If you’re doing these 8 things in your 20s, you’ll be ahead of the curve in your 30s

Your 20s can feel like a rollercoaster — full of ups, downs, and unexpected turns. 

I get it; I’ve been there. You’re figuring out who you are while navigating jobs, relationships, and even where to live. 

It’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed. 

But trust me, a few strategic moves now can set you up for a smoother ride in your 30s and beyond. 

In this article, I’ll share 8 things you can start doing today to get ahead of the curve. So buckle up — your future self will thank you!

1) Master the art of budgeting

I’ll be the first to admit — I didn’t take budgeting very seriously in my early 20s. Between spontaneous road trips, weekend getaways, and nights out with friends, I was all about living in the moment. 

Don’t get me wrong, having fun and making memories are crucial; you don’t want to reach your 30s only to realize you’ve lived solely for the future.

But here’s the kicker: balance is key. As you mature, your goals evolve. Maybe you want to buy a home, start a family, or launch a business. 

These dreams often require a significant investment. Trust me, when you hit your 30s, you’ll be grateful for any savings you’ve accumulated.

So, start learning the art of budgeting now. It’s not about denying yourself all pleasures; it’s about making smart choices so that you can enjoy life now, and also be prepared for what’s coming next. 

2) Cultivate strong relationships

When you’re young and bustling with energy, it’s easy to overlook the importance of meaningful relationships. You’re busy juggling jobs, goals, and your social life, often assuming you’ll have time to strengthen bonds later. 

But here’s a truth bomb I wish I knew earlier: relationships might just be the most important facet of a fulfilling life. 

As you grow older, you’ll come to realize that lasting happiness often lies in the quality of your relationships, not just in your achievements or possessions.

Here’s the deal — repairing neglected relationships can be really challenging. Sometimes, the damage done is hard to undo. 

So, be intentional about appreciating the people in your life now. Whether it’s your family, your friends, or even mentors and colleagues, nurture those bonds. 

Listen, spend quality time, and be present in the moments you share with them. 

By focusing on strong relationships in your 20s, you’re setting the stage for a network of emotional support and love that will enrich your life for decades to come. Your 30s-self will be infinitely grateful for the lifelong friendships and unbreakable family bonds you’ve cultivated.

3) Prioritize your health

In your 20s, it’s tempting to think you’re invincible. Fast food, late nights, and skipping workouts might not show immediate consequences, making it easy to put health on the back burner. 

I’ve been there, pushing my well-being aside to prioritize work, social events, or just plain fun. 

But here’s the thing: your body has a way of catching up, and habits formed in your 20s can set the tone for the rest of your life.

When you hit your 30s, trust me, you’ll feel the impact of the choices you made a decade earlier. 

Whether it’s lack of stamina, weight issues, or more serious health conditions, you’ll wish you had made better choices. 

So, take time now to prioritize your health. Incorporate regular exercise, eat balanced meals, and get enough sleep

You’re not just investing in your present self, but also ensuring that your 30s-self has a fighting chance to live life to the fullest.

4) Travel and experience different cultures

travel If you’re doing these 8 things in your 20s, you’ll be ahead of the curve in your 30s

Ah, travel — the dreamy topic that fills our social media feeds with photos of exotic places and transformative experiences. 

This is one thing I actually did in my 20s with a lot of enthusiasm — hence why I wasn’t so good at budgeting, as I mentioned earlier.

While I could have had a better balance with spending versus saving, now that I’m older, I can honestly say those experiences were worth every penny. 

The adventures, the friendships, and the life lessons I gained have enriched my life in a way that nothing else could. 

Traveling exposed me to new perspectives, taught me empathy, and gave me a sort of “street wisdom” that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. 

As you venture into your 30s, these invaluable life lessons start to pay off in unexpected ways. You’ll find that your broadened worldview equips you to tackle challenges more creatively and relate to people more effectively. 

The experience of being out of your comfort zone will have given you a resilience and adaptability that are highly prized in adulthood.

5) Be kind to yourself

I’ll let you in on a little secret: In my 20s, I was my own harshest critic. I’d beat myself up over the tiniest mistakes, holding myself to impossible standards. 

At the time, I thought this was the way to push myself towards excellence. Looking back, all I did was pile on unnecessary stress and self-doubt.

This inner dialogue is all too common, even if you’re not aware of it. If you listen carefully, you might hear that nagging voice asking, “Why am I so awkward?” or lamenting, “Ugh, I messed up — again.”

Pause and consider: would you ever speak to a dear friend like that? The answer is most likely no.

So why not treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding? Changing this internal narrative can happen at any age, but starting early can set the tone for a more positive mindset. 

This, in turn, can guide your life choices in a more constructive direction.

6) Set purposeful goals

I remember making a bucket list in my early 20s that included all sorts of lofty ambitions — from skydiving to traveling the world. Fun, yes. Purposeful, not so much. 

It took me a couple years to realize that my goals needed more substance.

Don’t get me wrong, I did end up doing many of the things on my bucket list — and I hope you can too. But at the same time, a little self-reflection doesn’t hurt. 

When you’re young, it’s easy to set goals based on what sounds cool or what everyone else is doing. The truth is, those kinds of goals often lack a deeper meaning, and they might not bring you closer to the life you actually want to live.

So, take a step back and evaluate what truly matters to you. Do you want to build a strong career, have a healthy family life, contribute to your community, or perhaps all of the above? 

Then set goals that align with those core values.

By doing this, you’re not just chasing dreams; you’re building a life with intention. As you transition into your 30s, you’ll find that these purposeful goals are the bedrock of a fulfilling life.

7) Develop consistent habits

If you took my advice from the last section on setting purposeful goals, you’re off to a fantastic start. But let me be real with you: a goal without consistent effort is just a wish. 

Even after I thought about my goals and made some with more substance, my life was all about random spurts of motivation for quite some time afterwards. 

Sure, I had goals, but my actions were anything but consistent.

The truth is, big achievements aren’t made in one giant leap; they’re the sum of tiny steps taken every day. Consistency turns your lofty dreams into achievable milestones. 

If you wait until your 30s to start building good habits, you’ll likely wish you had laid the foundation much earlier. 

Developing consistency may take time and discipline, but trust me, once you cultivate this golden habit, it becomes a lifelong asset. 

By the time you’re in your 30s, you’ll thank yourself for every small, consistent action you took. 

8) Develop soft skills

signs emotional pain has transformed you into a more empathetic person 1 If you’re doing these 8 things in your 20s, you’ll be ahead of the curve in your 30s

Now, if you’ve been laser-focused on your career or academic goals, you might have overlooked something just as crucial: soft skills. 

I’m talking about communication, emotional intelligence, leadership, and the like. This is something I’m proud to say I realized in my twenties, and I invested heavily in non-technical skills.

At the same time as I was taking online webinars to get better at my job, I was also participating in courses to improve mental health and my relationship with myself. 

You see, soft skills are the grease that keeps the wheels of your personal and professional life turning smoothly. As you get older, you’ll find that your ability to connect with people, resolve conflict, and lead teams becomes increasingly important. 

Sometimes, it’s not what you know but how you convey it that makes all the difference.

Don’t wait until you’re thrust into a leadership role or a complex relationship to start refining these skills. 

The sooner you work on them, the more competent and confident you’ll feel in various situations that life throws your way in your 30s and beyond. 

Your 20s are your training ground for life

Don’t stress if you haven’t mastered all of these points; the journey itself is invaluable. 

Remember, your 20s are a time for exploration and growth, not just a checklist to race through. 

What you learn and how you grow during this decade will lay the foundation for the years that follow. 

So take the time to budget wisely, nurture meaningful relationships, and set purposeful goals. Prioritize your health, embrace diverse experiences, and above all, be kind to yourself. 

Start now, and you’ll be ahead of the curve in your 30s and beyond.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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