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The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter


Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist, author and speaker specializing in twenty-somethings. She has written “The Defining Decade” to encourage and teach young people that their twenties matter. She has also presented a TED Talk on “why 30 is not the new 20.” Many of us have the mentality that our twenties don’t matter and that “people are doing things later” than they used to. Waiting until your thirties to start your life could in fact be detrimental to your career. There’s a difference between having a life in your thirties and starting your life in your thirties. Dr. Jay shares expert advice on how to make your twenties count.

1. Build “identity capital.”

Your identity capital is a collection of personal assets; investments we make in ourselves. It’s our soft skills, who we are as a people, things that add value to us. Volunteering, exploring something in our field of interest. It’s who you might want to be next.

2. Utilize your weak ties.

This ties into building your network and as a twenty-something this is something that is extremely important. Your weak ties are the ones that will get you job referrals. Having a wide network is something that is going to help you a lot when your looking for your first job or a new volunteer opportunity. The world is a very small place and you never know who your friend’s mothers’s boss knows.

3. You can pick your family.

Growing up many of us were told “you can’t pick your families, but you can pick your friends,” now, however, as we move into our twenties, we can pick our families. We can pick the person we’re going to start our life with. Twenty-somethings love to avoid commitment, and that can be dangerous. No, you don’t need to marry the first person you start a long-term relationship with, but is it really worth it to be dating down?

As twenty-somethings we fall into what professionals like to call the “present bias.” Basically, we discount the future. We would rather have $1,000 today than $1500 a few months down the road. Eat the candy and buy the new outfit now and face the gym and the credit card bill later.

This is a human tendency but twenty-somethings are the easiest victims. We believe that we have all the time in the world when the truth is, we don’t. YOLO and “have fun while you can” are phrases often uttered by our peers but these phrases encourage risk-taking behaviors and don’t actually make us happier in the long run.

So draft a timeline. Think about where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years and even 10 years. Set out to achieve some tangible goals. Even if you need to alter your timeline along the way, that’s okay, just don’t waste an entire decade. 30 is not the new 20, and it’s so important that we make our twenties count.

(Buy The Defining Decade on Amazon here).

About the Author

Janine Eccleston

Janine is a tax specialist and personal finance blogger for Calgary, AB. She is actively pursuing her CPA designation while fighting her way to financial freedom. She is the Vice-President External for the not-for-profit Her Success and enjoys sharing her financial knowledge with her peers. When she is not at work or studying Janine enjoys traveling, baking, yoga and ending off the day with a glass of wine.