Look, your 20s are a special time. This is a decade of experimenting with your talents and opportunities, figuring out what you want to do and who you want to be, and building a foundation to set your future up for success. Striking out on your own, being independent, getting your money in order, and charting a direction for your life is exciting and empowering.
Take it from ya girl. (Think of me as your older, yet surprisingly young-looking sister, Jade, who has a husband, kids and a mortgage.) I want you to enjoy this phase of life and get your adult years off to a great start. In this list of 20 things you should do in your 20s, I’ve included a couple points I wish I’d known in my 20s and some wisdom I learned along the way that has really impacted me now that I’m in my 30s. Ready to roll? Let’s go.
1. Make a plan—but be willing to change.
Setting goals is great. And having a plan is smart. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how intentional you are about making things happen, sometimes, you’ve got to be willing to let go of your expectations and go with the flow. Whether it’s setting your sights on a certain job or dating that one person, sometimes what we want doesn’t work out. And it’s a good thing, because I for real was about to marry the wrong one. I didn’t see why then, but I see it now. When God closes the door, a better door takes its place. Set a vision for your life, but be willing to enjoy and adapt to the surprises along the way.
2. Make a budget and stick to it.
You’re probably thinking, A budget? What’s that?
A budget is a plan you make for your money so you know where every dollar goes (instead of wondering where it went). Azero-based budgetis the best way to stay in control of your money, pay off debt, andbuild wealth. How do I know? Because I used to be almost half a million dollars in debt, and a budget helped me pay it all off. Every. Single. Penny. A budget also gives you the freedom to spend money because you know exactly how much you can spend on groceries, movie tickets, clothes and other things.
Check out the free EveryDollar app to get started on your budget. EveryDollar puts you in control of your finances and your future. The app makes it easy to plan, spend and track your money so you don’t have to wonder where it went. Check it out! (And when it comes to money, remember my 20/20 rule: Have a vision for your money for the next 20 years, not the next 20 minutes. Follow this and you’ll be ahead of the game.)
3. Learn how to set boundaries.
I’m just letting y’all know—saying no doesn’t make you a bully or a brat. It makes you bold. Saying no means you know your limits and won’t compromise your boundaries. Whether it’s turning down a freelance job you don’t have time for, a date you don’t want to go on, or a social event you can’t afford, saying no is a sign of self-control and confidence.Your mental health matters. OrderOwn Your Past, Change Your Futuretoday!
Here’s the truth. When you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you’re the one who’s got to deal with your choices from the day, for better or worse. Saying no isn’t selfish—it’s a complete sentence that protects your wellness, safety, comfort and relationships. And if your no bothers someone else, let them get mad. Their reaction is about them, not you. And you’ll sleep better knowing you stuck to your boundaries.
4. Take care of your mental health.
I can’t state the importance of mental health enough. There is huge value in talking through your thoughts and challenges with a trusted therapist, pastor or counselor. No, it’s not weird, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed. Most of us have experienced trauma at some point in our lives, whether it was Big T trauma or Little T trauma. There’s no shame in sitting down and hashing out what’s going on with someone who can help. And you should. Invest the time, money and work in allowing yourself to be well. I waited until my 30s to start seeing a professional regularly, and I wish I had started sooner.
When you heal, you’ll be better. Your spouse will be better because of your healing. Your kids will be better because of your healing. Your future will be better because of your healing. Prioritize your mental health and budget for it. No excuses, people.
5. Save up an emergency fund.
Before you start paying off any debt (if you have it), I want you to save a starter emergency fund of $1,000. Accidents happen, and you need to have a way to cover them with cash so you don’t take on more debt. I recommend keeping your emergency fund in an account that’s separate from your checking account. And set up direct deposits to that account each pay day so saving is a priority.
And let me just clear this up: An emergency is something urgent, unexpected and necessary—like getting your car repaired when it unexpectedly breaks down. Springing for a phone upgrade because the iPhone 50 just came out doesn’t count as an emergency.
6. Embrace the season you’re in.
When it comes to jobs, relationships and even your health and hobbies, embrace the idea that these life circumstances will serve different purposes for different times. Every friend or job won’t be in your life forever, and that’s okay. Situations are seasonal. Whatever circumstances you’re experiencing now, enjoy them, but hold them with an open hand. Appreciate the friendship, job, schedule and even your personal style now and respect when it’s time to let that season run its course.
7. Pay off all debt (especially student loans).
Nothing will take the burden off your shoulders quite like kicking your debt to the curb. I know it sounds intimidating, especially if you’ve got a ton ofstudent loan debt, but you’re not alone. I promise you, with some intentional planning and hard work, you can pay your debts off faster than you could on any standard repayment plan. And when you do, you’ll be so much freer to pursue your passions and goals.(And if you don’t have any debt right now, way to go! I want you to stay far away from debt. Your 20s should be spent setting yourself up for success—not weighing yourself down with debt.)
8. Get out of your parents’ house.
Something happens mentally when you stop relying on the safety net of living at home. It’s time to come up with a plan to get your own place—even if that means getting roommates. Moving out from under your parents’ roof will push you mentally and emotionally and help you grow in ways you can’t even imagine right now. Plus, taking care of your own place by paying the bills, keeping it tidy, and even furnishing it teaches you a lot of important life skills.
9. Keep learning in a way you enjoy.
Whether you binge books or play podcasts, keep learning about topics that interest you. Take music lessons, jiujitsu, foreign languages . . . all of it! The more you learn and the more you try, the more you get to know yourself. And if you’re out of debt, make it a point to travel somewhere new. These are all ways to learn, grow and develop a well-rounded world view. Learning in your 20s is a great habit to establish early and maintain throughout your life.
10. Don’t ignore the red flags.
Yeah, I’m going there. Here’s what I mean by don’t ignore the red flags: If your goal is to get married, then date to get married. Have a list of red flags or nonnegotiables. And if they check the red flag box, it’s time for you to walk away.
If you’re interviewing for a job and the hiring manager won’t answer your questions about the office culture, that’s a red flag. Pay attention to anything that seems fishy, and either ask more questions or get the heck out of that sketchy situation.
11. Level up your skills.
Diversify your demand. We all have an area where we shine, so let’s expand that. This means learning as many connected skills as you can to make yourself strong in the job market. Here’s an example: I started as a vocalist, but I intentionally learned how to dance, create shows, choreograph shows, arrange vocals, write banter, book talent, manage talent, teach other entertainers, and grow business relationships. And I want you to do the same with whatever passion you want to pursue. Stack your skills by learning as many things as you can that connect to your main passion and talents.
12. Invest in quality relationships.
As my friend Dr. John Delony likes to say, “Relationships are the emergency fund for your life.” In your 20s, you should pour into relationships that add value to your life and theirs. This includes your family, friends, church community or pick-up basketball league—anyone and everyone who bring a positive influence and support to your life (and vice versa).
Relationships can drain you or build you up. So be smart about how you budget your time. If you have people you love who actually drain the mess out of you, I get it. Maybe a two-hour family dinner works better than a shared Airbnb for two days. Figure out what works for you.
13. Start investing.
Don’t get it twisted. I want you to invest, but I want you to do it the right way. For those of you who aren’t familiar withthe 7 Baby Steps, Baby Step 1 is to save $1,000 for a starter emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is to pay off all debt (except your house) using the debt snowball. Baby Step 3 is to save 3–6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund. After that, you can start investing 15% of your income into your company’s 401(k) and/or a Roth IRA. This is what we call Baby Step 4. If you’re at this point and ready to invest, I suggest good growth stock mutual funds.
14. Go fail at something.
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything new. Nobody likes to fail, but looking back, failure has taught me a ton and led me to so many new opportunities. Forget about imposter syndrome and caring about what other people think—I want you to put yourself out there and try new things. And if you screw up, learn from it. Keep failing forward—just don’t go into debt over it.
15. Figure out how taxes work.
What’s more fun than taxes, am I right? The answer is literally anything, but you still have to do them. Here’s the good news though: Once you actually learnhow to file taxes for the first time, they won’t seem so bad.
16. Travel somewhere you’ve never been.
A lot of people don’t travel because they’re worried about the cost—and yes, you should make sure you can cash flow your trip before you book anything. But if you can afford it without relying on credit cards, travel is an amazing way to become a more well-rounded person. You’ll learn about how other people live and how the world works in ways you wouldn’t from a book or documentary. And if you don’t have kids, now is definitely the time to do it.
17. Treat your body well.
You only get one, so treat your body with respect and intentionality. I highly recommend meal planning and cooking at home as ways toeat healthy on a budget. But also read labels, shop for high-quality food, and move your body for exercise daily. Yes, enjoy great restaurants and treats—I love a giant bowl of pasta with a glass of wine. Just remember: The habits you set now, good or bad, could follow you for the long term. Be intentional. The same way you can’t outearn bad spending habits, trust me, you can’t outwork a bad diet. And just like you budget money for groceries, budget your time for exercise and rest.
18. Use social media wisely.
Don’t compare yourself to what you see on social media. As a content creator, I can tell you—it takes hours filming and setting up lighting and choosing filters and selecting the right angle to make a perfect post. Now, real talk: I try my best to keep my social content as real as possible. But just know most of what you see on the gram is not real life. It’s literally just for show and reaction. And it’s not a realistic standard to hold yourself to. Did you catch that? It’s not realistic. And if you’re not careful, the next thing you know, you’ll be feeling bad about your living room decor, buying coffee made from dirt just because an influencer suggested it, and adding yet another step to your skincare routine—all while considering getting a golden doodle puppy. Sheesh.
Just like budgeting for your groceries or budgeting time for exercise, I want you to budget time for social media enjoyment and budget time for social media breaks to rest from all the madness.
19. Make generosity a part of your life.
Generosity is a whole vibe. And you don’t have to wait until you’re 40 years old with a giant salary to give back. Even when you’re trying to save money or pay off debt, you can give your time, your talent or your treasure. Keep tithing at church. Do random acts of kindness, like taking brownies over to your neighbor. Or share your skills and time with a local church or folks in your community. Generosity is win-win. It serves others and will give you a mood boost unlike any other.
20. Grow your relationship with God.
Looking back, there’s one piece of advice I know will make the biggest difference in your life: Pursue God’s plan for your life, because His plan is always better than yours. You might think you’ve got it all figured out, but trust me, He knows better. Listen, life is tough enough as it is, but you don’t have to go through it alone. God knows you better than you know yourself, and He has everything under control. He has shown me this time and time again in my own life. Living out God’s plan will be an adventure. And living out His plan will be so, so worth it. My favorite scripture is John 10:10 (NIV), which says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Sign me up.
Make the Most of Your 20s (in a Smart Way)
Being in your 20s is a special season, and I want you to have fun and set yourself up for success. If you follow these suggestions, I’m confident you’ll be off to a great start. Listen, take it from me—I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned how I would do things differently along the way. And if you’re reading this article, I know you’re already thinking ahead for how to make this decade the best one yet.
Did you find this article helpful? Share it!
About the author
Jade Warshaw is a co-host of The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk radio show in America reaching 18 million listeners, Jade helps people pay off debt by teaching them to shift their mindset and actions around money. Jade is a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach, debt elimination expert and debt-free entrepreneur. Learn More.
Whew — 28 is the best year of your twenties. Not because of the spectacular partying (see: 22) or because you'll magically have everything figured out (see: never), but because 28 is the year when you're finally able to accept that no one actually "feels" like a grown-up and it's OK that you don't either.What are fun things to do in your 20s? ›
- See an outdoor movie.
- Go to a baseball game.
- See your favorite band live.
- Go mini-golfing.
- Read X new books per year (my current goal is 20!)
- Play outside like a kid again.
- Go to a water park.
- Seek happiness from yourself and not others. ...
- Remember it's about the journey, not the destination. ...
- Learn to let go. ...
- Embrace change, that's what life is about. ...
- If you need a break, take it – and make it a long one. ...
- Don't chase perfectionism.
- Establish healthy sleep habits. Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. ...
- Exercise regularly. ...
- Start cooking at home. ...
- Make your health a priority. ...
- Find a hobby. ...
- Quit smoking and limit drinking. ...
- Get tested regularly for STIs.
- Read: ...
- Sit down, breathe & envision what your perfect life is like: ...
- Cultivate gratitude: ...
- Define your principles – what's really important? ...
- Create goals: ...
- Get out there & do it: ...
- Embrace your failures and learn from mistakes: ...
- Accept change as a good thing:
- Learn to accept and love yourself first. ...
- Learn to say no with confidence. ...
- Take more risks. ...
- Conquer your fears. ...
- Turn your weaknesses into strengths. ...
- Learn to negotiate with politeness. ...
- Forgive yourself. ...
- Don't compare yourself to others.
Whew — 28 is the best year of your twenties. Not because of the spectacular partying (see: 22) or because you'll magically have everything figured out (see: never), but because 28 is the year when you're finally able to accept that no one actually "feels" like a grown-up and it's OK that you don't either.Why do your 20s feel so lonely? ›
Many people in their 20s struggle with loneliness for a variety of reasons, such as moving away from home and losing support networks, difficulty making new friends, and failing to form meaningful connections.Why are your 20s so important? ›
Facts and figures aside, your 20s are the time in your life when you learn how to be an adult. You'll get a job, make friends, pay bills, take care of yourself, have relationships, and generally gain an understanding of what those previous two decades were trying to teach you about life.Is it normal to be single in your 20s? ›
Staying Single In Your 20s is True Freedom
It's important to note that this sense of freedom and finding yourself is a key period of your life and if you've missed it, it's time to do it. Commit to some time away from being in a relationship and, in fact, dating at all.
The 20s are a time of exploration and self-discovery, and it can be hard for young adults to know what they stand for and what they want in life. Furthermore, many young adults are dealing with the expectations of their parents or other family members, which can be a source of stress and conflict.How do I build my career in my 20s? ›
- Choose a career you like, not the one that pays more. ...
- Never lie or exaggerate on your resume. ...
- Take risks. ...
- Don't be afraid to apply for a job you like, even if you don't meet all of the requirements. ...
- You can always change careers later. ...
- Start networking early.
- Enroll in a class.
- Join a local club.
- Attend local events and concerts.
- Talk to your coworkers.
- Put yourself out there on social media.
- Say “yes” more often.
- Volunteer for a cause you care for.
- Introduce yourself to familiar faces.
- Focus on your income. ...
- Develop multiple streams of income. ...
- Save money, but not in savings. ...
- Aim for wealthy instead of rich. ...
- YOU are your best investment. ...
- Set big goals and smaller milestones. ...
- Surround yourself with like-minded people.
- Create a budget and stick to it.
- Build a good credit score.
- Set up an emergency fund.
- Start saving for retirement.
- Pay off debt.
- Develop good money habits.
Online forums, groups and communities can be great for making friends in your 20s because they're a low-pressure way of meeting new people with similar interests. You could try anything from industry networking clubs, to hobby-based advice groups, to local neighborhood groups.What can you do financially in your 20s? ›
- Start an emergency fund.
- Save for smaller unexpected expenses.
- Invest in your future.
- Build your credit.
- Pay down your debts as fast as possible.
- Set specific savings goals for the future.
- Focus on yourself.
- Bottom line.