Money

The 10 Best Investments To Make In Your 20s

Stock market, shares, property portfolio, retirement fund – these are terms you will not find in this list. What it means to ‘invest’ in your future is about so much more than financial matters: it’s not just how you spend your money but also your time and energy. Tick off these things in your 20s and you won’t be wishing you had a DeLorean time machine to go back and change the past down the track.

1 / 10

A laptop

For so much more than watching Netflix. As the digital nomad movement booms, many professionals that were once office-bound can now work from anywhere in the world, and a laptop is the first step towards living the 4-Hour Workweek dream. Even if you don’t plan on running a business from a hammock, being able to work on the go will make your life a lot more flexible.

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Travel

Speaking of a nomadic life, your 20s is the best time to travel. Forget the outdated idea that backpacking is career suicide; seeing the world will teach you a lot of things that are valuable in life, as well as in the workplace – a new language, independence, how to get along with different personality types – and any good employer knows it. If you wait until you’re older, having a mortgage, children or health problems could make it harder to get up and go.

Image: Sonia Taylor

3 / 10

Relationships

‘Networking’ can seem like a cringe-worthy term to ever-laidback Australians, but usually, the people you meet at the start of your career will shape it. It doesn’t have to mean making awkward small talk at lame events that require you to wear a nametag, though. “Any opportunity – social or work – can be considered career networking,” says career coach Kate Savage. “Anyone you meet could be the person who gives you your big break.” Savage also says networking can be maintaining good relationships when you leave a job. “Never burn bridges – you never know when you might need someone to help you down the track.”

It’s also obvious why investing in people that get you, support you, challenge you and inspire you outside of work will benefit you throughout your life. But one thing that’s hard to do in your 20s is stop investing in those relationships that don’t do these things. It might seem hard now, but nobody’s got time for jealousy, manipulation, negativity or low-vibe company.

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Health

Nutritionist and author Susie Burrell has had clients in their 30s, 40s or older who regret not getting into healthy habits sooner. “Over time what we put into our bodies and how often we move them has a huge impact on our risk of developing diseases, including cancer and diabetes, and also our weight.” Susie says the three most important habits to form when you’re young for a healthy life are eating two to three cups of vegetables every day, walking at least 10,000 steps a day and checking your weight occasionally in case it’s creeping up.

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Superannuation

C is for consolidate – the most important thing you can do for your superannuation in your 20s, says Diana Saad, a senior financial planner at Westpac. “I’ve had clients that have three, four or even five funds where they are paying multiple fees that erode what are usually small balances,” Saad explains. You should also check that your employer is paying your Super Guarantee every quarter. If the company liquidates, you could be left short on your entitlements which will affect your financial situation later in life.

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A savings surplus (no matter how small)

Avoid getting stuck in a cycle of credit card reliance and debt by having a small savings buffer. Investment and finance expert Noel Whittaker recommends saving 20% of your income, having a separate account for travel, and to never use a credit card if you don’t have the cash in the bank to repay it straight away. Or, only spend what you have “If you can do that, you’re ahead of 95% of young people. Habit is far more valuable than the amount of money you build up,” he says. And we’ve got tips for you if you think you suck with money.

Image: Sonia Taylor

7 / 10

Taking a shot at your dream job

In your 20s you’re old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway. So, if your head tells you working as a chef will be poorly paid, physically demanding and mean terrible hours, but you still want to? Do it. Now’s the time, when you’ve got minimal financial commitments and plenty of time to change direction if it doesn’t work out. But what if you don’t know what you want to do? Don’t stress about it. As Savage points out, it’s common to change careers several times in your working life anyway. “Most successful people in their 40s had no idea at 20 what they’d be doing today.”

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… or your business idea

Similarly to a dream job, if you’ve got an idea you believe in, now’s the time to give it a try. ‘Fail fast, fail often’ is a phrase popular among entrepreneurs – it means you learn a lot when things don’t work out, so you’re more likely to succeed in the future. This doesn’t mean making rash decisions – bankruptcy is no laughing matter. But if you feel strongly enough about your idea or product, don’t be put off my people saying you’re too young or inexperienced. We all know the story of a young man named Mark Zuckerberg.

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Small financial investments

Even if you don’t have much spare cash, you can still experiment with investing in small ways. For as little as $25, you can lend a micro-loan to someone in a developing country trying to start a business via website Kiva. The repayment rate on Kiva is over 98%. Or, maybe you want to be a little more traditional and dabble in shares? Either way, if you do lose any money during your experimentation – fail fast, fail often, remember? There is always a lesson in any failure.

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10 / 10

Your social media brand

If you hope to run a business or be influential in your industry in the future, start working on your social media presence now – it can take an excruciatingly long time to build up a following. Got a job interview? Social media is where employers look to these days – it’s your unofficial online CV. Pick the platform that’s right for you, be it Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, and try not to let tumbleweeds roll across your account; post at least twice a week. Also, be mindful of what you share online – that photo of you hanging upside down from a chandelier in Mykonos might crack you up now, but chances are it won’t when it still shows up on Google Images in 10 years’ time.


Erin is a freelance writer currently living in NYC. Right now, she’s drinking too many free refills of Dr Pepper. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.