20 Things I Learned in My 20s

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8. Do Not Be Cheap

Over my 20s, I slowly learned the value of quality over quantity. Whether it be clothing, tools, furniture, appliances, or sporting equipment, sometimes it is cheaper to spend more. Buying high quality should also reduce the environmental impact of constantly replacing cheap quality goods.

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it is very easy to find in-depth product reviews and make informed decisions about your purchases. Unfortunately, brand names that provide the impression of quality do not necessarily hold up in real world test and I believe it is important to research every product before purchase. As real world experience has taught me, the cost of an item does not necessarily reflect its quality. Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you do not. The only thing that will almost certainly pay off is doing your research to determine the best value for your money.

9. Luxury is Your Perception of Luxury

When I was broke and in my early 20s, I was always envious of those who flew business class, stayed in five-star hotels, and drank the expensive import beers. When I started working internationally in my mid-20s, I became a regular in business class, lived in a five-star hotel for a year, and foreign beers became the norm. As I became accustomed to that lifestyle, I was suddenly envious of those who flew first class, stayed in seven-star hotels, and only wanted to drink the finest Trappist beer.

By my late 20s, I realized that my perception of luxury will always depend on what I am accustomed to. As I enter my 30s, I want to do my best to be satisfied with the basic comforts of life and only treat myself to the finer things from time to time. Not only will it save me a lot of money, but I truly believe that I will enjoy my luxurious indulgences more than I would if they were commonplace in my life.

In fact, I do not think a constant life of luxury even appeals to me. I find many high-end hotels and restaurants to be far too formal and vain to be enjoyable for dining on a daily basis. It is nice on occasion to enjoy the world’s delicacies, but on most days I would be happier to eat a grilled cheese sandwich than I would a butter-poached lobster tail with caviar moose.

The lesson is to be content with what you have and not always be chasing the next level of luxury as you will never be satisfied. I am friends with broke backpackers and millionaires and I can tell you that money truly does not equal happiness.

10. Good Friends Are Hard to Maintain

Early in life, it is easy to make and keep friends. Being young is great in that you have lots of time, few responsibilities, and are surrounded by people who have similar lifestyles. Unfortunately, people change a lot in their 20s and suddenly many of the things that you once shared in common with friends are no longer common.

After university, some of my friends moved to different cities. Some friends got married and had families. Some friends took 80+ hour/week office jobs. Some friends distanced themselves from everyone they knew to start anew. The lifestyles they chose were different from the lifestyle I chose, which is part of growing up, but which also makes it hard to remain close friends.

It was sad when I realized that a number of close friends had become acquaintances, but it is a sacrifice that we all have to make in charting our own course in life. The good news is that the friends I had who set a similar course in life became closer to me and I have met a lot of wonderful new people, who have also become close friends, as I break my own trail in life.

11. Health = Happiness (But it Takes Effort)

When I was a teenager, I was always pursuing healthy activities and it was easy to do. I played on a number of school and community sports teams and was always hitting the gym or joining pick-up basketball and hockey games with friends.

In my 20s, I found out that it was going to take more effort to stay healthy. Not only did my metabolism start to slow down, but I no longer had free access to gym facilities like I did in High School and University. Suddenly, I had to pay expensive fees for gym memberships and find a way to fit team sports around my hectic work schedule. I also discovered that working in an office meant more unhealthy business lunches, more after-work drinks, and less free time to burn the calories gained.

As an office slave, I found the stagnant white-collar environment, numerous business meetings, and days of sitting in front of a computer to suck the life right out of me. I was often so tired after a day of work and household chores that I found it very difficult to pursue a fitness routine which just led to even less energy the next day.

It took me a long time to adjust to my ‘grown-up’ schedule, but eventually I discovered that working out over the lunch hour not only allowed me to get my daily fitness in, but also gave me more energy in the afternoon. Many people will prefer working out in the morning or evening instead, and it is a matter of trial and error for each person, but I believe the key is to find a routine and sticking with it. I expect the fitness habits I developed in my early 20s will continue to stick with me through my 30s, which should lead to a healthier and happier life in the long-term.

12. Family is Forever

I finally began to understand the value of family in my 20s. As a child and teenager, my parents had a lot of control and influence on my life. After all, I was living under their roof and subject to their rules. Of course, I often disagreed with them and thought I knew better, but now that I am older I understand that they were just trying to set me on a good path in life while also dealing with their own adult responsibilities.

Once I had to begin paying taxes and bills, organizing my own health and dental care, doing my own grocery shopping and maintaining my own house, I realized how much time and money my parents had given up to raise me. This realization led to a profound level of respect for just how much effort and personal sacrifice it takes to raise a child.

I am sure people in their 20s who have started families of their own have an even better understanding of this than I do, but the key point is that family is very important and we should do our best to make the most of our loved ones.

Making the Most of Time With Mom

13. The World is a Vast

As children, we are groomed by our surroundings and wishes of government. We are taught a particular school curriculum; fed certain media bias; and our perception of the world is constrained to the information and people we are exposed to.

Thankfully, my 20s offered me the opportunity to travel to nearly 80 countries, which opened my eyes to just how huge and varied our planet is. Growing up in Canada, I was only exposed to certain beliefs and rules and I was convinced that the system I lived within was the “best”. During my travels, I realized that the range of political, social, legal, and economic systems in our world is vast and each system has different positives and negatives associated with it.

In each country I have visited, I have seen at least one aspect of their culture or society that I wish I could adopt into my own life. Whether it is a passion for food and wine, a focus on socializing with friends and family, a respect for nature and the environment, better health care, less crime, or the aspiration for a fair and equal society, each part of the world is unique in one way or another.

Although Calgary, Alberta, Canada will always be “home” to me, it is no longer where I want to live my life. I believe each village, town, or city has its own unique personality, and I am still searching for the city or cities that will match mine.

14. Always Ask Why?

As I age, I am learning to question authority more and more. Why live somewhere with high tax? Why save money in a pension plan? Why invest in mutual funds? Why visit the dentist every six months? Why pay for enhanced health coverage? Why buy an extended warranty? Why use frequent flyer points for an item rather than a flight? Why is this credit card plan better than that credit card plan?

One of the things I have learned about big businesses and government is that they will always have an answer to those questions and their answer will usually profit them in one way or another. I have a habit of doing my own research and quantitative analysis to determine answers to those questions, as they apply to me, and it is amazing the amount of money I am able to save by questioning the status quo.

Click here to read the last 6 things I learned in my 20s

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