I went to a friend’s 30th birthday a few weeks ago and it got me reminiscing about when I crossed that milestone in my life. Turning 30 is a big event, and we all remember different things about when it happened to us. For those of you who haven’t reached that point in your life yet, you’re probably already dreading it. And when you think about the age of 30 and (gasp) mid to late 30’s, it sounds so old, right?!
Admittedly, that’s exactly how I used to think until my 30th birthday came and went. And now that I can look back, I’m happy to say that my 30’s are actually even BETTER than my 20’s!! The world didn’t end when I started a new decade, I didn’t sprout any gray hairs overnight, and I really didn’t feel that much different. So don’t fear that once you hit your 30’s you’re going to start feeling old and depressed! I can tell you from my experience that being in your 30’s is still plenty young, and it really rocks! Here’s a glimpse into what my 20’s were like and how it compares to how my 30’s are unraveling.
What I Loved About My 20’s
Looking back, when I think about my 20’s, I typically think back to my first few years out of college. I loved staying up late until 3am watching TV or hanging out with friends on the weekends, and then sleeping in late. I didn’t have as many responsibilities, so I also had a lot less stress. My body was in great shape and I had a lot of energy. I remember feeling hyper without even eating sugar or drinking caffeine. Oh how I miss not having any caffeine dependencies!
Another thing I loved about my 20s was learning what it’s like to be fully independent. I absolutely loved feeling free, earning my own money and setting my own schedule. It was during this time in my life that I moved across the country to San Francisco, worked my tail off, and launched my career.
My 20’s were also the years when I learned what it’s like to be in a happy long-term relationship. I also got married! It was definitely one of the highlights, especially because we had a small and simply fabulous stress-free wedding. I’m a low-key gal and had no desire to spend a fortune to get married.
The Not So Great Things About My 20’s
The things that weren’t so great about my 20’s were loosing all my grandparents and witnessing how hard that was for my parents. When my mom lost her mother, I remember being worried that she would never feel whole again. But I learned that grieving is a natural part of life that we all have to experience, and that time does heal wounds.
Even though I was independent in my 20’s, I wasn’t very smart with my money in the first few years I worked full-time. Personal finance hadn’t peaked my curiosity, and I wish I had taken more time to learn and invest. I was also making less money since my career was still blossoming, so I wasn’t able to travel as much as I wanted, and there were also many times when I was living paycheck to paycheck.
I also wasn’t that confident in my 20’s and as a result I rarely took risks. I played it safe and didn’t think outside of the box, especially in regards to meeting new friends and my overall lifestyle. I hadn’t discovered the thrills and challenges of an untemplate life yet, and my personality was rather bland because of that. My 20’s also seemed to be filled with way more questions than answers, and I wasn’t persistent enough with uncovering my passions. And I was also immature about a lot of things.
The Perks Of My 30’s
Even though I don’t have the same amount of energy that I did in my 20’s, I often find myself thinking how I feel much more alive and present now that I’m in my 30’s. Why is that you may ask? Well I think a lot of it comes from having more life experiences under my belt and the fact that I’m spending a lot more time doing the things I truly love.
Other things that have made my 30’s much more exciting than my 20’s are starting my own business, having a more established career, doing work that I actually enjoy and find rewarding, and being able to interact with you! I’ve also made a lot of new and closer friends, many of who are also entrepreneurs and are living active untemplate lifestyles.
I also have a lot more confidence and mental resilience than I did in my 20’s. Things don’t upset me like they used to, and I am way more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve also learned to let go of relationships and friendships that have fizzled out so I can really focus on the ones that mean the most to me.
And since I have more years of work experience, I’m also making more money, which helps a lot with being able to consistently save for my retirement. Being more knowledgeable of personal finance has also been a great benefit in my 30’s and I love keeping budgets and monitoring my investments.
The Tough Things About My 30’s
What I don’t like about my 30’s though as a woman is the countdown on my body’s ability to safely have kids. I had a fertility test taken a few months ago to see where my body is at, and the results were a bit depressing. Age really does play a factor when it comes to bearing children. I’m also not even 100% sure I want to be a parent and even though I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea, I wonder how much of that is my brain telling me I need to be ready, because my time is limited if I want to get pregnant without IVF. It’s an emotional stage in life for women, and I’ve bonded with my friends who are in the same boat.
I’ve been fortunate that my overall health is still in good shape though, and I’ve been able to stay fit into my 30’s. But I definitely notice that my knees aren’t as strong as they used to be, and I have trouble getting up if I’ve been in one position too long. I have to shift positions every few minutes when I sit on the floor or I feel like my joints get stuck!
The other growing challenge in my 30’s is the fading health of my parents and having to take on more and more responsibility of their financial, physical, and mental well being. It takes a ton of patience, planning, and many difficult conversations. It feels good to help them out, but I can’t lie and say it’s always happy and fun. I’ve definitely learned how precious it is to have supportive siblings to lean on and help out. So take it from me, be nice to your brothers and sisters!!
Stop Obsessing And Try To Master Time Instead
What I’ve also learned since passing the 30 mark is not to obsess about our age too much. If we get too hung up with thinking things like “30 isn’t young,” “40 is old,” or “50 is so depressing,” we could all too easily actually end up feeling that way, and oh how sad that would be.
Live in the moment and do your best not to have any regrets in life. Learn from your mistakes, discover new things, and never stop learning. Stay active and learn how to maximize your time, because the older we get, the faster it goes by!
Untemplaters, have you crossed the 30 mark yet? Did you have a big celebration or were you hiding out in despair? What do you think – are our 30’s better than 20’s? Does aging scare you at all?
I’m 23 and enjoying life! 🙂 I definitely know there’s a huge gap in my levels of maturity from age 18 to 23. I think I’m wiser :P, or at least less irrational LOL
Cheeky Minx says
I look better in my mid 30’s than I did in my 20’s. I have men, for the first time ever, stop me in the street to give me their phone numbers. I’m not sure if it’s my confidence or my looks. I have read that you look your best in mid 30’s. It’s possibly because you lose a lot of the puppy fat on your face.
I’m loving it and I get told I look late 20’s anyway so it must come down to how you act.
Nice. Sounds like it’s both your confidence and your looks. I definitely have more confidence now than in my 20s although I don’t think my looks have changed that much. 🙂
For me it was 20s: Graduating college. Moving from New Orleans back to Massachusetts to start teaching. Learning how to teach by being thrust into a classroom with a textbook in my hand at the age of 21 and told “good luck”. I had a student who was 19 and one who was 20. That was interesting. Then came graduate school – I studied a Master’s Degree for three years and was very content going to the gym for 2 hours every day, studying hard, attending classes, being active in the school community as President of my class. After graduate school, was looking for jobs and took a job as a limo driver while I sorted things out. My next boss turned out to be one of my fares and he hired me into his corporation right out of the limo. I did that for six months and realized that cubicles drive me insane. I would finish all of my work early and my boss would get upset with me because he had nothing more to give me for the day. I would ask if I could go to the gym or go home and he just made me sit there and stare at a blank computer screen. After leaving that job, went to teach for another year in Massachusetts and applied to a PhD program. Got accepted, attended one semester and dropped out (did not want to be a college professor). After that, met my fiance (who is now my wife). She was a PhD student too. She stayed in Nashville. I moved back to Massachusetts and worked on a green energy project that never got financed.
Moved back to Nashville to be with her. Now turning 30. Took a job working at Sam’s Club handing out food samples while I got certified to teach in Tennessee. Took a job in an inner city school in Tennessee where I had mostly good kids but got physically assaulted by one of them. Did not press any charges because the girl who hit me already had enough problems. She did not need MORE jail on her record at the age of 16. Her mother thanked me profusely in a deluge of tears and hugs. Opened a business with some friends from college. Closed a significant investment. Lost the significant investment. Sold my share in the business. School got closed down because the state welched on our contract. Took a job teaching in a rural school outside Nashville. Hated it – student apathy, constant talking in the classroom, being blamed for a girl who ran into my classroom and exploding a soda bottle all over the wall – called a poor manager and someone who cops out and can’t lead because of that. Resigned from that school. Got hired to manage a start up company (all of this through ages 31, 32, 33). Worked as Executive Director for small start up. The company lasted through its first year and then ran out of financing. Now, at age 34, living off savings. Got married. My wife is finishing her PhD. I renewed my Massachusetts teaching certification and we are on are way to Boston – she to seek jobs in consulting, as a professor or for think tanks and me to continue teaching but this time at the middle school level in either suburban schools or private schools. Had two interviews that went well and probably more on the way from other applications I have out there. Looking toward the future, I hope to become a school administrator or go to work in the political end of education. The 30s have been rough. “Real life” sets in. Your choices resonate on your resume, in your background and in the circles of people you hang out with. Learning using my personal network for help and assistance is key and also being there to give help and assistance in any way is key. More carefully monitoring relationships that I make. Very keen on not being a “buddy” to everyone. Focused on my career trajectory, having a family, finding a nice place to live, keeping the bills paid. Deleted Facebook. Minimize time on the computer. Working out 5 days per week and staying in shape. Watching the people in their 20s that I know make the same mistakes I did (highly intelligent graduate school types) and staying out of the way unless they ask me my opinion. Uncertain about the future but working on not letting that get to me. Ready to settle down after so much travelling. No desire to live outside the Northeast ever again – came to the South, saw the South, did the South and after 14 years, I am done with the South. Fond memories will be college and graduate school but getting back-stabbed in the workplace is really something I can do with out. Happened once. Shame on you. Get some integrity. I choose home with all its expensive living, snobby Yankee people, fast pace and snow. When I get the next job I am interviewing there, I am moving up (probably within three weeks) and my wife will be right behind me after she finishes her PhD in a few months. That’s life… and the beat goes on. What will the next adventure be? (Oh yeah, and multiple trips to Spain, Honduras, Mexico, London, Greece, and Italy interspersed in those journeys).
Thanks for the long comment Justin and for sharing your story. Best of luck with your continuing journey and glad your wife will be finishing her PhD soon!
Dennise Dy says
As for me, reaching 30 was quite a challenge since I always wanted to get married and have a family on my own at the age of 25 but it did not happen. So I decided to work overseas and fortunately I got a good job with a better pay but LIFE as they say is full of surprises. I met my man years back before reaching 30 and ask me to marry him. We get married two months after my 30th birthday and presently I am now my two months pregnant with our first baby. I realize now that everything has its own perfect timing, having a family when you are in 30’s is far better than in 20’s. It works for me. I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I married at an early age.
Congrats on your pregnancy! It’s funny how life works things out. I can’t imagine what it would be like raising a child if I was in my 20’s. A lot of people do it, but I wouldn’t have been close to ready at that age. I was working crazy hours and had so much I still hadn’t figured out about myself, life, personal finance, and relationships. I’m still not sure when I’ll be ready to become a mom, but I have a feeling things will work out just fine whatever happens.
Hey I think I’m going to have some trouble turning 30. I’ll be 22 soon and I’m already having a mid life crisis! I’m transferring to a diff college where i have to live with these 18 19 year old girls and I’m freaking out about the age difference. Ugh i mean i totally agree with the immaturity in your 20’s, you’ve probably never read a worse case than this. I’m trying to find confidence and peace about it. I put too much on age, y’know? Your blog helps me look foreword to the good things the 30’s have to offer. thank you.
Well, a lot will happen between 22 and 30, so you still have plenty of time not to start worrying about turning 30. 🙂 And I hear ya on the maturity difference between being 18 and 22. Even though it doesn’t sound like a huge age gap, there’s a lot that we learn and grow up from between graduating high school and being in college for several years.
You’ll find new friends that you can relate to though, so don’t let the age issue get you down. Use it as motivation to study hard and graduate! I felt like I was surrounded by a lot of immature people in college but I managed to find a small group of friends that I got along with. And I busted my butt studying each semester and getting internships so I could get the heck out and start my career.
It worked out well for me and I love being independent now. Thanks for the comment Chels and hang in there. It gets better!
Budget and the Beach says
I just posted a similar blog relating to age, but I’m in my early 40’s so it’s from that perspective. I have to agree that my 30’s were better than my 20’s. But as I have found out, things can change quickly and the path I was on drastically changed. The best thing is to always be prepared, and stay true to yourself.
We really do need to stay true to ourselves to be happy because living for someone else never ends well. I do wonder what I will be thinking when I look back 5, 10, 15 years from now. Even though we can’t prepare for everything, it feels good to prepare as best we can with the resources we have now!
Edward Antrobus says
There is a big disconnect between my age and how old I tend to feel. While I can tell my body is slowing down, I certainly don’t feel like I’m as old as I really am. That’s why I don’t like to think about my age.
That’s a good spot to be in. If you feel young and are happy that’s a great combo! I still have my silly moments when I feel like I’m 22 again, especially when I’m hanging out with my girlfriends.
I hope I stay young at heart even into my 70’s+. Both of my grandma’s were that way and I really admired them for that. They kept active, laughed all the time, and kept up with all of us. Even though they couldn’t run around the block, they walked a lot, stayed involved with friends and family, and their minds stayed sharp.
I just turned 28 and my husband turns 29 next month. We’re approaching the big 30 fast. Truth is, I’m not that freaked out by it. I’m leaving my State/bureaucratic job to go back to school for my doctorate and (in 5 years) become a professor. I do triathlons. I tried and failed at the ironman.
I feel like a self sufficient grown up and am cool with it. My husband on the other hand… well he’s the one that likes to (jokingly) lie about his age in our relationship, so I don’t know if he’s going to hit 30 with grace. Of course he’s a whole year closer than I am.
Maybe it’s a question of how fulfilled/grown up you feel by the time you get there? 30 says I’m a grownup and if you feel accomplished enough to call yourself an adult already, not a big deal. Whereas if you’re not, then you wonder where your youth went.
In my early 20’s I wasn’t so self confident. I would make decisions that I knew were wrong for me based on other people (ie my parents) telling me I should do something other than what I wanted, and am just pulling myself out of that now.
Financial Samurai says
Let me know a week or month before you turn 30. It gets freaky and often times depressing!
BEFORE you go get your PhD, please read this: http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/05/30/life-after-the-private-sector-should-i-get-a-phd/
I got some very sobering feedback from professors at Stanford. Essentially, it sucks teaching at mediocore universities and opportunities are becoming less and less to teach.
Thanks! I’m not just going back to school because I think I should or don’t know what to do next. That said, if I don’t get a professorship when I graduate there are backup plans that are related to my degree and I wouldn’t mind looking at Latin America for a position either. Or taking time off, pursuing a post-doc or a research project in latin america, while teaching English on the side.
And I actually read your article a few months back and had already considered the financial aspects before I decided to make this leap. For one thing, my PhD program comes with a full fellowship with a paid half time teaching position.
I don’t pay them, they pay me.
Granted it’s half time, but it’s only $400 a month less than I was making when I was furloughed 15% of my pay right after I closed on my house and my husband makes more than the difference now freelancing. (He was also laid off from his part time job right around the same time I got furloughed, so yeah, that was fun… we’d planned on the bills doubling, but not for such a big pay cut.)
While I am very excited about the program and hope to become a professor, I also think that I’ll have a lot more flexibility of time than I do in the cubicle sea to pursue side projects. Such as setting myself up as a freelance translator among other things. It’s a language and linguistics degree, so even if I fail to get a professorship, I’ll graduate with proficiency in two more languages than I have now, at a level where I can teach and translate them as well and the degree to back it up, with 5 years experience teaching first and second year Spanish. Also, I think language change is fascinating and I get to study that. Which is great.
And I’m definitely not saying I have it all figured out, far from it, but I’m finally getting that feeling of coming into my own now. I know what I want, and finally I’m going for it instead of letting someone else tell me no or that now is not the time. Right now is the only time that we know we have. We could get hit by a truck tomorrow or any number of things that could take us out of it forever.
When I was 28 I was already thinking about turning 30 a lot. Part of me wanted to be 30 so that I’d have more authority at work, and other parts of me wondered how far away I was from getting wrinkles and getting out of shape. I did feel a lot more influential at work once my 30’s started and I just started using sunscreen every day to keep my skin looking young. And I make sure to get in at least one good cardio workout a week to stay fit.
That’s fantastic you’re a triathlete. And props to you for trying ironman!! If your husband is already joking/hiding about his age, he could have a rough time leading up to 30, especially the last few weeks of being 29. But I think once his birthday passes, he’ll be over it within a month. It was weird when I had to actually start saying I was 30, but I got used to it after a few weeks.
I think it’s definitely easier for people who feel fulfilled and grown up leading into 30 as you mention, but some people are a lot harder on themselves. My cousin accomplished a lot in his 20’s, but even so he still freaked out the last month or two before his 30th birthday. After he passed 30, he set new goals for himself and got back to his usual self.
Let’s see if I can remember (coming from a guy’s perspective):
– my early 20’s (I was mostly wading through life with not much direction). Started to get into a lot of car accidents (somewhere around 14-15 over the next 12 years). “Visit” Oklahoma for Basic Training in the service.
– mid-late 20’s I found focus and set goals and achieving them with relative ease. Enjoyed playing pool (you know pool stick & cue-ball), with my brothers for roughly the next 10 years.
– early 30’s my girlfriend (soon to be wife) began planning our lives together with the desire for her to be a SAHM. Kept building my network of good people that I wanted to work with in my day job (software contracting work).
– mid 30’s my wife and I were blessed with twins, while we were saving up to settle on our first house! Got a 30 year mtg @ 8%. (ouch)
– late 30’s DW and I had 2 more kiddos … 2 different pregnancies this time around though. 🙂 Refinanced to another 30 year note @ 6.5%. Exercise I get is limited to playing around with the kids around the house & coaching. Travelled to California, Washington State, Idaho, and Montana.
– early 40’s … Finally figured out what was causing my wife to get pregnant and got it tied off – LOL. We refinanced to our first 15 year mtg @ 5.25%
– mid 40’s … We refinanced again to another 15 year mtg @ 4.25%.
Perhaps the next 50 years will work out as well for me, as the previous 50 have (well I’m slightly shy of 50). Surprisingly the lack of exercise doesn’t seem to bother my physique that much, woohoo! Been to virtually every state east of the Mississippi River when I was in my late teens already.
Things I still want to do but haven’t done yet: skydive, take our kids skiing, visit China (and things like the Forbidden Temple), go to the Caribbean and stay for more than a day, take an Alaskan cruise, etc. Usually pondering the Tim McGraw song “The next 30 years”.
Thanks for sharing all of this Chris! Wow an 8% mortgage, ouch is right. That’s good you kept refinancing down! It’s pretty crazy how much rates have changed in our lifetimes. I’m glad you stopped having car accidents (14-15? yikes!) and got to travel to so many places while also raising your kids.
I like your list of things to do! I did indoor skydiving in wind tunnel a few years back and absolutely loved it. I bet doing the real thing must be incredibly life changing. Not sure I’d have the guts to actually jump out of a plane, but I would definitely do indoor skydiving again. I had a smile on my face for weeks after I tried it. Going to China and taking an Alaskan cruise are on my bucket list too. I want to see the Yellow Mountains, a bear(s) in the wild, a glacier, and the Northern Lights!
Sydney, my family and I already did get to see a grizzly in the wild.
When we were visiting relatives in Montana one summer, we took a trip up to Glacier Park. When we were walking around on some of the snow that was still there – without jackets on because it was too warm – we saw a the bear off in the distance. On another visit to see them, we went to Glacier Park during the Winter. Imagine seeing a wall of snow that is 200-300 feet high (or possibly higher). It was immense! Ciao for now!
Julie @ Freedom 48 says
Thanks for putting things into perspective. I turn 30 next year, and while I’m not totally dreading it… I think I will mourn the loss of my 20’s. I look forward to starting our family in my 30’s =)
29 is definitely the year when you naturally think about turning 30 the most. One thing I did when I was 29 was put together a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish in my last year of my 20’s before I rolled into 30. It made me feel good about completing lots of little goals and also took my mind off of continually thinking “man my 20’s are almost over.”
And that’s great you’re looking forward to starting a family in your 30’s! It makes me happy when I hear people say that. One day perhaps I will get there too. 🙂
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland says
I just posted about this — it’s all the best time of our lives!
So true. It’s nice to think that we always have things to look forward to. Life will change, our bodies will change, but we can always find happiness!
Financial Samurai says
I enjoyed my 20’s immensely because of what you said, independence and looking to see what I could do ON MY OWN! Getting ones first job, first apartment, first car, first client… all that stuff is kick butt. I also got my ass kicked almost everyday at work in NYC which has proven to be good experience.
I wish I played more tennis my 20’s, instead of golf. But, I rediscovered my love for tennis at age 30-31, and have played more in the past three years than in the past 10. Thank goodness for doubles!
Our 30’s are wonderful because of the things you mentioned: more money, more established careers, more experience. There was a study that said 35 is the best age and I can see why! We still have our health and youth, but also have enough wealth.
Marissa Mayer from Yahoo just announced she’s pregnant at 37, so not to worry if you decide to have children then!
Oh wow she’s taking on Yahoo and also pregnant? Boy is she going to be one busy mom. I wish her the best though and give her props for taking on that role. I sure hope she can save Yahoo!
I am in my mid twenties but I am also male so I don’t think age is a huge deal. While I might joke about it I don’t expect it to play a significant role in much other than maybe asset allocation in my retirement accounts and when I decide to purchase term life insurance. It will be nice to have more work experience though.
That’s good to hear you’re not dreading 30 or even thinking about age much. It will be curious to see what other guys vs girls say too. Perhaps age “hits” guys closer to 40’s and less in their 30’s although I remember my guy cousin freaking out when his 30th was coming.
The guy’s bday I went to was pretty chill about turning 30 but he is also the youngest in our group of friends so he’s already used to being amongst a bunch of 30 somethings. And has seen how silly and fun we still are even after passing the 30 mark. 🙂