Being in your 20s matter. It’s not a phase in your life where you can just waste away, do whatever you feel like doing and then get away with it. In the contrary, what you do (or don’t do) in your 20s will make a huge impact in your adult life.  That’s at least according to clinical psychologist and author Dr. Meg Jay.

Here’s five of her life-changing advice for today’s 20-somethings:

No. 1 – Build on your identity capital

Identity capital is doing something “that adds value to who you are” or “something that might be an investment to who you might be next.” Jay believed that the 20s are not a “developmental downtime” but a “developmental sweet spot.” Claim it by going for the jobs or the things you’ve always wanted to do. “Explore work and make it count,” she said on her nearly 15-minute TED talk “Why 30 is not the new 20” in February 2013.

No. 2 – Take advantage of your weak ties

Jay referred to weak ties as those outside one’s inner circle or “friends of friends of friends.” She dismissed the urban tribe as “overrated.” She agreed best friends can be great, “but twentysomethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work.” It’s reaching out to one’s weak ties that new things come about. Jay added that doing so is “not cheating,” but simply “the science of how information spreads.”

No. 3 – Start picking your family

The belief that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends is only true when you’re growing up. “The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one, and that means being as intentional with love as you are with work. Picking your family is about consciously choosing who and what you want rather than just making it work or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you.”

No. 4 – Start thinking of your financial future

Jay agreed with the wisdom of compound interest when it came to starting as early as possible to saving up for retirement. Yet her main reason for encouraging 20-somethings to start thinking of their financial future is “brain development.” “The habits you instill in yourself while your brain is wiring up in your twenties will be with you for a lifetime,” Jay told NPR. So she encouraged 20-somethings to start learning about credit ratings, living within one’s means and practicing financial responsibility.

No. 5 – Stop comparing yourself to other 20-somethings

People’s lives start taking on different turns during their 20s. That’s why instead of “social comparisons,” The author of “The Defining Decade” advocates to shift one’s focus on themselves. Look within you and what you want to achieve within a year or two. You’re only as good as the goals you set for yourself.


Watch Dr. Meg Jay’s full TED talk here:

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