Whenever I read about “Millennials” I find myself chuckling a little. Because everything that supposedly defines your generation once defined mine. You’re lazy.
You live in your parents’ basement and probably will forever. You’ll never get a proper job. Never own your own home. Will be the first generation worse off than your parents. You’re completely self-absorbed, irresponsible, and entitled.
Turn back the clock 20 years and everything they’re saying about you, they said about Generation X. What’s especially laughable is that – having now reached a “respectable” age – generational astrologists have changed their tune completely. Now we’re fiercely independent (but all those years of having mum do our laundry?), responsible, practical, self-sacrificing, and financially stable. Not only that. Apparently, we’re so blind with ambition, we’ll plow right over you and your baby boomer parents to get that corner office.
These aren’t generational characteristics. It’s life moving on. If more Gen-Xers are sitting in corner offices these days, it’s because we have 20+ years of work experience under our belts and the baby boomers are retiring, not because we’re ruthless capitalists in contrast to your generations’ socially-conscious idealists. We moved out of the basement and got our own place just like those who came before us. We got our first jobs, our second, and then we started to hit our stride. Suddenly we became “the man.” It happened to the boomers (hello? yuppies?), it happened to us, and it’s going to happen to you.
You know what else is going to happen? You’re going to turn 40. The first millennials are only three years – lightening quick years – away from that next life-defining milestone. Well, as someone who isn’t all that far ahead of you on the timeline of life, let me give you a peek into the future.
Your body is going to change
Whether it’s your knees giving out on you (thanks, high heels) or your hearing starting to fade (ditto, loud club nights), the excesses of youth have their consequences. The good news is, these changes happen very slowly, but at some point in your 40s, you’re going to notice that your body’s doesn’t cooperate like it once did. Diet and exercise are less effective. At the same time, if you aren’t giving full throttle to both, prepare for an expanding waistline. Let’s not even talk about other outward signs of ageing. The good news is, there is something you can do to fend off the inevitable by limiting the damage you do to your body now:
- STOP SMOKING. Nothing ages you more quickly than smoking. From periodontal disease to varicose veins to wrinkles, all are exacerbated by this unhealthiest of habits. You may look young and gorgeous in your 20s and 30s, but if you keep smoking, there’s a price to be paid later.
- Eat a healthy diet. The sooner you make the switch away from fast food to a healthy lifestyle, the slower your body will age.
- Get in the habit of exercise. Starting a “change of life” regime after 40 is that much harder. Start now.
- Be kind to your liver. All that youthful binge drinking? See above re: smoking. There’s a strong link between heavy alcohol consumption and premature ageing.
- Ladies, go for the flats. If you must have stilettos for the club, fine, but carry them along in a bag and wear flats while on the go. Your feet and knees will thank you for it.
- 30+ SPF is your best friend. Repeated sun damage is the surest way to end up with wrinkly, leathery skin.
- Turn down the volume. In your car, when wearing headphones, etc. If you can’t control the volume (i.e. at a club), use ear protection. Early hearing loss is real, and it’s no fun.
Your priorities are going to change
Accusations of being materialistic aside, there is a certain point in mid-life where you need to start getting your finances in order. Maybe now you have kids and the extra responsibilities that go along with parenthood. Plus, retirement is (mind-bogglingly) coming your way. Either way, you might like to write a note to your younger self to make things easier for when that day arrives. Here’s what my note to 25-year-old me would say:
- Start saving and investing now. If you start contributing 5% of your annual salary into a pension at age 25, at retirement you’ll have roughly double what you would have had if you waited until 40 to start. Those extra 15 years make a massive difference.
- You get what you pay for. At a certain point, buying H&M sweatshop goods just doesn’t seem like that great of a deal anymore. You’ll find yourself buying fewer items, but better quality. As another example, you’ll also recognise that a free e-mail address isn’t a good value compared with one that comes with all the bells and whistles, especially the extra security.
- Time is better than money. Work and career can be hugely satisfying, but don’t live to work. Work to live. At the end of the day, health, relationships, travels, experiences, are just as valuable. If not more so. No-one wants to spend their later years regretting not having lived, so go for that corner office when the time comes, but don’t forget what’s really important.