So, you're in your 20's. You can legally buy alcohol, die for your country, vote, rent a car, and you can still be insured by your dad's employer for a few years. You still think you're moderately invincible and you might even still listen to new music. If you're a professional athlete you're in your peak years, but if you're anyone else its actually more like the preseason. As a 41 year old I can barely remember when I was in my twenties. Regardless of my memory, here are a few friendly tips that will make your 20's better, and help prepare you for your 30's and beyond. These are not in any specific order of importance.
Stay in shape
Let me let you in on a little secret. It's WAY easier to stay in shape in your 20's than it is in your 30's. WAY EASIER. So get after it now. Run a marathon in your 20's, run five. Do some cardio. Knock out P90X. Do some pull-ups, because once you gain 30 pounds, forget ever doing a pull-up again (unless it's a pull-up diaper). If you notice yourself putting on a few lbs, have someone slap you in the face and force you to change your lazy habits. When you were a teenager you could more or less eat anything and everything and your body could deal with it. As you get older you stop growing and your body can't handle the 1:00am pizza and pancakes. I recommend going paleo, or some other low bread consumption eating plan. I also highly recommend figuring out how to do 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Build that habit now, along with restrained eating, and you'll be super glad you did when you're a thirty-three year old who hasn't had to buy 5 different belts (each increasing in size) in the last 10 years. I got lazy and irresponsible with the way I ate and exercised in my 20's and I've been paying the price ever since, so take my word for it on this one. It's a beat down trying to lose weight and get back in shape in your 30's and in your 40's it's even more difficult.
Save your money
In your 20's you'll hopefully have a job, a roommate or two and some disposable income. Don't spend it all. I know it's fun to go to Happy Hour with all your friends and pretend like your hip young good-looking professionals from some movie, but you really can't afford to buy $8 drinks for a couple of hours three nights a week. At best you'll be chewing through a bunch of money, at worst you'll be racking up credit card debt that will haunt you for the next five to forty-five years. If you're company has a matching 401K program, max that sucker out. Sock away as much as they will match, because that is free money. Start paying off debt like a madman, or start saving a nest egg for a house or a ring or both! This is the gift you give yourself. One last thought on this. You don't need a fancy, new car. Cars are the worst investment ever. Drive a car as long as you can, then buy a used car and save all that money for something that will last.
Give your money
This goes along with everything written above. Be a giver immediately. If you're not, start now. The Bible strongly encourages you give 10%. It's the perfect number for giving. Giving ten percent of your income isn't going to bankrupt you, but it is going to change some things. When you give, it should be a sacrifice, but you should give with a happy heart, ten percent isn't going to make you bitter, so it allows you to maintain a joyful attitude when you give. The average American gives somewhere between 3-5% of their income. There are a bunch of people who give a way higher percent who are dragging that number up. If you're not a giver yet, shoot for 10% right away. It's going to be an adjustment for sure, but you'll be shocked by how doable it is. As your income increases (you know you're on the fast track) then increase the percentage of you're giving. I know numerous people who are trying to increase their income so they can increase their giving to 50%. Some people are shooting for 90%. Those who know me know that I've always worked for a non-profit and made a modest salary. We have always given at least 10% and I'm amazed how God always takes care of me and my family. I know MANY other people who make even less than I do and they would attest to how when we give, God takes care of us. This isn't a get rich quick scheme or a way to trick God into giving us more money, it's just reality.
Give your time, invest in others
Continuing with the giving theme. You have two things you've been entrusted with. Your money and your time. You don't want to waste either. If you're living your life for yourself then you're missing out on why you were created. We are not meant to be the center of our own world, and I think when we are in our twenties it's easy to slip into the idea that we are. It's better to give your life away for Christ and for other people than it is to live for yourself. In fact, you'll have a better life, more rewarding and more satisfying, if you do. If you find yourself always chasing the next party, the next experience, the next event, the next new TV show in your twenties, then I encourage you to look in a completely different direction for some things you can invest your time in that matter for eternity. Whether it be relationships at your church, becoming a part of a ministry of some sort, volunteering regularly for some type of service to the needy or just taking the relationships you already have to a deeper and more significant place; do that instead of trying to fill your life with things that make you look cool when you post them to Instagram. You'll be amazed at how much of life there is to discover when you're investing yourself in others and in things that are much bigger than you are.
If you're married, have a kid (or several)
The reason I give the caveat "if you're married" is because being a single parent is really difficult. I'm not a single parent, but my wife has gone out of town, and that is a tough gig. So, you married folks in your twenties, you might think, "let's wait until we are in our thirties to have kids". Here is why that might be a mistake. You may not have kids as soon as you decide to start trying. If you start when you're thirty and you find out getting pregnant isn't as easy as you thought, you might find yourself at 35 before you have that first one. Then all of the sudden you're 40 with 2 kids under five years old. I'm more than a little sure that it's easier to chase toddlers at 28 than it is at 41, especially if you stay in shape. Kids are great. They'er also a game changer. So be thoughtful and prayerful about all of the above.
Do at least one spur of the moment, crazy thing
When my wife and I were in our twenties we were big U2 fans. We still are, but not nearly as much as we were back then. We saw them play in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Las Vegas, Seattle and Paris, France. This was over the course of several years (we didn't tour with the band). The trip to Seattle was especially fun because it was spur of the moment, and we fell into some amazing seats on the third row. While you shouldn't live your life for these type of experiences, it is a great idea to do a few crazy spontaneous adventurous things before you get old and have lots of commitments that make it much harder to be spontaneous.
I hope these few ideas are helpful in your journey through your twenties. In case you're worried about your 30's, good news, they are better than you're 20's. True story.
Derek Bonesteel used to be in his twenties. You can follow him on Twitter here.