in a career that has a future. Working as a server or bartender or other similar jobs for easy money is not a viable long-term move. I see many 40-year-old servers who look 50 and hate life.

#27 Partying Too Hard

Heavy drinking. You can waste away years of your life like this, thinking you’re just “partying.” A good friend of mine recently came to terms with his problem. Blacking out every week for nearly a decade is not normal.

#28 Control Issue Relationships

Getting into a relationship with someone who has control issues. A lack of respect for personal boundaries is a serious red flag. The risks include depleted savings, ruined credit, a damaged career, frayed ties to family and friends, and ending up with one or more unplanned children. Serious advice: If a charming person has a red flag but you think you can manage it, don’t even try.

#29 Marrying Wrong

Marrying the wrong person.

#30 Not Having Dedication to Saving

Not having the dedication to save and keep saving. I just got out of college and started to get into the rhythm of working after having a dry spell. I’m lucky that I had some money to back up those months of not really being employed. Now that I’ve started to make money, I’m trying so hard to put away those paychecks and hold onto them for when I want to find a house or for a retirement fund.

#31 Thinking You Deserve or Don’t Deserve Things

Thinking that you either “deserve” or “don’t deserve” things that happen to you.

#32 Not Caring About Credit

Not caring about your credit score. Getting credit cards and maxing them out and not being able to keep up with the payments. I’m speaking from personal experience here. I was never taught to be financially responsible and it’s been a hard lesson learned. I’m 35 now, my credit score is slowly creeping up, and I have a three-year plan for homeownership. I’m literally a decade behind where I wanted to be.

#33 Not Protecting Your Ears

Not wearing hearing protection in loud situations. The tinnitus is real, man.

#34 Not Thinking About Finances

Not contributing to your 401k/IRA. If your company matches, max it out. One hundred percent on ROI is basically unheard of long-term so it’s free money. Also, pouring money into depreciating assets (expensive vehicles, large rent payments when cheaper options are available). And going to grad school just because you have no idea what you want to actually do. Have a purpose and goal. I know about a dozen people who went to law school just because.

#35 Sticking to One Job

Staying at a job too long. If you’re not making enough money or aren’t in line for promotion 30 months after you start, you’ll likely be kept there for a while. These days, big salary changes only occur by job-hopping.

#36 Spending Too Much Money

I think people usually give one of two answers to this question: either 1) spending too much time working is a huge mistake, make sure you have tons of cool experiences before you run out of energy, or 2) spending all your money on transient experiences is a huge mistake, make sure you save money, because those pictures of you at Burning Man aren’t going to pay the bills in ten years.

In my experience, most people who recommend the first are those in a financially secure position who kind of regret not having more fun in their twenties, while those who recommend the second are having more trouble and regret not earning and saving more money. I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to go fully in one direction or another.

You can do things with friends or go to festivals and still save some money as long as you keep an eye on your finances. Even small amounts of money here and there build-up, and then you’ll have some to tie you over for when you’re older and want to spend less time working.

#37 Be Uncomfortable

Don’t be comfortable. Seriously, be UNCOMFORTABLE. Interview for a job that’s out of your league. Ask the girl out that’s out of your league. Apply for grad school that’s out of your league. When the worst thing that can happen is the same as if you never tried, TRY.

#38 Wasting Time

WASTING TIME! I wasted so much time and here I am in the first year of college at 29 years of age while most of the people in my class are 18 to 19 years old.

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#39 Racking Up School Debt

Racking up more school debt than you need to because you feel you need to stick it out at the expensive private college for whatever reason (friends, relationship, school reputation, etc.).

#40 Having Kids to Save Your Marriage

Marry the first person that shows interest in them because they feel like it’s their only chance to be with someone, and having kids immediately after, because “kids improve marriage.” No. No. No. Just… no. Kids are cool, but as long as both parents fully participate and a baby puts an enormous strain even on a healthy relationship.

#41 Not Making Enough Mistakes

This may sound really stupid and poetic, but a big mistake one could make is not making enough mistakes. Your 20s are supposed to be a time of trial and error.

#42 Brush Your Teeth

Not brushing your teeth. When my father passed away, I slept away each night without taking care of myself. I’ve had so many root canals, removals, and pain because of it—and it only hurts what little self-image I have of myself. When your teeth go, you smile less and hate yourself a little more every day. It just takes so much away from you. Please, please take care of those chompers.

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#43 Not Being Healthy

Getting fat. I am 35 and fat and people are disgusted by me and hate me. No one sits next to me on the bus and when they have to their revulsion is palpable. I never thought I would let myself go but I did. Take care of yourself or someday, you’ll be just like me.

#44 Saving for Retirement

Don’t think that there is plenty of time to save for retirement. If it is possible for you to put something away on a regular basis, do it. The best time to start is when you get a job that offers you more pay than what you were previously getting. Take a percentage of the increase and start savings that right from the beginning. That helps make it such that you never miss it.

#45 Thinking You’re Invincible

Thinking that time is infinite. It gets faster when one gets older and as soon as you know it you hit your 30s.

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