9 months ago I turned 32. It marks my 10 year anniversary of turning - 22. It was the best year of my life because I experienced a lot of "firsts" - ran my first half-marathon, graduated from university, went to Vegas, got my first "real" job and fell in love. I worked really hard that year. I made a bucket list and crossed every single item off. I achieved things I never thought I could do and experienced lows I never thought I would experience. I thought I could do anything and proved to myself I could.
Over the next 10 years I made a lot of decisions. Some turned out great and some turned out to be huge mistakes.
Someone once told me that you can only make the best decision with the information you have at the time.
This has held true in every decision. In retrospect, it's easy to say I wish I did x or y, but before it happens you really have no idea. You can forecast for scenarios, but usually what happens is something you would have never thought about. Looking back there are 3 decisions I made in my 20s that have paid enormous dividends.
The first good decision I made was learning about personal finance. I experienced the 2009 recession first hand. It was one of the worst year's of my life. I started the year working as a "sale dot" mascot at the mall for $12/hour. Later that year, I was on an 8 month internship at a large company and they ended up laying off almost every person on the team I worked on. I respected and admired these individuals so much and saw how devoted they were to their careers. It impacted me so negatively, I took the next two semesters off at school. My family also lost their savings and my mom lost her career. I saw the financial devastation around me and knew at that point I didn't want to experience it again.
I started reading about minimalism and figuring out how to maximize my income and cut spending. I started doing my nails and eyebrows myself. I bought an at home waxing kit and stopped shopping at brand name stores. I looked for the highest nutrition and lowest cost foods such as brown bread, bananas, oatmeal and boxed vegetable soups. I cut my yoga and pilates classes and started doing youtube workouts and running outside. What I realized through all of this and that I didn't really need much to be happy. Having nice designer clothes and going to the spa didn't really make my life better.
The second good decision I made was picking the highest paying and most difficult career path within my profession. I've spent the last 10 years gaining knowledge in an area very few people truly understand - Compensation. This has paid dividends as it allowed me to double my salary in a few years and provided a stable and good income for the last 10 years.
The third good decision was learning to cook. Cooking food at home has saved me a lot of money and calories over the years. I've learned to make healthier versions of foods I like as well as save more money for nicer, fancier dinners out. My skills are no where near that of a professional chef, but there are many dishes I can make that are just as good as many takeout restaurants. It does take a lot more time and effort to cook at home, but doing this even a few times a week ensures that I am getting a good variety of nutrients and know exactly what is going into my body. In this pursuit I've learned to swap out fatty and nutrition lacking items for healthier alternatives while cutting down on salt and sugar.
I also made a lot of bad decisions - not taking a job that would have pushed me out of my comfort zone, starting to invest at age 29, not buying a condo in my early 20s due to fear and so much more. Most of the things I didn't do, I didn't do due to fear of things going wrong, but the truth is that even when you take the "easier" path, things can still go wrong. Listen to your gut and make choices based on what you think would be best for your future!