It’s not uncommon for 20-something-year-olds to be unsure of what the future holds. As much as counselors may try to help us choose a path in high school, we quickly realize that that path rarely pans out. The years after high school are imperative for our growth as individuals, and most of us are shaped by the experiences we have during our early 20s. Even if you don’t have everything figured out quite yet (we don’t either), we’re here to share with you our quintessential list of things to do before your 25th birthday.
1. Invest. Not many people would expect this to be at the top of the list, and perhaps it’s one of many you might overlook. But, it’s also one that’s super helpful for securing your financial future. So, what should you invest in? While stocks are probably the first to come to mind, we recommend something that may be more beneficial. Roth IRA is a separate bank account for retirement that accumulates interest over time, all of which becomes tax-free, as long as you make account withdrawals after age 59 ½ and you’ve had your account for at least five years. But, the real benefit to opening your account now is your age. According to SmartAsset.com, you’ll earn less during your 20s than you will later in life, so the amount you pay upfront in taxes will be less. Moneynews.com estimates that if you start your account at 25 and make the maximum deposit amount of $5,500 per year, you could accumulate $950,000 by the time you’re 65. That’s $730,000 in interest earned! To learn more about how to open a Roth IRA account, click here.
2. Travel. Because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world! In fact, visiting new places can shape your perspective about life more than you may know. But traveling is too expensive, right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of programs that can help you see Big Ben without putting too much of a dent in your wallet. Whichever path you choose, just be sure to research the country you’re visiting before you go, as many places have different customs and regulations than the U.S.
Au Pair: Kaitlin McGowan, travel aficionado, spent a year in Ireland where she lived as an au pair, (essentially a live-in nanny). The family she stayed with paid for her food and housing, and she even earned enough to have spending money while there. To learn more about how to become an au pair, check out this site.
Study Abroad: If working abroad isn’t for you, consider studying abroad while you’re in school. Most universities offer programs in a multitude of countries. Just be sure to check with your school for specifics.
Group Packages: You can also score a good deal on a travel package by traveling with a group…of which you have yet to meet. This website is dedicated to finding the most affordable travel packages for adults ages 18-29.
3. Work in Customer Service. While this might not be your ideal career choice, it’s one that teaches you valuable skill sets for your dream job. In case you were previously lacking in these areas, customer service awards you patience, trains you in communication, and acquaints you with various cultures and subcultures. You’ll make friends, network, and socialize on a much larger scale than before. Even if only part-time while attending college, working in customer service can prepare you for your future.
4. Get a Massage. Seriously. We all know how stressful it can be learning how to live on your own, balance your finances, go to school, carry a full-time job, and somehow, figure out who you are as a person. Sometimes we don’t realize exactly how much tension we hold in our muscles when we’re stressed, and it’s something that a day trip to the spa can certainly help aid. SpaFinder helps you search for places in your area that’ll best suit your needs. Whether it’s a 60-minute back massage or full-blown mud bath, you’ll definitely walk away feeling refreshed and invigorated.
5. See a Therapist. Therapy? You may think it’s not for you, and it may very well not be for you. But, it’s something that can be super helpful when it comes to managing your life and (new) adult responsibilities. A stranger’s objective opinion affords you the opportunity to form entirely new perspectives—and contrary to popular belief, therapists don’t exist to tell you what to do. They want to listen to you and offer possible solutions, any of which you’re free to consider…or not. Sometimes we just need to vent, while other times, we need in-depth advice. Whatever you might need, BetterHelp is a website that can help you figure that out by working with you on a sliding scale. Depending on your income and reason for seeking a professional, you’ll be assigned an online counselor to assist you. It’s a no-hassle way to take that first step.
6. Volunteer. Everyone can benefit from a little philanthropy. Volunteering can help you learn to appreciate what you have in life, while also allowing you to put positive energy back into the world. From soup kitchens to fundraisers to animal rescue groups, you’re sure to find a cause that awakens your passion. Search local organizations to discover who, in your area, can use your help.
7. Take a Class on “Adulting.” One of the biggest struggles to starting out on your own is realizing that school never taught you how to file your taxes. Or figure out the best way to budget for grocery shopping. Or the importance of renter’s insurance. Or better yet, what renter’s insurance even is. Maybe your parents taught you basics like washing laundry—but if you’re like us, they may have forgotten to teach you an important thing or two. Luckily, classes dedicated to teaching the basics of “adulting” exist. You may laugh at first, but once you’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, you’ll be thankful for such a class. Check out this link for a list of classes offered in your area.
8. Conquer a Fear. Scared of something? Public speaking, perhaps? Fears are more common than you may think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 10 percent of Americans have some sort of phobia. While fearing something isn’t necessarily bad, it can prevent us from having otherwise enjoyable experiences. So, learning to conquer your fears can be incredibly empowering. But, it won’t happen overnight. Forbes.com offers 14 ways you can overcome them. Believe in yourself.
9. Go to a Concert. There’s something surreal about seeing your favorite band play your favorite song live. Feeling the music reverberate through your entire body is an incredible and sometimes spiritual experience. If you’ve never been to a concert, we definitely recommend going to at least one. And hey, you might even snag some awesome photos with the band afterward.
10. Take Yourself on a Date. Our society has a stigma about going anywhere by yourself. I myself, would often tease my dad for taking himself to the movies or to a restaurant. But in more recent years, I’ve realized it’s actually relaxing to spend time alone. There’s no pressure to uphold a conversation, and you don’t have to worry about being judged for getting an appetizer and dessert. You also don’t have to compromise on where to, say, sit in a movie theater. Taking yourself on a date is a form of self-care that’s totally necessary. Really: it’s okay to do things on our own. Trust us.
11. Explore a New Hobby. Always wanted to learn how to sew? How about dance? Exploring hobbies in your early 20s can be mind-blowing because you may accidentally stumble upon your future career, or just something you’re really great at and really love doing. Lifehack.org can help you decide on a hobby that may be right for you, and you can always look to YouTube tutorials to help you start. There’s no pressure; just have fun.
12. Vote. Period. Utilize your ability to have your say as a citizen of the U.S. Not many countries afford their citizens the opportunity to initiate change the way we’re able to, so make sure your voice is heard. Many of us simply don’t vote because we don’t know how to register, or have difficulty doing so. It’s actually super easy. This website explains how to register in your state and can even help you register online, depending on your state’s laws. Don’t miss out. It’s more important now than ever before.
13. Go to a Drag Show. Going to a drag show is like going to the best bar in the world on Halloween night and everyone is having the absolute best time. It’s freeing, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s drag! Just do it. If you’re not 100 percent sold, TheOdysseyonline.com offers 11 reasons why you must see a drag show at least once.
14. Go on a Road Trip. You’ve probably already thought of doing this, but maybe you just haven’t yet. What’s stopping you? If you don’t feel comfortable taking your own car, companies like Enterprise and Avis make it easy for you to rent one under the age of 25, and being a member of AAA or USAA can mean avoiding under 25 fees. Enterprise even offers a feature for you to be picked up (say, from your home) and brought directly to your rental car. If you’re not sure where to go or how to plan the trip, The Washington Post offers tips to kickstart your roadcation.
15. Set Long-Term and Short-Term Goals. Even if we don’t have the rest of our futures determined, it’s still helpful to set goals for ourselves. Over time, those goals might change or they might stay the same. Regardless, they can help create some sort of path for us to follow. You might learn new things along the way and even find yourself headed down a path you hadn’t previously expected. Either way, setting goals (both short-term and long-term) can keep our lives in perspective. This website explains how to set goals that are both realistic and attainable.
16. Get a Pet. Of course only do this after you’ve done your research on how to care for this specific pet, and if applicable, have checked with your partner, roommate, or landlord. Taking care of an animal not only teaches responsibility, but can also be a stress-reliever. It’s scientifically proven that pets not only help lower blood pressure, but also lessen depression. Paws for People lists some of the main benefits to caring for them. Whichever animal you choose, consider adoption. Each year, approximately 1.5 million animals in shelters are put down due to non-adoption. Find an animal shelter in your area.
17. Try a Different Style. Ever consider changing your hair color or clothing style? Or maybe you wanted to try a makeup look, but thought it might be too bold. Experimenting with different styles is a healthy way to discover yourself, and can be super eye-opening. Red hair might not suit you, but maybe blue does. You won’t know until you try, and figuring it out earlier will only make you feel more like you sooner.
18. Learn a New Language. Learning a second language is a tool that can become incredibly useful, not only for traveling purposes, but also for your career. We’re sure you’ve heard of Rosetta Stone, but there’s also Babbel, who claims you can learn a new language using their app just 20 minutes a day. Super manageable.
19. Forgive. It’s not healthy to hold grudges, and science can prove it. Of course, it’s not easy to forgive, especially if someone has done something that seems unforgivable. But forgiveness doesn’t have to include letting that person back into your life. Forgiveness can just be acceptance. It can mean not letting that once “unforgivable” thing hold you back anymore. Do it for yourself, not the other person. Follow these tips to ease your heartache. Go at your own pace.
20. Try New Food. A common wives tale claims your taste buds change every seven years, but in reality they change a lot quicker than that. As our cells develop, our palette refines itself, and we find ourselves more willing to try exotic foods we’ve never before considered. Raw fish was never something I would’ve thought I’d enjoy as a child, but at 25, here I am loving sushi. Even if you don’t like the foods you try, at least you know.
21. Go to Ikea. No seriously. It’s more than just a furniture store. It’s an experience. There’s a reason it was chosen as the perfect date in “500 Days of Summer.” Even if you’re not on the hunt for a bedroom set, we recommend making the trip at least once. If you think we’re exaggerating, we’re not. They even have their own restaurant, that’s how long of a time people can spend there. And hey, you never know; you might just meet the love of your life—I mean—that perfect nightstand you’ve been searching for.
22. Do Something Nice for a Loved One. Let’s face it: sometimes we get so caught up in our routines that we forget to tell our loved ones exactly how much we appreciate them. An act of kindness can be as simple as a card or handwritten note, and can easily make someone’s day. Go out of your way to tell those special people how much they mean to you because life is short. Don’t live with regrets. Spend time with those you cherish.
23. Splurge on Something. Okay, so maybe everyone deserves a splurge at least twice. But, we’ve all been there, eyeing that perfect item in the window or—in today’s world—online shopping cart, for months. You tell yourself you shouldn’t buy it. You tell yourself there’s no way you need it. And sure, you probably don’t. But as Donna Meagle would say on “Parks and Recreation,” sometimes you just gotta “treat yo self.” You’ll be okay.
24. Get CPR Certified. You never know when you’re going to need to perform this. Life and death can be mere seconds apart, so this is something everyone should know, and it’s now super easy to learn. Visit the Red Cross website to find a class near you, or renew your old certification for minimal cost. It also looks really good on a resume.
25. Go on Vacation. This is different from traveling, we promise. Traveling can be about learning a new culture, gaining experiences, or even being on a spiritual journey. Vacationing can just be about relaxation and unplugging from the world. Whether it be a weekend cruise or week-long getaway, we can all use some time to de-stress. Travelocity offers flight and hotel bundles at discounted rates, but also make sure to check Groupon for deals too. The world is your oyster.