Home » The Best Advice a 21-Year-Old Can Hear Right Now
By ☆ Published: July 31, 2017, 11:58 pm (updated 2 months ago) Views 495

The Best Advice a 21-Year-Old Can Hear Right Now

From money to relationships and everything in between, here’s the best advice from a panel of expert adults.

I know you won’t follow every piece of advice you’re about to read. Some of this won’t have anything to do with you, anyway. But bear with me.

That’s because I and the rest of the Adulting.tv team asked hundreds of people — some of them adults and others… “adults” — what advice they’d give their younger self. Some answered with very specific advice about opportunities they had at the age of 21. Some offered tidbits of wisdom they gained from making mistakes. Most didn’t answer at all.

Don’t worry — even if you take some advice to heart, you’ll still make mistakes in life. Mistakes are the best way to learn about yourself and how you can grow as a person.

But if you have the opportunity to avoid a few, you might as well take it. So let these certified adult experts help you.

Something in this fantastic round-up of advice will apply to you, at any age.

“21 wasn’t that long ago for me but I would say this: Choose a place to live that is inexpensive and allows you to save. Spending too much in rent can really hurt your ability to pay off your student loans, invest, and even travel the way you want to in the future.” Kevin Matthews II

“Don’t be afraid to try new jobs and careers. Like your actual life, your working productive life is a very long period of time and you’ll have many opportunities to switch and try new things. Don’t be afraid to do so, especially when you’re early and have less to risk!” Jim Wang

“Take the time to explore your priorities and hobbies, but make sure you have some buffer in your account. I ran out of money in my early 20s and found myself scrambling and unfulfilled. There is a way to be YOLO yet at the same time be responsible with your spending. Think about money as buying you time and choices instead of cool things, which was what I was most concerned about when I first graduated college.” Sarah Li-Cain

“Don’t always look to see what others are doing with money or what the current trend says you should be doing. Figure out what works for you… This also applies to starting a family, your career and pretty much anything else.”

“Don’t listen to people telling you that starting a business is the ultimate thing to do. Not everyone is built for it mentally or emotionally and it takes more than passion or an interest to make it a success. It’s more than acceptable to be an employee of someone else and plenty of people have lived great lives that way.” Eric Nisall

“Alcohol and sugar are overrated. Try sobriety and protein for a couple weeks.” Doug Nordman

“21 was just a few years ago for me, but the best thing I did and therefore the best advice I have is to start paying off debt ASAP, especially if you are single and don’t have children. I wasn’t dating anyone then, so I lived at home with family, worked 2 jobs and debt snowballed like crazy to pay off as much as I could so that someday when I got married I would be in a little less debt. It really helped, because when I got married at 23 a lot of the financial pressure was off since I had paid off about $17,000 worth of debt on my own. Also– be careful what major you pick in college! I graduated with a degree that I can’t do anything with, that I picked solely because the classes were fun and interesting. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go back to college for a second degree to actually get a decent job.” Bailey Kay Cummins

“Trust your gut. It will never steer you wrong with jobs (if you are getting a stomachache thinking about the promotion you feel like you have to take, you’ll probably quit 6 months later), with dating (if you feel leery about a guy, he’ll probably be the sort of guy who gets mad at you for being sad), with money (if it feels like a bad use of your money, it probably is). Don’t railroad over those gut feelings.” Emily Guy Birken

“At 21 years of age I was living in a dumpy apartment in a Philadelphia slum with a year-old baby. I had a permanent part-time job and no child support or government aid. As a result, I was so broke I did all our laundry (including the diapers) on a scrub-board. Here’s what I would tell my 21-year-old self. Tough times show us what we’re really made of and what we’re capable of accomplishing. Often, we later realize that what we perceived as misfortune was actually crucial to making us the people we have become. (And in fact, that’s happened.)” Donna Freedman

“At the start of your career, move into a cheap apartment that you hate (ideally with roommates). Why? You won’t want to spend any time there. That makes it easy to skip out on luxury utilities (tv, internet, etc) and expensive furniture. Lower expenses means more cash to put towards investments. You’ll also be able (and willing) to put in more hours at work, creating clear differentiation between you and your peer group. Hustling hard early on should produce a steeper compensation trajectory. Before you know it, you’ll be on a clear path to financial independence.” Eppie Vojt

“This fall you’re going to go through the Student Union at college. There will be a Citibank representative there soliciting students to apply for a credit card. Do not stop. Flip him both birds, yell, “F YOU!” at the top of your lungs and keep walking.” Travis Pizel

Start contributing to a Roth IRA and take advantage of all the tax benefits in retirement investing. Even if you can only afford $50 a month, those early contributions really add up over the years. Just one $50 investment can grow to $749 over 40 years on a 7% annual return. Now imagine you were able to make that $50 a month!”

“When you’re young and don’t pay much in taxes, you might not be getting such a benefit from the instant deductions of a 401k or a traditional IRA. This is when a Roth IRA makes the most sense. You don’t get an instant deduction but get to withdraw the money totally tax-free in retirement, that’s contributions and all earnings tax-free.” Joseph Hogue

“Find what makes you happy and then organize your life around that. Quit comparing yourself to others. Everyone moves at a different pace and has a different focus. What’s important is that you do what’s best for you. Not what’s best for your friends or others around you. Life is much more enjoyable when you do that.” Andrew Daniels

“I know you’ve spent the last 16 years of your life in school, but don’t stop learning now. Keep learning and mastering new skills whether they’re related to your work or not.” Julie Starnes Rains

“Don’t build a life that requires a financial partner. Make your own money and make sure you can support yourself if the shit hits the fan. It’s great to HAVE a financial partner, but it’s another thing to NEED one.” Morgan Marie Quinn

“My biggest revelation after wasting four years of college and working a dead end job was learning that the market doesn’t care about my passions (which were fickle anyway); the market rewarded professions that were IN DEMAND. So my job was to find a niche in the job market that married my skills and interests with jobs that were HIGHLY needed, and that small realization changed everything for me. I no longer felt guilty for “selling out” to make money, because by choosing a career that society valued it was a win-win for everyone.” Curtis Hearn

Negotiate everything! Your salary, purchases, and business deals. It’s a muscle that needs to be built and there is always an opportunity to build it.” Alanna Jackson Anthony

“Don’t underestimate yourself. You might not think you qualify for those scholarships, but you’d be wrong. You’ll be kicking yourself to find out later only five people applied for that $5,000 scholarship and you thought 1,000 people would apply! This goes for graduate school scholarships and TA positions. Just apply.” Melissa Hoffman

“Youth is time to experiment and have new experiences. Manage your money so you can do that. It’s a better investment than grad school for most people. Be bold. But always be able to support yourself.” Teresa Mears

“I’d tell my 21-year-old self to party less. I was a neo in my fraternity at the time and basically wasted a year in school partying. My priorities were not in order.” Jason Butler

“No one cares more about your finances, your career, or your health than you do. Learn about each and pay equal attention to each one so that you have a secure and balanced life for years to come. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Life happens. Let it.” Amy Savage Blacklock

Exercise. Find a workout routine that makes you feel great and make movement part of your life every single day. I don’t care what you do, whether it’s running or yoga or lifting or walking for miles or playing rec league sports, just find something that gets you physically active most days. Physical exercise benefits your bod, but it’s also an investment in your mental and emotional well-being (and staying healthy = less in healthcare costs). Getting into a workout routine only gets harder as you get older, so start now while it’s easier to work it into your day so it becomes a part of your long-term lifestyle.” Kali Hawlk

“Take a deep breath and understand career success doesn’t happen overnight. Every day when you get to work, it is a new opportunity to impress your team and keep up the momentum. But don’t stop side hustling. Don’t be afraid to invest a few bucks in your projects and stay focused!” Eric Rosenberg

“(1) Work for experience, not income, because eventually the experience will command a far higher income. (2) Buy rental real estate instead of renting and begin as early as possible. Beg or borrow the down payment if necessary. As long as the property is positive cash flow and financed with a fully amortizing, fixed rate mortgage your financial security is just a question of time, and time is why you want to start as early as possible. Rental real estate provides inflation adjusting income you can never outlive, and there’s not many investments you can say that about.” Todd R. Tresidder

“Invest in defense industries. They seem to be doing better and better.” Mason Handke

“Jump on Bitcoin and Ford stocks. In other words, when you see a good financial deal, take time to learn enough to invest in it and do it quickly. Also, skip that whole finishing college thing. You guys know what you want to do; just get your certs and get out. The lost earning potential will eat you up later. Don’t let anyone else tell you what God wants from you. You’re smart enough to figure it out yourself. You’re going to have a lot of ‘I wish…’ moments down the road when you realize you’re letting someone else control your moral compass. Lastly, take that trip to Costa Rica. Just do it. Once you have kids and a real job, it’s going to be so much harder to do. The money’s there. Take the opportunity.” Lacey Keller Smith

Save up so that you can travel and see the world. Don’t worry about a new pair of pants or about going out every weekend. Explore this planet.” Martin Dasko

“Ironically, my 21-year-old self had more money to save and invest than my 37-year-old self. I would have told him to do that. But more than that, start a business. The barrier to entry for many businesses like insurance companies, online companies, etc. is so low, starting it young means great rewards while you’re still young instead of when you’re older like most people. But even more than THAT, be creatively productive with free time. Back then I had GOBS of free time and I did a fair amount of writing, but nothing else I did really created. I was focused mostly on entertainment. Nowadays I have all kinds of desires to continue to be creative, but no time. But if I had started something back then it would have been easier to *continue* working on my passion instead of trying to add time in my day for things I’m passionate about.” Greg Hamblin

“If you make $N per hour and can pay someone to clean your house (or other tasks) for $M per hour, and N>M, pay someone to clean your house while you work more. Now don’t forget to work the extra hours.” Brad Cole

“Open a Roth IRA.” Rhiannon Fox

“Don’t be so serious. Let things roll and have some fun. Explore more. Don’t be so afraid of life.” Joe Saul-Sehy

“Don’t get married!” Arantza Zabala

“You have another half-dozen major failures and reboots in front of you. Don’t take them so hard. Don’t bother getting complexes. Be more focused on what you can and can’t control and fight the one in spite of the other.” Rodney Staton

“Don’t be afraid. Although life can be scary, it is also worth it to face that fear. Don’t give up on your self. What most other people think if you doesn’t matter, especially those who dont like you. Don’t let those people decide your future. That have no investment in you! Work hard! Nothing is easy.” Laurie Clark-Jacobson

“If it is important, financially, it will still be there a week later. Be happy. Don’t take life too seriously.” Morgan Dayna McKinnon

“Do not look for someone else to make you feel good or happy. Try if you can to be secure in yourself. If you are looking, look for someone with same morals, values, and expectations. If your future is to be together your values will allow you to work together on any obstructions that come up. Values discussed before a close relationship, married or not, is key to enjoyment of one another.” Lenorah DeAngelis

“Jäger is NEVER a good idea. Neither is tequila. That petty thing or person you’re overly stressed about now? Let it go. It most likely won’t be there in one year and it doesn’t deserve your energy. See also: people who make you cry for stupid reasons. No one else’s opinion of you matters more than your own. Plan for all the things but don’t plan so much you can’t handle whatever is thrown at you. All those things people in their 30s and 40s tell you? It’s solid advice. Don’t dismiss it. They know their shit (or pretend like they do).” Jana Lynch

“Start early and always save a portion of your paycheck. Try to make it be the same each week.” George Morrison

“Figure out the monies. Know how much your life costs, how to minimize, save, and spend wisely. Never be without at least a month’s expenses in savings. Avoid student loans at all costs.” Lindsay Johnson Nuesca

“Find something you are really good at and make a business.” Kade Marquez

“Invest your money instead of wasting it on all the crap you’re about to buy. Oh yeah, and start a blog — the internet is not a fad.” Tom Drake

“Life is not going to turn out the way you think sweetie, but don’t worry, you are gonna make it and it’s gonna be GOOD.” Charlotte McLendon Baker

“When I spoke to a group of middle-schoolers earlier today I took them on a journey. I told them that I’ve been at my job for 10 years. And I showed them the importance of being picky with how they spend their money. I said 10 years ago, when I started my fancy pants engineering job I could have spent $5 per day on Starbucks coffee. Instead I bought Starbucks stock and now it has tripled in value! And I showed them different examples showing how those small choices made a huge impact! Crystal Hammond

“When you meet people always ask how you can help them achieve their goals, or how you can be helpful in general, and then help them. Never expect anything directly in return but forming those early bonds, and staying in touch will serve you well for your entire life.” Bobbi Rebell

“Get an IUD. ” Elyssa Jean Kirkham

“Make self development a habit. It will take you from good to great.” Felix A. Montelara

“Travel while you can! I didn’t have the travel bug back then. Once you get kids, the game changes. Both time and money are in very short supply. At 21, travel. David Leonhardt

“If you truly believe in your stance, hold firm. People will try to intimidate you, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Applies to just about every part of life.” Kay Bell

“So strange. My nonlinear, unplanned, dirt poor youth doesn’t look at all troubling to me. Maybe just… invest in Microsoft.” Dean Ferguson

“Never marry someone who makes you cry.” Sherri Bible

“Travel. Leave your bubble and visit somewhere where you don’t speak the language; it’s even better if you can live in another country for a while. When you come home, start planning the next trip. Don’t let having kids deter you from traveling; it involves a bit more planning, but they only make it better. Pay off your student loans ASAP then save; you really don’t need a lot of material items. Spend your money on experiences (see first paragraph) and save your money.” Leslie Smith

“No matter your culture, it is okay to be single in your 20s. Discover yourself rather than discovering others, as this will be the one opportunity you have to do so.” Brynne Conroy

“Research is the key to everything related to finances. From renting a place to live and the utility payments required when you move in, to car knowledge when you go shopping for a car. Building credit and how to do it right. Relationships? Be smart, don’t just jump in. Know what matters to you and make those things important in your relationships. Oh, and credit is IMPORTANT. Don’t fuck that up.” Nik Thurnbeck

“Plan well for your retirement. Put away more than you think you can. Stretch! The time sneaks up on you – enjoy yourself some now, enjoy yourself a LOT later – you’ll deserve it! Also, be as good as you can to others — don’t leave anything to regret (oh there will always be regrets — so try to keep them to a minimum) I really think that’s the most important piece of advice. Be kind, be good. Be honest. Especially with yourself. Please keep your promises — every one. If you don’t think you can keep it, don’t make it. Sounds hokey, huh? But its true. Live the very best life you possibly can every day. Respect nature. Look to nature for lessons on life. The more you look at animals, birds, and just nature around us, the more you can understand about human nature. Seek simple affirmations and actualization. The more actualized and complete you feel, the easier it is to be satisfied by the little things. Now to take my own advice – early to bed and early to rise – huh, I wish! Oh one more — Polonious – Act I Scene III – Hamlet: ‘Neither a borrower or a lender be.’ Oh boy, I really mean that one!” Shari Berman Landes

“Always be nice. And don’t sweat the small stuff.” Wendie Berman Biegel

“People will show you who they are.” Jenna Carpenter Smith

“Spend time alone. You don’t have to be in a relationship all the time, and certainly don’t judge your worth based on whether you’re single or in a relationship. Learn to love yourself first.” Chris Kilian

“Don’t pour yourself into a man who doesn’t care enough to do the same for you.” Magdalen Sheffield

“All these responsible things but also make sure you have fun and travel in your 20s. Don’t be so work focused because your 30s, if you have kids, could be very very very boring.” Christina Marie

“Never be afraid to be who you truly are. Do all the things!” Aaron Sheffield

“Don’t worry about how successful other people are. It’s not a contest, and if it were, it would be a marathon, not a sprint.” Francesca Pellegrino

“Go to Vanguard and take the spot at Mystique. You’re gonna change jobs anyway.” Sean McReady

“Life isn’t a race. There’s no rush to finish college in 4 years. It’s OK to be the last of your friends to get married, have kids, buy a house, have a career. Life is a journey to be enjoyed. You will accomplish your goals when the timing is right.” Elizabeth Buono

“Travel as much as you can and don’t be in a hurry to settle down.” Nakki A. Price

“Follow your instinct. It’s usually right. Don’t be afraid to say no.” Danielle Marone

Wait for a job that you will LOVE!! Travel a lot! And never settle!!” Lauri Kane

“First you need to know the most important investment to make is in yourself. Strengthen your weaknesses. Fortify your strengths. Sometimes maybe go out of your comfort zone. Find yourself at a job. It may pay the bills and take care of your family but something that you don’t hate going to do everyday. Start at Step 1. Investments, credit, all of that stuff comes later. If you can’t manage yourself you can’t manage the rest of that stuff. Be successful at managing yourself and that’s when those other options start opening up. That’s when you start considering them.” Colin R Gelles

“If it’s working, it’s working. A messy, backwards, or unconventional approach to something doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I’ve finally learned to accept the way I live, create, and give, and it doesn’t look like anyone else’s. All kinds of people are needed to make this world work, so ignore what you’ve heard in the management, productivity, and success books. If you are working at your best and comfortable with the process, that is what matters. I wish I wouldn’t have fought against convention for all these years and just accepted my way. What a waste of time!” Linsey Knerl

“Make — and especially keep — more social connections. Your friends can become your support network (emotional and business) as you all gain more experience and responsibility.” Virginia Rich Diaz

“Listen to yourself and learn to trust what you hear.” Alan Steinborn

“And carpe diem!” Sally Dikowitz

“Try to prepare for things like illness, accidents, etc. and the possibility you may not be able to work at some time, you never know!” Pamela A. Parker

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The Best Advice a 21-Year-Old Can Hear Right Now was last modified: August 10th, 2017 by Harlan L. Landes

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