Advice I Would Have Given My 20-Year-Old-Self
As you get older, you may begin to realise that your eyesight is getting a little fuzzier, but your hindsight is a little sharper. No matter where you are in life now, you may begin to realise that there is some truth to the saying that youth is wasted on the young.
It’s either you were overly studious and spent too little time on developing aspects of yourself, or you spent too much time and money on frivolous pursuits in the name of fitting in.
How else should a 20 year-old live, anyway? There is no one answer, but there sure are balanced and sensible advice that I wish I had heeded.
1. Learn as much as you can, about as many things as you want
Every age is a good age to learn. But when you’re 20, you’re likely to have more energy, time and intellectual capacity to learn as much as you want to. Don’t worry if your interests don’t seem to be in line with a certain career path, and at the same time, don’t close yourself off from topics and subjects that don’t immediately call out to you.
Keep an open mind and seize whatever learning opportunities you’re given. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many doors you can unlock with whatever skills you’ve learned in your youth.
2. Don’t be immobilised by self-doubt and feeling like you’re not ready
Life doesn’t always wait for you till you’re ready. At some point, you may be entrusted with a task or a role that seems like a mammoth that you’re too inexperienced to handle.
While it’s good to keep yourself grounded and to remain humble and aware of your lack of experience, you shouldn’t perpetually shy away from the ‘Big Things’ and let self-doubt overcome you. Trust yourself and your friends, colleagues, and family that they will be there for you.
3. Be adaptable
It’s not easy being a young person trying to carve out a career. On one hand, there is the point about sticking to your passion and chasing your dream. On the other, you have only just begun and there are so many unknowns and opportunities to explore.
Not living out your ‘true calling’ can be frustrating in an era where every other person on Instagram seems to have found the perfect life. However, it’s completely alright to navigate your career path at your own pace and adapt to your own changing needs as well as external circumstances. Don’t confuse determination to follow your passion with stubbornness and narrow-mindedness.
4. Start investing, or learn about it
Your younger years are the best time for you to learn and start investing. At 20 years old, it’s easy to recover from any financial losses, or to learn about the various investment tools that you can use to grow your capital.
Start by reading books and online resources about investments. Now that it’s possible for you to buy shares on SGX in lot sizes of 100, you can start to invest in blue chip companies that used to be inaccessible to beginners when lot sizes were 1,000 shares.
5. Don’t get into debt
Try your very best to stay away from debt, unless they are good debts such as for your higher education or a housing loan. Even a car is mostly unnecessary in Singapore, so save yourself from getting a car loan.
If you use a credit card, the most prudent way to go about it while enjoying the perks is to use it like a debit card, meaning that you still only spend what you have. Pay all your bills on time so that your credit score isn’t negatively impacted.
6. Learn the art of saving
Saving is an art form. Too much and you may be forgoing valuable experiences, or investment opportunities. Too little, and it may mean that you’re not discerning about what you spend on and have less on a rainy day. Whether or not you have a sizeable disposable income at the age of twenty, learning to save is a priority.
Don’t just focus on the absolute amount that you can save, but rather, learn to save in proportion to how much your income or pocket money is. If you are saving for retirement, the general rule of thumb is to save 10% of your income in addition that what you are saving in your CPF account. This may be not splashing hundreds of dollars on dyeing your hair in the latest colour, or not being tempted to Grab or Uber when you can take the train.
Beyond the monetary savings, it’s learning to delay gratification and the skill of not always reacting to the urge to consume that will serve you well in the long run. This means not changing to the latest iPhone the moment it is launched!
7. Take risks
It’s one of the most common advice given to 20-somethings, but it has to be said again and again. The best time to take big leaps of faith in your career is when time is on your side.
Having said that, when taking risks, always do your due diligence to ensure you are talking calculated risks, and understand the consequences in the worst case scenario.
When you are young, you have health, energy, and time to recover from any major setbacks. Whichever way you land, you’d still most likely get a lot of valuable lessons through first-hand experience, something that conservatism doesn’t really provide. Failing miserably at a start-up venture is hardly a stigma these days, so don’t waste your youth being afraid of hard work and failure.