Life And Career Advice To Heed In Your Twenties

Splurges, Surprises, and Serious Consequences

At 29, I’m realizing that planning isn’t that big bad word only Perfect Patties or scolding elders use, and building roots are signs of maturity and prosperity. I gladly embrace it because though its good to be a free spirit, a bit of discipline never hurts to ensure each step can be safely made without too much avoidable fallout.

I don’t regret the order of my steps — many that included once-in-a-lifetime moments of excitement, laughter, spontaneity, and growth — but, these are the five things I’d tell my less-responsible, more spontaneous 20-year-old self:

TRUST YOURSELF: That voice in your head saying, “Go ahead” or “Stop, don’t do it,” is a truthful one. Nine times out of 10 it won’t stray you wrong, especially when it comes to men and money. You don’t need two or three more people for confirmation. Just listen and be obedient.

FOR DECISIONS — ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT ENTAIL LONG-TERM FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS — PRAY, THINK, and SAVE (IN THAT ORDER): Many of my decisions in my 20s were compulsive, without much consideration of pros and cons. When I wanted a car, I got one (and got stuck with a very unforgiving loan agreement because I hadn’t researched or saved for a down payment, maintenance or emergencies). If I wanted to move, I’d move (often losing lots of money in storage, rentals and replacement of loss items after moving from place to place.) If I wanted clothing, shoes, new hair — you name it — and I had the cash, I’d buy it. Def. not fun undoing 10 years of this mentality.

SPLURGE ON BIG-PICTURE THINGS, NOT THINGS THAT APPEAL TO SHORT-TERM URGES: Though I don’t regret my move to New York, I think it would’ve been much easier had I bit the bullet in a smaller market for a little longer, saved a bit more money, and invested in a great starter apartment upon my move. Also, all that money spent on nightlife, socializing, club fashions and trendy beauty products was unnecessary. It all made for great immediate experiences, but more investment in bigger-picture things, such as a money market account, new laptop, nice Chanel suit, or a “Co-op Buying Fund” would have been nice right about now.

IT’S BEST TO DIVERSITY YOUR CIRCLE: Just because they’re your close friends doesn’t mean they have to be your career mentors, travel pals or prayer partners. Every close friend won’t fit into every space in your life. Learn to meet new people, network, and categorize accordingly. And please, make sure that your professional network is as strong as your social or party network, if not stronger.

LEARN TO MAKE YOURSELF HAPPY FIRST: My Granny would always say this to me, but it didn’t really hit home until now. It’s OK to tell people no, to not be into the same things you once were into or to move on to bigger and better. And it’s OK to be a little selfish for the right reasons: Whether its turning down a friends “must-attend” birthday bash or creating a home space that’s so comfy you don’t want to leave, these small gestures have big impact in overall health and happiness.