When you're in your 20s, planning for the future can feel like a pointless task. Everything from a career, to marriage, to retirement can seem like stuff that happens to other people. But this is exactly when you should be planning for the future, because the whole world is your oyster and you should take advantage of it.
I know it's tough to nail down a plan, especially if you don't know what you want to do with your life. I get it, because I'm the queen of the changing my mind every five minutes. One moment I want to work on a farm in Costa Rica and the next I'm sure I'd rather live in a lighthouse and write a novel. Part of planning for your future is deciding exactly what you want your future to look like, whatever that may be.
Of course, goals can change along the way and often do, and when that happens you just have to take some time to tweak your plans. There's no "right" answer for what you should do in the future, but once you decide on what's important to you, there are definitely some right steps to take towards reaching those goals. Here are six tips for planning for your future, from figuring it all out to actually making it happen.
1. Make A List Of Things You Want To Accomplish
It sounds kind of cliché to make a five year plan, but it really does help you narrow down your goals for the next few years of your life. Do you want to go back to school, or start a business, or travel to a foreign country? You need to know what you want to do before you can make plans to do it. I suggest taking notes and keeping track of all the things you love to do, where you see yourself going, and what you'd like to learn. I did it and it really helped me narrow down all my lofty goals to the ones I actually wanted to do. Once you complete this step, then start making moves and figuring out ways to make it all happen.
2. Envision Your Life Going Your Way
Perhaps cheesier than making a five year plan is envisioning that five year plan, but it really can help. Try making a mood board, writing down a step-by-step list, daydreaming about what your like will be like in five years, or endlessly talking out your plans with your mom (my personal favorite). Doing these things can help make your plans more concrete in your head, and then your brain can set off on the task of putting all the puzzle pieces together and making it all work.
3. Open A Savings Account, Because We All Need Money
The sad fact about life is that you need money to do pretty much everything. Maybe you don't need money if you live off the land in Montana on a really cool sustainable farm where you shear your own sheep, but that's not a realistic lifestyle for most people, and is definitely not something I've ever considered doing (cough). The reality is that we have to bills to pay, and those expenses can really get in the way of other life goals, such as traveling. That's why it's important put a portion of each paycheck into a savings account, even if it's just a little bit. You'll thank yourself the next time you want (or need) to make a big purchase.
4. Also Open A Retirement Fund
When you're young, retirement can seem like a mirage on the distant horizon, and that's because it kind of is. I personally have a hard time saving up for the coming month, but less coming decades. But get this — if you start saving for retirement now, you'll likely be totally loaded by the time you're in your 60s.
According to Jane Bennett Clark for financial advice website Kiplinger.com, "If you start socking away $200 a month in a retirement account from the moment you land your first full-time job at age 22, within ten years you'll have a stash of more than $37,000, assuming your investments grow 8 percent a year. In 20 years, you'll have more than $122,000, and by the time you reach age 67, your nest egg will be worth $1.2 million." Let that sink in for a second, and then get yourself over to a bank.
5. Surround Yourself With People Who Want To Help
In my own career, if there's anything I've learned that's given me hope for my own future it's that people in your chosen career field (or any field, for that matter) really want to help the up-and-comers. That's why you should surround yourself with people you want to be like someday. Not only will you learn their ways, but they will be there to offer advice and to set you straight when you feel like giving up.
6. Don't Burn Any Bridges
Even the most independent and driven people need a little help from time to time. I've found that pretty much every job I've ever gotten required some pretty decent networking skills, so I'm glad I kept in touch old professors and past bosses. I know it can be difficult, but try not to burn any bridges if only for this reason. You never know when you'll need to reach out to some from your past for help.
Planning for your future can be confusing, and your goals can often feel downright impossible. But take some time to plan it all out, save some money, and surround yourself with the right people, and you'll have a greater chance of getting where you want to go in life.
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