While many people may believe that one’s 20s are the most important years to invest in oneself, the arguments are flawed. They usually go something along the lines of “find yourself, love can wait, prepare now, push your limits, retire at 40.”
Utilize your 20s so you can retire at 40? Wtf happened to our 30s?
A lot of the 20s advice out there makes a lot of sense — we should embrace many of the pearls of wisdom floating around and invest accordingly. But, that advice never seems to offer any hints about how to manage the immediate next chapter — the 30s. What is all this investing for anyway? Is there anything worthwhile waiting on the other side of 29?
Of course there is. If your 20s are all about investing then your 30s should be about cashing in. In the words of my badass sister, who is gallivanting around Southeast Asia for three months while her management-consulting gig in London patiently awaits her return, “I love people who view their 30s as just their 20s with money.
I mean, who gives a sh*t that I’m traveling the world at 32 instead of 22. I’m writing this from a five-star resort on Koh Phi Phi, and you were in a hostel. I think we all know who’s winning.”
Ha! Touché, sis.
On that note, here are the top five things to look forward to in your 30s:
1. Someone else is the grunt.
Thinking back on my IB analyst days in Manhattan, I had the Metro-North train schedules memorized because they carried my countless masters off to distant lands like Westchester, Greenwich and beyond. Every weeknight around sundown, when the nightly VP exodus to Grand Central took place, I knew I was within hours of freedom, at least until sunrise.
Today, it shocks me to consider that I’m the “master.” Someone else is doing the grunt work, chained to his or her keyboard, memorizing my comings and goings. Someone else is quaking in their boots on the other side of an interview table. Someone else is staying in the office until 9 pm for the free dinner or 11 pm for the free town car ride home.
Someone else! It’s insane. Don’t get me wrong. Paying dues sucks and I don’t wish work-torture upon anyone. But I’m stoked about reliably eating dinner with a metal fork again. Sorry, I’m not sorry.
2. You actually know stuff.
It happens unexpectedly one day. You’re in a meeting or conference call, you say something, and… people listen to you. You actually kind of know what the hell you are talking about. In fact, you quite possibly know more than anybody else in the room at that particular moment, technically making you the expert. And it goes beyond the workplace, too — this applies to life in general.
The stuff that’s been accumulating in your brain over the past several years suddenly starts to congeal into strokes of genius. What a magical point in time. Your mind is still young and sharp, but not so young that it’s devoid of any meaningful experience. It’s a beautiful place and the only way to get there is, frankly, 10 years of screwing up.
In the words of a fellow Berkeley b-school alum, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” Thank you, 20s, for being the bad-judgment runway for what I know is going to be a totally kickass 30s.
3. Swagger becomes real confidence.
Listen, we all sift our ways through young adulthood with a fair amount of bravado and swagger. But the truth about swagger is that its main ingredients are naïveté and straight-up terror. Half the time, we strut around because we don’t know what the f*ck we’re doing, so we wing it – which is super-fun and quasi-charming.
But the other half the time, we strut around because we fear looking like we’re weak, uncool or simply normal – which is less fun and less charming. Until we have a good enough understanding of who we really are and what we’re all about, we’re just playing dress up. But eventually, you wake up one day and realize that, today, you can’t be bothered to care what other people think about you.
This is not to say that you don’t care about people. You just don’t care about what they think about you anymore. You realize that after 10 years, you’re done negotiating. Your inner monologue goes something like, “Yo, this is me. Any takers? Good. I just need a few.” It’s pretty liberating. Authentic confidence allows you to be bold and achieve things, which in turn, perpetuates the cycle of real confidence.
4. You discover what sexiness really is.
Actually knowing anything worth knowing and feeling as though you can live life without the approval of every man, woman and child in a three-state radius requires a huge investment of time. And you know what else? The raw, physical hotness of your 20s has not worn off yet. In fact, it may have even improved given the better health and beauty habits that tend to accompany a reduction in Tuesday-night blackouts and ill-advised American Spirits.
Holy mother, you’re unstoppable! You may have known something about sexiness before, but this is sexiness of a higher order. It involves more intangibles and intellectual assets than the standard-issue variety and it’s pretty unique to the 30s.
5. Money grows on trees.
Ok, so maybe not on trees, but damn near. You just plowed through 10 years of career madness, dues-paying and the general kicking-of-ass and taking-of-names. You invested the time early with an unpaid internship (or four) and now it’s paying off, literally. Your LinkedIn profile is creeped on daily by 27 “anonymous users” because the next crop of dues-payers wants to know your secret sauce and the headhunters want to sell it.
You asked for raises at critical points in the last few years and you got them. You now have the funds (read: freedom) to say yes to practically anything. Travel starts to become a bigger and bigger part of your daily lexicon and the destinations become more exotic and farther flung. Zimbabwe lion preserve? Sure. North Korean demilitarized zone? Sounds good.
Sailing with YACHTLEGEND around the Balearics? Sign me up. You catch yourself using words like “summer” and “yacht” as verbs. You realize that this level of cash flow probably won’t last forever, especially if you want a family in yonder years, but for now, you’ve maxed out your 401(k) and opened up an IRA, so you’re 100 percent entitled to blow the rest. And it’s fun as hell. The luxury industry has a name for us at this stage: HENRYs – “high earners, not rich yet.” They can call me whatever they want, as long as they bring two more bottles of champers.
In sum, each of preceding five tenets is its own beautiful thing. But the real beauty of ones 30s is that all of these things come together simultaneously. People always talk about the good looks and freedom of ones 20s — and it’s true but I’m not convinced that it all stops one day. It’s actually easy to keep enjoying the best aspects of your 20s well into your 30s.
It is not, however, easy to churn out worldly wisdom and cushy cash flow in your 20s. It’s kind of a one-way street, and the good stuff hits critical mass in your 30s. Think about that for a minute, and then… get excited.
Photo via We Heart It