By the end of the year, I’ll be 31 years old. My 20’s are long gone and there is nothing I can do to rewind the clock, but if I were to ever go back in time, I’d be prepared with this handy letter to give to my 20-year-old self.
Where I was in my 20’s
I thought it would be important to start off by giving you a glimpse of where I was a decade ago.
I was a couple of years out of high school and was dead set on becoming a physical therapist. This required a bachelor’s degree and an additional 3 years in graduate school for a doctorate in PT.
Like many students, my education consumed the majority of my life until I graduated. Also, like many students, I was broke and didn’t want to ask my parents for money.
I found myself working 15-20 hours/week earning an average of $12/hour at multiple jobs while going through school. I catered at many restaurants, worked as a teacher’s assistant, rehab aide, and as a warehouse stock boy.
When I wasn’t working or studying, I was trying to be normal. I spent whatever time I had leftover going out on dates with my girlfriend, now wife, and hanging out with my best friends.
I was hardworking, tried to excel in all my courses, kept myself busy, exercised, and didn’t leave much time for sleep.
Fortunately, I graduated from PT school in 2014 and passed my licensing boards soon after.
I am grateful for all my accomplishments, but I have some words of wisdom to pass onto my younger self. You know, in-case time travel becomes possible I want to be somewhat prepared.
The Letter To My Younger Self
This is a letter from the future you. I just wanted to let you know, you made it. You became a physical therapist. It isn’t all it was cut out to be, but it’s something and you end up helping hundreds of people a year. Also, you’re not old and alone. You’re married and couldn’t have made a better choice. You had some struggles with career and finances, but who hasn’t. These challenge you experience drive you to become better so keep on pushing yourself to newer heights. Even if this letter never gets to you, hopefully, it’ll help others.
What everyone says about getting enough sleep is true. I know you want to stay awake to have fun and get stuff done. But if you slept more, you would be able to get up ahead of the world, make your bed, exercise, have breakfast, read, and start out the day right every day. Also, you’d be able to stay awake during class instead of wasting twice as much time listening to a recording of your lectures. You would also be able to give your muscles the opportunity to grow after your hardcore workouts.
You’ve got the exercise portion down, but it’s not an excuse to eat like crap or skip the doctor’s office. You are not immune to cholesterol issues. Eating healthier also means controlling your portions. You’ll also be thankful when you stop going into food comas after lunch and can actually stay awake during class.
Really think about your career
You have a career in mind that you are passionate about but look at the return on investment as well. Passion doesn’t always put food on the table. Research the monetary cost and opportunity cost of the degree you are pursuing. Make sure it is something you really want to do. Ask online communities and connect with people who both love and hate what they do in your field of interest. It may give you a glimpse into the future and give you some insight on things you may want to do differently.
Learn about money, how to save it and how to invest it
Many people work very hard for their money, but they don’t work hard enough to learn how to keep more of it. Even fewer put any effort into learning how to invest the money they saved. Don’t wait until you graduate to start learning how to invest.
A ROTH IRA is a very powerful investment vehicle when you’re young and don’t have a lot of tax liability. If you start investing $100 per month in your 20’s, by the time you are 65, you’ll have 1/3 of a million dollars.
Remember, time in the market beats timing the market, so invest early and often.
But since you are hearing from your future self here is some insider info:
In January 2009, Bitcoin, a form of digital currency aka cryptocurrency will come into existence. A single bitcoin will be worth $0.003 by March 2010 and will soar to almost $20,000 per bitcoin by 2017. Sell all of your bitcoin at the beginning of December 2017.
Amazon is going to be huge, in 2009, Amazon is worth around $87 per share. In 2019, it’s worth around $1,800 per share.
The bullies didn’t disappear in high school
You’ve fought off the bullies before, but these encounters require you to fight a different type of fight. These bullies you’ll encounter in your adult life are more subtle, and their actions can leave deeper wounds. They can come in the form of peers, bosses, teachers, and even mentors. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, bullies go after the vulnerable. Show them you’re not one to be taken advantage of.
Related: Thera-Fish Out of Water – A letter I wrote to my sister after she graduated from college and was ready to enter the work force.
Be different, be present
When it’s time to study, study. When it’s time to hang out with your friends, hang out with your friends. Keep your phone off the dinner table, and don’t text while driving. No one can really multitask, but everyone tries. So be different, be present at the moment.
Don’t let perfection get in the way of completion
It does take hard work to get the results you want, but you don’t need to let it consume most of your time. Don’t get held up on small details. If a project really matters, it will stand the test of time and you will have a chance to go back to it and make it better.
You aren’t a big reader because you’ve been forced to read articles, journals, and books during your entire education. Deep down, you’re a rebel and don’t like to be told what to do so you’ve shunned away from anything with words on it. Don’t let reading leave a bad taste in your mouth. Pick up a finance book, personal development book, or even a book on how to fix cars. The authors from these books are your best mentors. It’ll allow you to build your talent stack and you may find yourself with more interests than what you’re going to college for.
First, don’t judge yourself. Secondly, don’t judge others. Most people, including yourself, are trying the best they can with what they have, that is our unifying factor.
Whether that be differences in economic resources, circumstances, or intellect. We’re all just trying the best we can with what we have.
Don’t work so much this early on – It’s not worth it
Instead of spending many summers and weekends working to earning $10-15/hour and spending it on things you’ll never remember, spend your time applying to scholarships where you can make $100’s to $1,000’s per hour. You’ll thank yourself when you have less to pay back in student loans after you graduate.
Spend more time with your siblings
Not everyone is blessed with such awesome brothers and sisters. Spend less time with your nose in the books and more time hanging out with them. Once everyone moves out, you’ll never get the good old times back.
The Deciding Decade and A Better Tomorrow
Your 20’s are the most important years of your adult life. So important that people have called it the defining decade of your life
We can’t go back in time, but can still ask ourselves what we can do today to make our life better tomorrow?
Art is the founder of Flexcents, a blog created in 2018 to help others reach their fitness and financial goals through sharing insights as a physical therapist, personal finance nerd, and self-directed investor.